View list by rank
  • 01 Jaclyn Corin
  • 02 Emma González
  • 03 David Hogg
  • 04 Cameron Kasky
  • 05 Alex Wind
  • 06 Franz von Holzhausen
  • 07 Caryn Seidman Becker
  • 08 Pam El
  • 09 Vishal Shah
  • 10 Anthony Tan
  • 11 Reese Witherspoon
  • 12 Dilip Kumar
  • 13 Gianna Puerini
  • 14 Chris Jaffe
  • 15 Alex Rappaport
  • 16 Ann McKee
  • 17 Rick Osterloh
  • 18 Gordon Sanghera
  • 19 Julie Wainwright
  • 20 Hany Farid
  • 21 Stephen Klasko
  • 22 Hannah Beachler
  • 23 Ritesh Agarwal
  • 24 Bryan C. Lee Jr.
  • 25 Twyman Clements
  • 26 Nikki Katz
  • 27 Kat Calvin
  • 28 Daniela Perdomo
  • 29 Charles D. King
  • 30 Jostein Solheim
  • 31 Kay Madati
  • 32 Melissa Waters
  • 33 Graham Dugoni
  • 34 Misha Nonoo
  • 35 Elle Reeve
  • 36 Jody Gerson
  • 37 Chad Moldenhauer
  • 38 Jared Moldenhauer
  • 39 Omar Raja
  • 40 Jason Reynolds
  • 41 Jennifer Saenz
  • 42 Manoush Zomorodi
  • 43 Amber Ruffin
  • 44 Nazanin Rafsanjani
  • 45 Marcia Kilgore
  • 46 Fabrice Sergent
  • 47 Sara Ziff
  • 48 Ross Bailey
  • 49 Jesse Genet
  • 50 Jessica Alter
  • 51 M. Sanjayan
  • 52 Katie Finnegan
  • 53 Jennifer 8. Lee
  • 54 Yiying Lu
  • 55 Aline Lerner
  • 56 Tej Tadi
  • 57 Emily Pelleymounter
  • 58 Kathy Hannun
  • 59 Liza Koshy
  • 60 Telfar Clemens
  • 61 Mitch Besser
  • 62 Nate Fick
  • 63 Li Fan
  • 64 Joshua Kissi
  • 65 Jennifer Bailey
  • 66 Aaron Fairchild
  • 67 Kesha Cash
  • 68 Falon Fatemi
  • 69 Nora Zimmett
  • 70 Chris Mercado
  • 71 Rodrigo Bellott
  • 72 Vivian Wang
  • 73 Sylvia Acevedo
  • 74 Tristan Harris
  • 75 Misti Ushio
  • 76 Marla Blow
  • 77 Jennifer Fitzgerald
  • 78 Larry Guterman
  • 79 Ulrika Bernhardtz
  • 80 Keir Winesmith
  • 81 Michelle Longmire
  • 82 Ane Crabtree
  • 83 Majd Mashharawi
  • 84 Suzanne DiBianca
  • 85 Erika Nardini
  • 86 Ronnie Fieg
  • 87 Chris Jordan
  • 88 Margareta Magnusson
  • 89 Pat McGrath
  • 90 Alma Har'el
  • 91 Jeffery T.D. Wallace
  • 92 Ame Elliott
  • 93 Joey Gonzalez
  • 94 Haweya Mohamed
  • 95 Ammin Youssouf
  • 96 Sonia Cheng
  • 97 Alana Branston
  • 98 Ali Kriegsman
  • 99 Raj Jayadev
  • 100 Courtney Boyd Myers
View list by name
  • Aaron Fairchild
  • Alana Branston
  • Alex Wind
  • Alex Rappaport
  • Ali Kriegsman
  • Aline Lerner
  • Alma Har'el
  • Amber Ruffin
  • Ame Elliott
  • Ammin Youssouf
  • Ane Crabtree
  • Ann McKee
  • Anthony Tan
  • Bryan C. Lee Jr.
  • Cameron Kasky
  • Caryn Seidman Becker
  • Chad Moldenhauer
  • Charles D. King
  • Chris Jaffe
  • Chris Mercado
  • Chris Jordan
  • Courtney Boyd Myers
  • Daniela Perdomo
  • David Hogg
  • Dilip Kumar
  • Elle Reeve
  • Emily Pelleymounter
  • Emma González
  • Erika Nardini
  • Fabrice Sergent
  • Falon Fatemi
  • Franz von Holzhausen
  • Gianna Puerini
  • Gordon Sanghera
  • Graham Dugoni
  • Hannah Beachler
  • Hany Farid
  • Haweya Mohamed
  • Jaclyn Corin
  • Jared Moldenhauer
  • Jason Reynolds
  • Jeffery T.D. Wallace
  • Jennifer Saenz
  • Jennifer Bailey
  • Jennifer Fitzgerald
  • Jennifer 8. Lee
  • Jesse Genet
  • Jessica Alter
  • Jody Gerson
  • Joey Gonzalez
  • Joshua Kissi
  • Jostein Solheim
  • Julie Wainwright
  • Kat Calvin
  • Kathy Hannun
  • Katie Finnegan
  • Kay Madati
  • Keir Winesmith
  • Kesha Cash
  • Larry Guterman
  • Li Fan
  • Liza Koshy
  • M. Sanjayan
  • Majd Mashharawi
  • Manoush Zomorodi
  • Marcia Kilgore
  • Margareta Magnusson
  • Marla Blow
  • Melissa Waters
  • Michelle Longmire
  • Misha Nonoo
  • Misti Ushio
  • Mitch Besser
  • Nate Fick
  • Nazanin Rafsanjani
  • Nikki Katz
  • Nora Zimmett
  • Omar Raja
  • Pam El
  • Pat McGrath
  • Raj Jayadev
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Rick Osterloh
  • Ritesh Agarwal
  • Rodrigo Bellott
  • Ronnie Fieg
  • Ross Bailey
  • Sara Ziff
  • Sonia Cheng
  • Stephen Klasko
  • Suzanne DiBianca
  • Sylvia Acevedo
  • Tej Tadi
  • Telfar Clemens
  • Tristan Harris
  • Twyman Clements
  • Ulrika Bernhardtz
  • Vishal Shah
  • Vivian Wang
  • Yiying Lu

