These Forbes Under 30 Social Impact members are embracing cutting-edge science, creative technology, and entrepreneurship to fight climate change, social injustice, and food shortages.
northoh mcqueen he’s a climactic rock star. McQueen, who earned a Ph.d. in chemical engineering, he co-founded Heirloom to turn superheated limestone into natural CO2 sponges that absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Limestone is one of Earth’s largest absorbers of carbon dioxide, but the natural process is glacially slow. Heirloom powers the process by superheating the rocks, extracting the CO2 and storing it underground. The treated limestone then acts like a dry sponge, absorbing more CO2 from the air.
McQueen, just 26, and his co-founder Shashank Samala manage a team of nearly 70 people and more than $70 million in funding. With a background in chemical engineering, running a company while leading research and development is like “putting the plane together while you’re trying to fly it,” says McQueen.
McQueen is one of the 30 founders of Social Impact, leveraging technology and creative ventures to improve the environment, social justice, education, nutrition, and other pressing issues. To create the 2023 list, Forbes writers and editors reviewed thousands of nominations. Below, we draw on the wisdom of independent expert judges: Jean Case, President of the National Geographic Society; Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green; Melissa Roberts, founder of the American Flood Coalition and Under 30 Alumna; and Randall Lane, Chief Content Officer at Forbes. The end product: a daring class of social impact entrepreneurs who have raised more than $215 million in funding to create influential businesses and lasting change.
Other 2023 listings are taking advantage of the soil to fight climate change. Swisher Hunter, 28, founded Phospholutions to increase the efficiency of phosphorous fertilizers. The company makes RhizoSorb, a soil additive that, when mixed with fertilizer, can increase potency by 50%.
“Our technology has the potential to close the gap in supply shortages that contribute to mass famine in some of the most fragile food systems,” says Swisher, who raised $22 million.
Others on the Social Impact 2023 list seek to improve the justice system. In 2012, Leon Ford, 29, was left paralyzed after he was shot five times by a Pittsburgh police officer during a traffic stop. Now Ford, a three-time author, advocates for police reform. In 2020, with Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, he founded The Hear Foundation to offer programs addressing gun violence reduction, trauma, and community development. The foundation has raised more than $1 million in grants in just six months.
Gabriel Saruhashi24, co-founder Ameelio to bridge the communication gap between prisoners and their families. Under the current system, families must pay expensive fees to call their loved ones behind bars; often around $.50 per minute, although many prisons may charge between $3 and $5 per minute. Ameelio offers a free to use virtual communication platform called Connect that supports call, video, and text communication between inmates and families.
To help with the transition from prison to public life, Ameelio offers educational resources, legal assistance, and vocational training for inmates. The company is currently scaling into three state prison systems (Iowa, Colorado, and Maine) representing 35 prisons. Since its inception in February 2022, Ameelio has raised $11 million in funding from tech titans Reid Hoffman and Jack Dorsey.
Other listers seek to innovate the way we consume. After an awkward encounter at a pharmacy involving a pregnancy test and the mother of a boyfriend (need we say more), jamie norwood29-year-old, and her co-founder Cynthia Plotch created Stix to offer vaginal and reproductive health products, nationwide and on demand.
nuha siddiqui26, and Kritika Tyagi26, the founders of Erthos, are filling the shelves of commercial retailers with their FDA-compliant and certified bio-based plant-based plastic alternatives.