This year’s ambitious innovators are making their mark in robotics, sustainable materials, manufacturing software and logistics.
With supply chain snafus in the spotlight and old-line businesses retooling their operations to incorporate robotics and software, industrial innovation is getting its due—and an increasing amount of venture funding. That’s reflected in the crop of entrepreneurs and innovators in the Manufacturing & Industry category of this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list. They’re building businesses in robotics, freight, new materials and manufacturing software.
Our featured entrepreneurs, Levi Conlow and Robby Deziel are making affordable ebikes at Lectric eBikes. Starting at age 22, Conlow talked his father into investing $50,000 of his retirement savings in an affordable electric bicycle he was designing. Though his first iteration flopped, Conlow retooled and created Lectric eBikes $1,000 XP model, which he started selling in 2019. The Phoenix-based startup has now sold more than 100,000 ebikes, and is on track to book $85 million in revenue this year. “We got my old man paid back, and he’s happy with the investment now,” Conlow says.
Ebikes aren’t the only product on the list that’s more sustainable. Hazel Technologies cofounder Patrick Flynn has developed sustainable packaging to extend the shelf life of fresh produce and reduce food waste. As big money flows to sustainable technologies, Hazel Technologies has raised a total of $92 million in venture funding.
Meanwhile, Tim Almond, cofounder of Heartland Industries, is engineering hemp-infused plastic additives that are stronger, lighter, less expensive and more green than existing plastic products. And Elle Liu founded Eucalypso in 2018 to make bedding from eucalyptus fiber, which, she says, addresses sleep concerns like night sweats while also being better for the planet.
Michelle Zhu, cofounder and CEO of Huue, is working to replace toxic chemical dyes, like indigo used in jeans, with biosynthetic alternatives. And David Heller, an MIT grad, and his cofounder at C16 Biosciences are using biology to brew a sustainable and conflict-free alternative to palm oil with microbes. “Microbes are the world’s best (and tiniest) factories,” says Heller, whose company has raised a total of $24 million in venture funding.
Industrial innovation has also been a theme on this year’s list. In the field of manufacturing software, Adam Gluck and Matthew Lee cofounded Copia Automation to build tools for industrial automation that can reduce downtime and streamline operations. The company has raised $16 million from Construct Capital, Lux Capital and others.
And in materials, Anvesh Gurijala and Michael Segal, along with their professor at Northeastern University, Randall Erb, started Boston Materials to create new materials. Their first one, called Z-axis Fiber is unlike any metal, polymer or composite and enables applications that include keeping electronics cool. “Products, from electric vehicles to Tupperware containers, are all enabled and limited by the materials that are available to us,” Gurijala explains. “I want to create new materials that allow us to make new and better products.”
Big ideas, big dollars: Hazel Technologies raised $92 million to manufacture sustainable packaging, while C16 Biosciences grabbed $24 million to make eco-friendly palm oil with microbes.
Robotics is already shaking up our daily lives, a technological shift that’s only going to accelerate in the coming years. Rajat Bhageria started Chef Robotics to automate food service. His nearly three-year-old firm has raised almost $8 million from Kleiner Perkins and others to bring robots to the kitchen to increase production, enhance consistency and minimize food waste.
Logistics company founders have also found their place on the list. Alfonso de los Rios founded Nowports, based in Monterey, Mexico, to be the data-enabled operating system for Latin American logistics. And in the U.S., Radin Rahimzadeh cofounded Fore Transit to find sustainable ways to move goods and people. The company’s aerodynamic kits improve truck efficiency, while its IoT devices track air-quality metrics for the vehicles in its network. Meanwhile, Raymond Wang and Eugenio Donati cofounded AeroVect to provide autonomous driving systems for airport logistics vehicles to transform cargo operations.
Finally, in the expanding field of space technology, Topher Haddad and Winston Tri started Albedo Space to provide satellite images with resolution that’s nine times better than what’s currently available. The company, which raised a $10 million seed round led by Initialized Capital, is preparing to launch its first batch of satellites in 2023.
To find the very best in Manufacturing & Industry, we—Alan Ohnsman, Elisabeth Brier and myself—combed through hundreds of nominations submitted online or generated by Forbes’ own reporting. We then pared the list to around 55 standout finalists and sent those to our team of expert judges to help us choose the top 30.
This year our judges were Natan Linder, cofounder of manufacturing software startup Tulip and 3D printing firm Formlabs; Tekedra Mawakana, co-CEO of autonomous vehicle company Waymo; Carmichael Roberts, managing partner of venture firm Material Impact; and Sean Henry, cofounder of warehousing-and-logistics unicorn Stord and an alumnus of the 2018 Under 30 list in Manufacturing & Industry.
We’re grateful to our judges, and to all who sent nominations for this year’s list. Check out the full list to get an early read on some of the most exciting things going on in American industry.
30 UNDER 30 RELATED ARTICLES
Forbes 30 Under 30 Manufacturing & Industry 2022
How Two Under 30 Founders Are Powering Their Way Into The Ebike Boom
How Austin Russell Became The Youngest Self-Made Billionaire
Meet The Inventors Of A Fantastic Voyage-Inspired Miniature Surgical Robot