The Most Creative People in Business 2018

The 100 visionary leaders you’ll read about here hail from a wide range of fields. Each person has accomplished something truly novel over the past year that is having an impact on an entire industry. Here's how we chose them.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, from left: David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, Cameron Kasky, Emma González, and Alex Wind have taken the gun-control debate to Wall Street. [Photo : Jessie English]

Since that horrific February day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when 14 students and three faculty members were killed by a former student with an AR-15, classmates Jaclyn Corin, Emma González, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, and Alex Wind have been working strategically to prevent gun violence from happening anywhere else.

Their grassroots effort has inspired nationwide school walkouts and local legislative changes and drew more than 1.2 million people to Washington, D.C., and cities across the country for the March for Our Lives rally this past spring. The students have ignited a nationwide movement to get young Americans to vote in the midterm elections, and are harnessing social media to engage companies and consumers in increasingly proactive and effective ways. Just as important, they are forging alliances with like-minded groups from a wide range of backgrounds. “It was simple privilege that got us spotlight,” says Kasky. “We have an opportunity, and a platform, and we’re dedicating ourselves to use it for everybody affected by gun violence.”

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06 For redefining Tesla's electric cars—repeatedly

[Photo: Aaron Feaver]

When Franz von Holzhausen joined Tesla in 2008, the electric-car startup was so inexperienced at vehicle design that it had to outsource most of the work on its original Roadster to the sports-car manufacturer Lotus. Today, its growing product lineup reflects the stylish minimalism of von Holzhausen, a veteran of GM, Mazda, and Volkswagen. For the Model 3 sedan, which arrived in 2017 with a starting price of $35,000, the designer helped figure out how to bring the price down (there’s only one dashboard screen and no self-extending door handles) while still delivering the carmaker’s signature understated, aerodynamic look. For Tesla’s latest Roadster, due in 2020 and priced at $200,000, von Holzhausen ditched the opaque roof of the 2008 model for a lightweight, removable glass one that can be stored in the trunk. The Roadster gave the designer a chance to build the uncompromising electrified hot rod Tesla wasn’t capable of producing a decade ago, and fans are already drooling for it. “We want to show that an electric vehicle can be better than anything,” he says. “Not just better than a normal road car, but better than any supercar.”

07 For taking the pain out of security checks

“I love a good turnaround story,” says Caryn Seidman Becker, a former hedge fund manager who bought the airport-focused biometric-identity company Clear out of bankruptcy in 2010. Clear’s focus on speeding travelers through security lines had become increasingly niche, especially given the rollout of the TSA’s PreCheck program, but Seidman Becker had a bigger vision for the technology, which uses iris scans, fingerprints, and facial recognition to verify identities of its vetted, $179-a-year members. Not only has she re-established Clear as a leader in airport security, with dedicated lanes at 24 hubs across the country, but through a new partnership with Delta Air Lines, Clear is using biometric verification to automate everything from baggage check to the boarding process, part of her plan to offer totally frictionless “curb-to-gate” experiences for travelers. Seidman Becker is also taking Clear into sports arenas: Ten venues, including New York’s Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, Coors Field in Denver, and San Francisco’s AT&T Park, offer expedited entry to Clear members, a population that grew 130% last year to nearly 2 million people. The company is even testing fast beer lanes at concession stands, which would leverage biometrics to quickly confirm fans’ ages. For Seidman Becker, these kinds of conveniences are just the beginning: “Every vertical—hospitals, real estate, office buildings, universities—is thinking about [how to] ensure security and still have open environments.” 

Some major sports leagues (cough! NFL! cough!) issue take-down orders the minute fans upload highlights to social channels, but you won’t hear the NBA crying foul. Where others see a violation of broadcast rights, the NBA sees an opportunity. “You have to trust your fans,” says chief marketing officer Pam El. Since joining the NBA in 2014, she has sought to engage fans on any platform. NBA original productions The Starters and The Warmup run on Twitter, and Outside the NBA airs on Facebook. All were born, El says, “out of our fans wanting more information and contact with the NBA.” Boasting the largest social footprint of any North American league (a combined Facebook/Twitter following exceeding 60 million), the NBA saw TV viewership rise 8% this season. El’s innovations extend beyond social: Last May, she closed a deal with Gatorade to change the name of the NBA’s player-development division from D-League to G-League—the first time a U.S. pro sports league has been named after a sponsor. G-League games, of course, stream on Facebook Live and Twitch. 

In the two years since Vishal Shah launched Instagram Business, a free suite of tools that allows companies to use the social platform as a storefront, 25 million businesses have signed on—and half don’t even list an external website in their bios. That means it’s their primary point of advertising and customer interaction, explains Shah. Designed to offer businesses a way to reach customers in a mobile-first, user-friendly environment, the tools Shah and his team built let companies glean traffic insights, shoppable photos, and targeted advertisements on Stories. Two hundred million Instagram users now visit a business profile every day; to them, corporate accounts look nearly identical to those run by their friends or favorite celebrities. “We’re shooting for an ad experience that not only feels native,” says Shah, “but also helps users discover products or services they would actually love to find out about.”


