From manufacturing and industry, consumer technology, healthcare and more, at least 11 of Waterloo’s alumni and former students have earned spots on the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list. These 20-somethings are shaking things up in the areas of robotics, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence (AI), app creation and life-saving technology. The list, which represents innovative minds from Canada and the United States, stretches across 20 categories for a total of 600 people.

Meet the 11 alumni and former Waterloo students taking home top honours in seven different industries.

Alexander RodriguesAlexander Rodrigues

Brandon MoakBrandon Moak 

Alexander Rodrigues & Brandon Moak

Ages: 23

Company: Co-founders, Embark

Education: Faculty of Engineering—Mechatronics Engineering (in-progress)

Category: Manufacturing & Industry

Embark is the world’s leading developer of self-driving trucks and operates the longest automated freight route in the world.  Three years after it was initially founded by former Waterloo engineering students Alex Rodrigues and Brandon Moak, the now San Francisco-based company has raised $62+ million in four rounds of venture funding. The pair met while living at the Velocity Residence. In the spring of 2015 they took home a $25,000 prize at the Velocity Fund Finals for a concept involving autonomous shuttles to get around campus. Embark’s goal is to tackle the southwestern portion of the U.S.’s I-10 freeway, a large commercial trucking corridor. Embark’s fleet carries loads mainly between Ontario, California and Arizona, and is also expanding into Texas and Florida. 

Darren Fung
Darren Fung​ 

Darren Fung (BSE ’14)

Age: 28

Company: Co-founder, Drop

Education: Faculty of Engineering and Mathematics—Software Engineering

Category:  Consumer Technology

A company built by brothers, Darren launched Drop with brother Derrick in 2016. Drop is a free app that replaces the traditional store loyalty card and allows users to redeem points in the form of gift cards. More than two million people have registered to use the service. Drop has raised more than $40.9 million in Series A funding. Prior to co-founding Drop, Darren worked for notable companies including Eventbrite, Amazon and Bitmaker in software engineering, software development engineering and mentoring roles. Drop was recently ranked #2 in the Lifestyle Category in the App Store, just behind Tinder.

Deon Nicholas
Deon Nicholas

Deon Nicholas (BMATH ’15)

Age: 25

Company: Co-founder, Forethought

Education: Faculty of Mathematics—Computer Science Honours

Category: Enterprise Technology

Forethought hopes to make everyone a genius at their job.  Co-founded by computer science alumnus Deon Nicholas in 2017, Forethought uses an AI agent called Agatha Answers to embed information retrieval into existing employee workflows. The result? Better support for employees and their workflows, rather than automating the work of real people. Before Forethought, Nicholas worked at Pure Storage, a company that helps customers adopt next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, and helped build FlashBlade, an all-flash file-system that is used by companies including Mercedes and the NHL. Nicholas was also an early member of the collaboration team that wrote the Inline Annotations feature for Dropbox, and also contributed code to the Dropbox Badge.

See how Forethought works.

Greta Cutulenco
Greta Cutulenco

Greta Cutulenco (BSE ’14)

Age: 27

Company: Co-founder, Acerta

Education: Faculty of Engineering and MathematicsSoftware Engineering

Category: Manufacturing & Industry

Software engineering alumnus Greta Cutulenco is CEO and co-founder of Acerta Analytics Solutions, an AI platform that uses machine learning to detect malfunctions and predict failures for vehicles coming off the assembly line or being driven. The company’s goal is to transform data analytics into actionable insights to boost manufacturing and quality assurance decisions. The company began as a research project while Cutulenco and founding partners Sebastian Fischmeister and Jean-Christophe Petkovich were working in Waterloo’s Embedded Systems Lab and noticed a shortage of tools for interpreting data to help instruct product improvements. Before Acerta, Cutulenco worked for companies including leading global automotive supplier Magna International Inc., federal Crown corporation Atomic Energy Canada Limited responsible for managing Canada’s radioactive waste liabilities and enabling nuclear science/technology, and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) as a business/systems analyst. Cutulenco has also co-authored three papers published in software computing journals.

