Innovation & Leadership: Penn Alumni on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List

By: Jorge Penado, C’19

Every year, the American business magazine, Forbes, publishes the 30 Under 30  list of over 600 business and industry figures that have become influential to some degree in their respective industries and are under the age of 30. They select 30 individuals for 20 different categories that range from industries like Hollywood & Entertainment, Venture Capital, Manufacturing & Industry, Law & Policy and many other categories. The list itself was started in 2011 and has grown through the years with 2016 seeing over 15,000 nominations. The list has even spread around the world with regional versions of the list in Asia, Africa and Europe. With it’s growing popularity, it is interesting to see the presence of Penn alumni on these lists, and this year’s list has seen one of the highest rates of Penn alumni.

As The Daily Pennsylvanian wrote on November 20, 25 graduates, including a current Ph.D. candidate, have been selected for the lists. This is the fourth highest number of honorees from a university on the list. The three other schools ahead of Penn include Stanford University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. With over 15,000 nominations but only 600 slots to fill, the process is definitely rigorous as only 4% of those nominated are selected for the ultimate list. With regards to which industry Penn alumni are participating in most, Finance leads the way with 5 honorees in this category and Social Entrepreneurship follows with 3 honorees. As the DP article states, most honorees are from the Wharton School with 13 honorees followed by the College with 9. Though all of this information is truly interesting to get an overview, it’s just as fascinating to look at some of the work these alumni are doing in their respective fields.



Source: Welligence Energy Analytics Twitter Account

One of the many honorees in this years list includes Seth Neel. Neel is one of the 30 honorees in the Energy sector who are recognized for “fueling a more sustainable future.” Neel is a current fourth year Ph.D. candidate in Statistics at the Wharton School, meaning that he’s the only current Penn attendee on the list. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Math from Harvard University in 2015. His research as a doctoral student in Wharton is focused on two general themes: the fairness in machine learning and the study of fundamental problems in differential privacy. He has published 11 different scholarly articles in the field and has spoken at various events. His participation in the field has even taken him to start his own company, Welligence, an independent oil and gas analytics firm focused on the Latin America upstream sector. Neel’s participation in the field is only growing and his recognignition in this year’s Forbes’ 30 Under 30 is greatly earned.




Another Penn alumni who was selected as an honoree is Emerson Brooking. Brooking is one of 30 honorees in the Law & Policy sector who are recognized for “fighting for your rights Andrew’s better governments.” Brooking received his Bachelor of Arts in 2011 from the College with a major in Political Science and Classical Studies. While on campus, he was involved in clubs like Big Brother Big Sisters and the Penn Political Review. His participation on this year’s list is due largely to his debut book, Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media. The book made the New York Time’s New & Noteworthy List, Amazon’s Best Seller List and was named Amazon’s Best Book of the Month. Besides these considerable achievements, the book has been featured on NPR, PBS, The New York Times, Time, Popular Science, Rolling Stone, Politico, Foreign Affairs and many more. The book was even praised as being “a magical combination of history, technology and early warning wrapped in a compelling narrative of how today’s information space can threaten the truth, our polity and our security,”  by former Director of the CIA and NSA, General Michael Hayden. With all of these accolades under his belt, Brooking has become an expert in the field of cyber warfare.


Source: The Atlantic

The final Penn alumni selected as an honoree that this post will cover is Anna Wan. Wan is one of the 30 honorees in the Consumer Technology sector who are recognized for “seizing the moment of a personalized digital revolution.” Wan received her Bachelor of Science in Economics in 2012 from the Wharton School with a major in Operation & Information Management and Finance. During her time at Penn, she was notably involved in the Chi Omega Sorority. Her recognition on the list this year stems generally from her participation as a general manager of $2 billion Bird, a company dedicated to bringing scooters to cities east of the Mississippi River. Her position in this company has been a gradual growth as she has additionally worked at other companies like Ofo and AirBnB. While at Ofo, she notably managed over 20 teams and launched/ managed seven markets, which included the largest US market. At AirBnB, she supported executives with “strategic analysis and reporting” and worked “with Product Growth teams… to identify customer acquisition projects with greatest impact and ROI.” With all of this experience, her current position really goes to show her excellence in the field.

While there are 23 other Penn alumni who made the list and are pursuing equally wonderful endeavors in their respective fields, these three are just a quick example of the varying work that these alumni are engaging in and being recognized for. At a university like Penn, we’re lucky to have many great alumni, and this years Forbes’ 30 under 30 only shows a glimpse into the amazing things Penn alumni are doing around the world and in every field imaginable.



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