10 For navigating beyond the ride

In the past year, Southeast Asian ride-hailing company Grab hit 90 million downloads, reached 196 cities, took in $4 billion in investments, and even acquired Uber’s Southeast Asia business. CEO Anthony Tan has fueled this growth by transforming Grab from a mere app into a platform for everything from bike sharing to food delivery to, most recently, mobile payments. Tan initially launched the GrabPay mobile wallet in 2016 to enable transactions between riders and drivers who don’t have traditional bank accounts. Last November, he began integrating other merchants, allowing GrabPay’s 5 million users to shop at participating stores and food stalls. Next up: a partnership with Japan’s Credit Saison to offer microloans and other services to Grab’s growing network of drivers, riders, and small businesses. For Tan, it all starts with asking the question, “How can we make sure [users] are so engaged they don’t even want to leave Grab?”

[Photo: Ellen von Unwerth; Stylist: Petra Flannery at Two Management (clothing courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue); prop stylist: Din Morris; hair: Lona Vigi at Starworks Group; makeup: Kelsey Deenihan at The Wall Group]

She turned Gone Girl and Wild into breakout films and followed them up with HBO’s Big Little Lies, sweeping nearly every category for which it was nominated at the 2017 Emmys. Having spent years hearing from studio executives that there was no market for big-budget female-driven content, Reese Witherspoon has succeeded to a degree that proves a hunger is there. “Fortunately,” says Witherspoon, “I like proving people wrong.”

Her instinct for what women want is now being tested on multiple platforms through her pioneering 18-month-old company, Hello Sunshine. Witherspoon and her team are developing a slew of shows and films--with Apple TV, Hulu, NBC, TriStar/Sony Pictures, and more--while also building a direct-to-consumer brand through a fast-growing and influential book club, Facebook and YouTube videos, audiobooks, podcasts, and newsletters. Meanwhile, Witherspoon is advocating successfully for women behind the scenes: Casey Bloys, HBO’s president of programming, admitted in April that the network’s recent equal-pay push (e.g., Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood will earn as much as her male costars starting with season 3) was a “direct result” of encouragement he received from Witherspoon. 

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Dilip Kumar (left), and Gianna Puerini  [Photo: Ian Allen]

Amazon earned its e-commerce bona fides more than 20 years ago by reducing the checkout process to a single click. The company’s new Amazon Go store, in downtown Seattle, represents a similar revolution. Gianna Puerini and Dilip Kumar have redesigned the neighborhood grocery as a cashier-free experience. Shoppers identify themselves (and their Amazon account) by scanning their phones upon entering. Ceiling-mounted cameras and AI software identify items as they’re removed from shelves—and shoppers simply leave when they’re done. People queued up around the block when Go opened in January. Amazon is reportedly planning to open up to six more this year, and the “just walk out” concept has already been cloned in China.

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14 For pinpointing Netflix shows you'll want to watch

Netflix’s army of subscribers—125 million and counting—drive the investor confidence that saw the company’s stock rise 60% in the first four months of this year. And it’s Chris Jaffe’s task to get those folks to click on, and enjoy, enough TV shows and movies that they’ll stick around. As the company prepares to roll out 80 original movies in 2018, here’s how Jaffe is adapting user experience and playing matchmaker to keep engagement high. 

Limit the preamble. Rivals start promoting their big tentpole movies years in advance, but Jaffe says that strategy doesn’t work for Netflix. “I’ve done exhaustive testing—9, 12, 18 months out—and it doesn’t seem to resonate,” he says. Jaffe uses Netflix’s menus, in-app notifications, and even old-fashioned email to alert people to new content when it’s “actionable.” 

Tailor the pitch. Jaffe says he is “excited to have people watch Bright or Stranger Things the moment it launches,” but unlike traditional entertainment brands, Netflix doesn’t need blockbuster audiences the first weekend. Jaffe leans on data to figure out when it’s best to suggest a show to viewers. If you’ve been watching programs with strong female leads, Netflix’s interface may recommend Glow. It’s new to you.

Offer a taste: “Our members watch a lot of trailers in our mobile UI,” he says, so in April he introduced Previews, a stand-alone viewing experience where users can watch original 30-second clips in the vertical format. “When you open Netflix, you’re used to seeing rows of posters. Now you can just cycle through and watch trailers all day.”

“Music is one of the most ancient learning tools we have,” says Flocabulary CEO Alex Rappaport, “but for some reason, after kindergarten, it disappears [from the classroom].” He and cofounder Blake Harrison, both musicians, began producing SAT prep hip-hop tunes for teens in 2004, realizing (11 years before the debut of Hamilton) that rap songs are easier to memorize than flash cards. Their company now oversees a 1,000-plus video library that’s accessed by K-12 students at 20,000 schools in all 50 states. Flocabulary’s two- to three-minute-long videos—performed by artists with age-appropriate candor—cover history, math, literature, and other subjects, and come with teacher resources including discussion questions and quizzes. Now, Rappaport is focused on helping kids grapple with social-emotional issues and topics such as race, empathy, and activism. “Students have a lot on their minds,” he says. “We’re pushing the boundaries of what we make videos about.”

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[Illustration: Samantha Hahn]

Ann McKee has been studying cadaver brains for decades, so when she first discovered signs of neurodegenerative disease in the brain of a former professional football player in 2008, she assumed the NFL would be interested. “They were very dismissive,” recalls McKee. “They were not even willing to entertain it as a possibility.” (The league publicly acknowledged that “concussions can lead to long-term problems” for the first time in 2009.) A decade later, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for football fans to ignore the evidence, thanks in large part to a study McKee published last July in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at the brains of 111 NFL players. All but one exhibited chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease linked to repeated head traumas that causes deteriorating cognitive impairment and behavioral changes. The report prompted an NFL statement that emphasized the league’s efforts to address the problem—49 rule changes since 2002 and $200 million committed to ongoing research. But football’s image is taking a hit. Last year, amid the rising concern over CTE, national anthem protests, and changing viewership habits, ratings for regular-season NFL games slid almost 10%. Meanwhile, high school participation is declining: California, historically one of the U.S.’s most fertile sources of gridiron talent, has seen a 10% drop in players over the past decade. “Even the most ardent person who wants to say [the connection between football and CTE] isn’t true is having a hard time when we’re seeing indisputable evidence of brain disease in players who played just three years ago,” McKee says.

17 For giving Google hardware soft skills

Over the past couple of years, Rick Osterloh has transformed Google’s sporadic, often unsuccessful approach to creating consumer electronics into a meaningful effort that harnesses the company’s greatest strength: its software. Under Osterloh, a former president of Motorola, the search giant’s hardware division has used its AI-infused Google Assistant voice service to bolster both the Pixel phones (which let you summon the Assistant with a squeeze) and Google Home smart speakers, which fulfill a long-standing dream of Googlers to create an ambient, interactive presence like the computer from Star Trek. In February, Google released the tiny Clips video camera, targeted at parents and pet lovers. The $250 device uses computer vision to recognize beloved creatures and smiling faces and then deploys machine learning to know when to record and what to keep. “By combining the best of our AI, software, and hardware together,” Osterloh says, “we can innovate for users in a way that would just not be possible if you were doing them separately.”

18 For placing DNA sequencing in the palm of your hand

Scientists around the world have been using the MinION—a handheld device that can sequence DNA and RNA in real time and costs just $1,000—since Oxford Nanopore Technologies first released it four years ago. Real-time sequencing has been a game changer for infectious disease diagnosis, and the portable MinION has helped biologists, environmental researchers, and forensics experts perform rapid analysis of plant, animal, and microbial samples in the field without waiting days or weeks for lab results. A team of scientists even recently published the first full human genome sequence with the device. “I’m an electronics guy,” says CEO Gordon Sanghera, who previously designed blood glucose sensing devices. “I like implementing improvements and seeing the work people are doing.” Last year, Sanghera introduced two new devices that leverage the same “nanopore” technology as the MinION, which draws long strands of DNA through hundreds of nanoscale holes in a special membrane and reads the sequence in real time by detecting its electrical signature. The benchtop GridION (the device is free, reagents start at $50,000) has the capacity of five MinIONs and can quickly analyze mutating viruses, while the even more powerful PromethION (at $135,000 for reagents) is meant to compete with Illumina’s $1 million top-of-the-line sequencing machine. Later this year, Oxford, which recently raised $140 million, plans to release the low-cost SmidgeION, which will plug into a smartphone and could enable anyone at home to diagnose a flu, monitor their telomere length as an indicator of aging, and more.

19 For granting luxury items new life

When Julie Wainwright sees a Gucci or Céline bag on eBay, photographed with poor lighting, she winces. As the CEO of the RealReal, a marketplace for preowned luxury clothes, jewelry, and art, she’s dedicated to making sure that transactions feel luxurious, too. “We didn’t want to break the romance,” she says. The RealReal sends sellers boxes and shipping labels. When goods arrive at the warehouse, they are checked for authenticity before an expert determines their value (the RealReal takes a 30% to 50% cut). The seven-year-old company, which has received $173 million in VC funding and employs 1,500 people, just opened a brick-and-mortar store in New York and expects to bring in $1 billion in revenue over the next couple of years, Wainwright says. This keeps it “defensible against Amazon and Alibaba” (which have never been good at catering to luxury shoppers, she points out). In January, she collaborated with Stella McCartney on an ad campaign to destigmatize luxury consignment. People who sell McCartney’s products on the RealReal will also receive $100 toward new products from the Stella McCartney store.

A specialist in computer vision and image forensics, Dartmouth professor Hany Farid is at the leading edge of policing the growing threat of machine-learning malfeasance. Last October, he helped launch a five-year program for DARPA called MediFor (media forensics), which is developing software that can analyze hundreds of thousands of images a day and immediately assess if they’ve been altered—spotting, for example, if any color pixels have been disturbed. “Looking ahead to the midterms and 2020, we’re likely to see videos in which faces are swapped and voices are altered so that you get candidates saying something controversial,” he says. Farid also coauthored a bombshell study in January that revealed how a popular AI software—commonly used in sentencing and parole decisions to predict criminal offenders’ recidivism rates—was no more accurate than a regular person without any judicial experience.


21 For making large-scale healthcare personal

[Illustration: Joanna Neborsky; Illustration source images, from top: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images; Yagi Studio/Getty Images]

“With AI on the horizon, training humans to be better robots doesn’t make sense,” says Stephen Klasko, CEO of Philadelphia’s Jefferson Health. “The doctor of the future needs to be self-aware and empathetic.” Klasko, an OB-Gyn and a Wharton MBA, has not only grown the network from three to 14 hospitals and revenues from $1.8 billion to $5.1 billion since taking the helm in 2014 , he’s also finding new ways to foster actual care. A sample: 

1. Eighty percent of Jefferson’s doctors are trained in the network’s telehealth platform that offers 24/7 patient assistance. (Most scheduled visits derailed by January’s “bomb cyclone” were able to take place through video chat.) 

2. “Virtual rounds” allow family to sit in via videoconferencing software when the doctor visits a recovering patient. 

3. Through an initiative called “hotspotting,” med students are paired with patients who tend to overuse the ER, coaching them on self-care skills. The program has helped reduce unnecessary ER visits by 60%. 

4. By merging Thomas Jefferson University (a med school plus health and nursing colleges) with design-focused Philadelphia University last July, Klasko has created the first medical school in the U.S. to offer a design certificate within its MD program, encouraging future doctors to discover novel methods for putting patients first.

[Photo: Daymon Gardner]

The Afrofuturist sets of Marvel’s 2018 blockbuster Black Panther, with their blend of modernist forms and traditional African motifs, were the brainchild of Hannah Beachler, the production designer behind Miami’s sun-drenched underside in Moonlight and the working-class Philadelphia of Creed. She also helped develop Beyoncé’s Southern Gothic look for the visual album Lemonade. For Beachler, every project is a distinct creative challenge. “There’s no unique tool that I use, other than my imagination,” she says. 

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23 For offering India's budget hotel owners an upgrade

Recognizing that the small, independently owned hotels, inns, and guesthouses that account for most of India’s hotel inventory could offer travelers better experiences with the right technology, Ritesh Agarwal launched Oyo. Five years later, he has knit together the country’s largest budget hospitality company by giving property owners tools that automate room availability, revenue management, customer relations, and marketing, boosting occupancy rates to roughly 75% (65% of guests are repeat visitors). With more than 75,000 rooms spread across India, Nepal, and Malaysia (accounting for 2.2 million room nights in December alone), Oyo is also one of India’s most powerful booking engines: 95% of its reservations are made through company channels, eliminating travel agency fees. “The neighborhood hotel can now fight the big boys,” Agarwal says.

24 For fighting inequality through architecture

New Orleans designer Bryan C. Lee, Jr. practices “colloquial architecture”—the idea that buildings should reflect a community’s values. Decades after a highway ripped apart one of the city’s traditionally black neighborhoods, Lee is enhancing the underpass with a 19-block-area marketplace for small businesses, classrooms, exhibitions, and demonstrations. Last year, when some of New Orleans’s Civil War monuments were removed, Lee and a team of artists and historians covered the city with posters of the characters and movements that shaped its more constructive past. Local officials are now incorporating the project into their planning, with Lee and his team facilitating talks with residents about future monuments that would move beyond “lionizing individuals in the fight for justice,” he says. Lee also hosts workshops in which he challenges activists and designers to actively address problems like racism and food insecurity; one such group will cover New Orleans with yellow tape this summer to depict the city’s badly gerrymandered districts.

25 For launching a zero-g economy

[Illustration: Meijia Xu]

Two boxes, each the size of a microwave oven, sit 250 miles above Earth on the International Space Station. They are miniature R&D labs, built and operated by Twyman Clements’s four-year-old company, Space Tango, that allow customers to test materials and manufacturing methods free of Earth’s gravity. The first TangoLab arrived on the ISS via SpaceX-9 in August 2016; a second went up on SpaceX-12 a year later. Each box can hold up to 21 independent “cube labs,” which run autonomously and stream data back to Space Tango engineers on Earth with a mere 700-millisecond delay, allowing them to observe results and adjust experimental settings quickly. Space Tango launched 30 tests for clients in 2017, its first year of commercial operation, and will send about 50 in 2018. Early customers include Budweiser, which is experimenting with growing barley in space, and companies prototyping space-based production of fiber-optic cable, semiconductors, retinal implants, and drug ingredients. “Research is a constant source of revenue,” says Clements, a mechanical engineer. “But we’ll really be successful when we can take raw materials up, add value, and bring a new product back.”


While many people are working to recalibrate the gender imbalance in software engineering by encouraging young women to study computer science in school, Nikki Katz is taking a different, less obvious approach She’s helping women already at Disney—in nontechnical roles—segue into software careers. She launched a pilot program in 2016 called Code: Rosie (a nod to World War II icon Rosie the Riveter), which offers a rigorous three-month training program and yearlong apprenticeship to female employees, regardless of background, who want to join Disney’s technical ranks. After their coding boot camp, trainees split their apprenticeships into six-month rotations to help them figure out where to take their new skills, and are assigned buddies to ease them into their new positions. “What I’m most proud of is that these women continue to be some of our top performers,” Katz says. (One has even filed a patent for Snapchat-like visual filters that Disney could use in apps.) After the program’s initial 12-woman class, Katz is expanding Code: Rosie company-wide this year, giving aspiring technologists across Disney, from theme parks to ESPN, a shot at a new future.

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27 For getting people to the polls

More than 21 million Americans lack government-issued photo identification, yet an increasing number of states—including Texas, Wisconsin, and Georgia— have passed measures requiring IDs to vote, effectively suppressing turnout, especially among minorities. Last year, Los Angeles–based lawyer Kat Calvin launched the nonprofit Spread the Vote, which helps people, particularly those who are poor, homeless, or immobile, secure official identification. “After the 2016 election, it was pretty obvious to me that voter ID laws had had a massive effect,” she says. “But while there were organizations working on legislative and judicial remedies, I couldn’t find any scalable solutions to just getting people IDs.” Her organization, which now has more than 30 chapters across five states, assists prospective voters by helping them pay all the fees associated with getting an ID and fill out the necessary paperwork, which can otherwise be overwhelming. “We created a digital intake form,” says Calvin, “that can be used on any device that our volunteers take with them to, say, a food bank, where they’ll set up a table and connect with people.” She’s now focused on building out election guides—with comprehensive candidate lists for every office—for each of Spread the Vote’s chapters. “We want to [challenge] this idea that all voting is about the president, that your vote doesn’t matter,” she says. “That kind of perception can be the margin of victory.”

28 For connecting us when the grid is down

[Illustration: Geraldine Sy]

The problem. Entrepreneur Daniela Perdomo was living in Brooklyn in October 2012 when Hurricane Sandy struck, and large swaths of New York lost power and internet service. “It was like a Don DeLillo–type apocalypse,” she recalls. 

The epiphany. Recognizing the vulnerability of our critical communications infrastructure, Perdomo saw an opportunity to create a network that would allow users to text without a cell signal or Wi-Fi. 

The execution. Perdomo and her technologist brother, Jorge, created a thin, 5-inch-long plastic-encased device that pairs with a cell phone via Bluetooth and transmits messages using radio frequencies, sort of like a walkie-talkie. Their second generation product, the goTenna Mesh, added mesh networking—capabilities that broaden the off-grid coverage area by allowing the devices to bounce encrypted messages off each other until they reach their destination. Perdomo calls it “people-powered” communications infrastructure: Because each device acts as a “node”—through which messages can be relayed—the decentralized Mesh network grows more powerful and effective as more people join. 

The result. After Puerto Rico was devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria last summer, relief workers used Mesh to share critical, sometimes lifesaving, information. The Mesh, which sells for $179 for a two-pack, has also been a hit with the REI crowd (who use it for communication on hikes) and is available—on Amazon and through goTenna’s own website—in 42 countries. The company says it has sold more than 100,000 of the devices.

29 For diversifying our queue

Charles D. King founded the film, TV, and digital studio Macro in 2015 to tell the stories of what he calls “the new majority”: African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, “people whose stories haven’t traditionally been told.” For King, the effort is as market-based as it is mission-driven. His target audience, young people of color, consumes “more content across every platform” than any other demographic, he says. To achieve his goals, King nurtures diverse talent behind the camera. The 2017 film Mudbound, for example, which Macro coproduced, nabbed four Academy Award nominations, including firsts for an African-American woman for adapted screenplay and for a woman in cinematography. King applies this ethos to Macro’s other projects, such as Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, a workplace satire, which Annapurna Pictures will release this July; and Raising Dion, an upcoming Netflix series starring Michael B. Jordan. With social-minded backers such as Laurene Powell Jobs, King plans to scale up to about a dozen projects per year.

30 For helping Ben & Jerry’s help migrant workers

Though Ben & Jerry’s has long worked with Vermont dairy farmers to improve animal welfare and sustainability, the laborers on these farms—often migrant workers—can face brutal conditions, such as long hours, late-night shifts, and low pay. The advocacy group Migrant Justice approached CEO Jostein Solheim four years ago with an idea: Leverage your power over the dairy industry to improve the lives of its workers. After a series of bilingual meetings among Migrant Justice, Ben & Jerry’s farmer network, and laborers, Solheim signed an agreement last fall that commits the company to working exclusively with suppliers that pay the highest local minimum wage (currently $10.50 an hour in Vermont), offer laborers one day off each week, and pro-vide adequate rest and shelter between shifts. In return, Ben & Jerry’s pays farmers a premium for their milk. “The innovation is that the farmworkers had a seat at the table,” Solheim says. “[This agreement] puts them in charge of their own destiny.”


Kay Madati joined Twitter from BET last September to accelerate its live-video ambitions, and he proceeded to close 22 new partnerships in the fourth quarter of 2017. His goal: Find opportunities that complement rather than compete with media brands. “I’m not here to tell [networks] to stop producing content on TV and [only] put it on Twitter,” he says. Here’s how he’s helping partners go #Live.

Buzzfeed. Madati and his team have helped grow BuzzFeed’s AM to DM morning show on Twitter to an average of 1 million daily viewers by offering it on demand, rather than just live, and adding segments showcasing viewer tweets.

Academy Awards. Madati devised three live-video experiences to air before, during, and after the Oscars. PeopleTV hosted the red carpet; IMDB held a live viewing party; and Vanity Fair live-streamed its after-party.

FIFA World Cup 2018. Fox Sports will produce a 30-minute daily recap for Twitter users in the U.S. during the soccer championship. To prepare Footie Twitter, Madati made a deal with Major League Soccer to air a game of the week.

[Photo: Chloe Aftel ]

Last year, ride-hailing company Lyft differentiated itself from bad-publicity magnet Uber by playing up its social responsibility. Melissa Waters, who joined Lyft in 2016 from Pandora, oversaw a quirky brand campaign last October with Jordan Peele and Tilda Swinton piloting a space capsule and reminding riders that “it matters how you get there.” Waters also launched a “Round Up and Donate” campaign, giving Lyft riders the option to round up their fare to benefit any of a dozen charities, from Black Girls Code to the USO; since May 2017, more than 770,000 people have contributed more than $5 million. Over the past year, the company extended service to 54 additional U.S. cities, doubled its drivers to 1.4 million, provided rides to 92% more passengers (23 million), and surpassed $1 billion in annual revenue.

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33 For convincing us to put. that. phone. down.

[Illustration: Andy Rementer]

Graham Dugoni founded Yondr in an attempt to protect us from our worst impulse in the age of apps: looking down instead of at the world ahead. “When something new comes along, it always displaces something else,” he says. “The question is, What did smartphones push out of the way? And are those things vital to the human experience?” Four years ago, he created a small neoprene pouch that can be locked by a concert or comedy club venue—but stays with users—until a show is over, creating a refreshingly device-free environment. Yondr has taken off among musicians and comedians, including Haim, Dave Chappelle, and Chris Rock, who use it to keep live audiences engaged and to try out new material without having it uploaded to YouTube. In recent months, the service has also been embraced by educators: Nearly 1,000 schools have used Yondr to keep students from obsessively checking their phones. Dugoni says the company receives more than 100 unsolicited inquiries a day from teachers, entertainers, club owners, and more—a sign of people’s growing discontentment with their phones.

34 For creating fashion without waste

Misha Nonoo is a luxury fashion designer whose eponymous line has been sold at Bergdorf Goodman and worn recently by such tastemakers as Meghan Markle and Gwyneth Paltrow. Two years ago, she grew overwhelmed by the waste she saw in the industry, particularly how many clothes went unsold at the end of every season. “It was worrying to me not just from a balance-sheet perspective, but also from an environmental perspective,” she says. After restructuring her business entirely, she now sells exclusively through her website and eliminates the problem of “dead” inventory by making every piece of clothing only when a customer orders it. (It arrives at the customer’s doorstep a week later.) Nonoo, who is now raising money from angel investors to expand her operation, has also renounced seasonal collections, focusing her energy instead on perfecting eight pieces—updated annually— that can be configured into 22 different outfits that take a woman from work to date night to black-tie gala.

When reporter Elle Reeve traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, last August to cover the Unite the Right rally for HBO’s Vice News Tonight, she expected to file a three-minute clip. But as she and her small video crew began gaining intimate access to thugs with guns and neo-Nazi leader Christopher Cantwell, who claimed, “We’ll fucking kill these people if we have to,” she knew she was onto something more. Having studied online subcultures before, including hateful political movements on 4chan and Reddit, she realized she was observing one of these niche groups violently assert itself in the real world. She delivered a 22-minute documentary that became the basis for a special episode of Vice News Tonight, offering an unfiltered view of a newly emboldened movement. Some 500,000 people watched the episode when it aired on HBO two days after the march. Since then, it’s been viewed more than 50 million times and won multiple awards, most recently a Peabody. “People didn’t want to cover these guys because you don’t want to amplify them,” she says. “But we showed the whole picture.”


Streaming lets us listen to whatever we want, whenever we want, without ever opening our wallets. But “every time you hear a song, it has to be licensed and paid for,” says Jody Gerson, head of Universal Music Publishing Group, which reps major global artists from Bruce Springsteen to Ariana Grande. “That’s what I do.” In an era of industrywide change, Gerson played a key role in bringing together a landmark consortium of music publishers and label executives—parties long at odds over royalty share—to lobby for new legislation in Washington. The Music Modernization Act, which Congress could pass this summer, would establish a first-ever database of songwriters that will enable them to be credited—and thus paid—electronically and automatically, like musicians. She’s also finding new revenue streams for artists, placing their songs in video ads and working with movie studios to build projects around IP in Universal’s catalog.

Saskatchewan-born siblings Chad and Jared Moldenhauer’s first video game—the visually stunning run-and-gunner Cuphead—sold more than 2 million units between its late September 2017 release and the end of the year. Forgoing super-realistic 3D graphics, Cuphead uses hand-drawn animation inspired by 1930s “rubber hose”–style cartoons (think Steamboat Willie) and an original big-band score as the backdrop for an action game that’s addictive yet easy to master. Cuphead was influenced in part by “studying a lot of games” from the Sega Master era, says Chad, a former digital marketer who taught himself to draw by watching old cartoons. Jared, who had worked for the family’s construction business, designed the game play while Chad’s wife, Maja, hand-inked its visuals. The Moldenhauers mortgaged their homes to finish production; a development deal with Microsoft helped with marketing and promotion. While Cuphead appeals to “a nostalgia for any kind of handmade art,” Chad says, it’s also just a nice break. “One can only take so many brown landscapes and bald white dudes.”

The problem. Le Bron James was leaving the Miami Heat in 2014. Omar Raja, a 20-year-old University of Central Florida sophomore, was bummed and looking to console himself by watching funny in-game clips of James on YouTube. There weren’t any.

The epiphany. Raja began to use his iPhone to capture quirky game moments off the TV. Why not share them? 

The execution. Raja set up the House of Highlights Instagram account and began to post his clips. Soon he was also uploading highlights sent to him by friends. 

The result. Bleacher Report acquired House of Highlights (HoH) in 2015, and since then the account has grown to more than 8 million followers (including A-listers like Cristiano Ronaldo, Nicki Minaj, and LeBron himself). HoH sponsors now include Under Armour and Lexus. Raja signed YouTube star Supremedreams_1 to develop scripted content for HoH’s YouTube channel. The key to connecting with his gen Z audience is authenticity, Raja says, adding, “The second I start selling out is when things go downward.”

[Photo: Nathan Bajar]

With clear language and bracing honesty, Jason Reynolds’s young-adult novels grapple with thorny issues (alcohol abuse, gun violence, police brutality) in contemporary urban settings, offering a subset of readers a literary mirror they’ve never had before. Last fall, the D.C.-born writer tackled a new form—the novel in verse—with Long Way Down, which follows Will, a 15-year-old boy dealing with the shooting death of his brother. The book hit the New York Times best-seller list and was a National Book Award finalist. Reynolds followed up this spring with the poem “For Every One” and the middle-school-age novel Sunny

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41 For spreading flamin' hot pixie dust

[Illustration: FOREAL]

For three days last August, Jennifer Saenz’s restaurant, the Spotted Cheetah, was the hottest bistro in New York City. The menu, designed by Food Network celebrity chef Anne Burrell, featured Mac n’ Cheetos, Flamin’ Hot Limon Chicken Tacos, Cheetos Meatballs, and more, attracting media and social attention worldwide. The pop-up is just one of several clever plays that Saenz, who oversees the marketing behind Frito-Lay’s $14 billion snacks business, has generated in the past year for Cheetos alone. (In March, she released a Cheetos Vision app that makes everything look orange.) Saenz conceived the restaurant stunt after her team saw people on social media “using Cheetos in all kinds of recipes, whether it was pizza, bagels, or sushi,” she says. “Cheetos were finding their way into everything!” She broadened the restaurant idea so that people could participate anywhere, publishing an online cookbook with all the recipes. More than 30,000 people downloaded it. To advance the cultural moment, she signed a deal last December with Regal Cinemas to offer Cheetos popcorn at concession stands nationwide.


As the host of WNYC’s six-year-old podcast Note to Self, Manoush Zomorodi helps listeners address some tricky contemporary issues: social media addiction, information overload, diminished privacy. “We can’t base our entire economy on crossing our fingers and hoping that Mark Zuckerberg does the right thing,” she says. As recent news has shown, Facebook may not course-correct without a public outcry. “We are at this moment when the mainstream is starting to question what role these platforms have in their lives.” Zomorodi, a former longtime BBC contributor who describes herself as a “guide to an accelerating world,” encourages listeners to make small behavior modifications, such as changing the privacy settings on apps or keeping phones pocketed while in transit. How engaged is Zomorodi’s audience? In a 2016 joint effort with nonprofit news organization ProPublica, 50,000 Note to Self listeners downloaded and installed a plug-in to monitor Facebook ad targeting. ProPublica’s subsequent article revealed how Facebook used data to sell microtargeted ads capable of blocking viewers by race, forcing Facebook to change its ad-targeting algorithms. One of Zomorodi’s “boot camps”—weeklong interactive programs where subscribers receive a daily assignment (e.g., delete an app from your phone) and a prompt to leave Zomorodi voice mails she may integrate into her podcasts—explored the intellectual benefits of boredom and led to a book, Bored and Brilliant, published last September. In April, she announced the launch of her new female-run media company, Stable Genius Productions.

43 For telling the jokes only she can tell

Amber Ruffin became the first African-American woman ever to write for a late-night talk show when she joined the staff of Late Night With Seth Meyers in 2014, and she’s been crucial to its success in an era of Trump, #MeToo, and Black Lives Matter. Over the past year, Ruffin has increasingly appeared on camera, with a series of zany yet incisive bits such as “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” in which she and fellow writer Jenny Hagel (who is gay) deliver racism- and sexism-skewering punch lines that Meyers innocently tees up. Segments like “Amber Says What” and “Amber’s Late Night Safe Space” have racked up millions of YouTube views, and feature Ruffin mocking not only the show’s host but white people who can’t tell Colin Kaepernick from Drake. “Every step of the way I’d think, We can’t say these things,” she says. “But now I think the name of the game is to push it as far as we can go.” Ruffin reportedly inked a deal with Meyers and SNL producer Lorne Michaels last October to create a sitcom based on her real-life story of moving to Amsterdam to join an improv group and returning home with a Dutch husband. A musical theater fan, she also recently punched up The Wiz for a modern audience. The show opens in St. Louis in June.

Chompers is a program aimed at the toddler set and available via Amazon’s Echo. Each episode is just a couple of podcast-like minutes of content, but Chompers manages to squeeze in jokes, stories, science, and riddles alongside tooth-brushing instructions and a few subtle nods to the show’s sponsors, Crest and Oral B. The program represents Gimlet Media’s first foray into Alexa skills (apps designed specifically for the Amazon Echo platform), and reveals an eclectic approach to branded audio content that is the brainchild of Nazanin Rafsanjani, who joined Brooklyn-based Gimlet Media in 2015 after a decade working for The Rachel Maddow Show, WNYC, and This American Life. Her mandate over the past year has been to create sponsored podcasts that advertisers feel good about and that people actually want to listen to. For Tinder, Rafsanjani produced a podcast about modern dating, Tinder DTR, that peaked at No. 4 on iTunes and was named one of the 50 best podcasts of 2017 by the Atlantic. In April, Rafsanjani moved into a new role at Gimlet, heading up show development. “There are different constraints on the purely editorial side,” she says, “but if there’s any lesson I’m taking with me, it’s that constraints do spark creativity.”

45 For selling luxury beauty at drugstore prices

The problem. Cosmetics brands often source products from European labs at factory prices, then hike the cost to cover distribution and other expenses. 

The epiphany. Marcia Kilgore, who sold Bliss Spa to LVMH in 1999, realized she could buy the same products as brands like Armani and La Prairie, then sell direct to consumer with minimal packaging.

The execution. Kilgore launched Beauty Pie in 2016. Though anyone can buy through the site, members who pay a fee can access the brand’s luxury-quality makeup and skincare for cut-rate prices. Beauty Pie’s Everyday Great Skin Foundation is just $6.05 for members. To discourage customers from buying and reselling, Kilgore implemented monthly purchasing limits. 

The result. The company has tens of thousands of members, Kilgore says, and nearly everyone who makes a onetime purchase eventually signs up. “We’re trying to unteach [the idea] that the more you pay for cosmetics, the better they must be,” she says. Beauty Pie will add bodycare and haircare products later this year.

Entrepreneur Fabrice Sergent bemoaned years ago that “there wasn’t a Fandango for live music.” He and his business partner, Julien Mitelberg, acquired a Facebook app called Bandsintown, kept the name, and created a site and app where fans could track their favorite artists—and artists could chat directly with (and gather data about) their fans. A 2016 deal with Ticketmaster let concertgoers purchase tickets directly via the platform. Soon Sergent noticed two things: The app had become a hub for frequent concertgoers (who attend an average of eight live music events a year), and 40% of concert tickets in the U.S. typically go unsold. He redesigned the app to scour users’ Spotify and iTunes catalogs, Facebook likes, and more (with their permission), and suggest shows they might enjoy. By the end of 2017, nearly half of Bandsintown’s 41 million users said they’d attended and liked a concert by an act they’d not previously been aware of. “This is also important for artists,” says Sergent. “These days, 90% of the payout comes from live music.”


In February, for the first time, New York Fashion Week offered private dressing areas for models who are typically expected to change in full view of crew and photographers backstage. The development was the result of lobbying by model turned advocate Sara Ziff and Model Alliance, the nonprofit she founded in 2012 as a union alternative for models and, eventually, other independent fashion workers. “There’s an unfortunate sense that models are privileged, and if they don’t like the industry, they should get a ‘real job,’ ” Ziff says. “Though models appear to lead glamorous lives, the reality can be pretty far from it.” She is now working with agencies, publishing companies, and brands to make sure that models are afforded respect on and off the runway. Also through her organization, Ziff has proposed legislation that would apply child labor l