Henry Shi
Henry Shi

Henry Shi (BCS ’14 / BSC ’14)

Age: 26

Company: Co-founder, SnapTravel

Education: Faculty of Mathematics—Computer Science and Economics

Category:  Consumer Technology

SnapTravel allows you to find and book hotels over Facebook Messenger and SMS text. Co-founded by Waterloo mathematics alumnus Henry Shi in 2016, SnapTravel uses an AI system to scour sources in order to find the best hotel deals. SnapTravel will also call hotels the day of check-in to negotiate free upgrades for their customers.  So far, the company has raised more than $9 million in venture funding. Committed to Waterloo excellence, SnapTravel has hired at least four Waterloo co-op students since 2017 and employs at least another four Waterloo alumni. Prior to launching SnapTravel, Shi worked for companies including Google Inc. as a software engineer, Bloomberg Sports as a software developer, and created a college-based app called uMentioned that allows users to connect/make friends with people nearby. Shi is a former Co-op Student of the Year award recipient (2012), top Co-op Student in Canada recipient (2012), and recipient of a national scholarship provided by the University of Waterloo.

Read more on SnapTravel.

Kartik Talwar
Kartik Talwar

Kartik Talwar (BSc ’16)

Age: 26

Company: Investor, SV Angel

Education: Faculty of Science—Physics

Category: Venture Capital

Kartik Talwar is an associate and investor at SV Angel, a San Francisco-based seed fund. Talwar joined SV Angel in August 2016 and reportedly tackled its portfolio of more than 500 companies by building an internal CRM (customer relationship management) software program to track all investments, deals, financing, requests and relationships. During his studies at Waterloo, Talwar worked in co-op roles as a software engineer for companies including SV Angel, Salesforce and Tagged.

Mike Darlington
Mike Darlington

Ari Paunonen Ari Paunonen

Mike Darlington (BSc 12) & Ari Paunonen (BASc 12)

Ages: 29

Company: Co-founders, Monstercat

Education: Faculty of Science & Faculty of Engineering—Management Engineering

Category: Music

Monstercat (previously Monstercat Media) is an electronic dance music (EDM) record label based out of Vancouver.  Founded in July 2011 by science alumnus Mike Darlington and engineering alumnus Ari Paunonen, the music label moved out west following their graduation in 2012. Unlike other labels, Monstercat signs individual tracks rather than the artists themselves, providing more opportunities for artists to get signed at any level. Darlington and Paunonen met while studying at the University of Waterloo — both had a mutual appreciation for dance parties and music. The company now has between 45 and 50 employees working in 13 different areas, and has a YouTube channel (Uncaged) that boasts more than 7.1 million subscribers.

Nohemie MawakaNohémie Mawaka

Nohémie Mawaka (BA ’13)

Age: 27

Company: Founder, Stats Congo

Education: Faculty of Arts—French

Category: Healthcare

Having grown up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nohémie Mawaka says she witnessed far too many women being forced to accept their current life circumstances because there was no other societal alternative. This included women being forced to stay in horrible marriages out of financial dependency and her aunt dying of AIDS since no medication was available in the Congo until the early 2000s. It’s for this reason Mawaka dedicated her life to public health, founding Stats Congo in 2017, the first Congolese national maternal and newborns health centralized database. Mothers and newborn populations in the Congo face one of the highest mortality rates in the world. Stats Congo also hopes to help hospitals move into the digital space and ultimately become paperless. Before founding Stats Congo, Mawaka interned for the World Health Organization (WHO), where she gained extensive experience in global disease epidemiology. You can read more about Mawaka and her work on her personal website, a platform that also provides audiences with pragmatic tools for health, entrepreneurship and inspiration. Mawaka is also author of “Unleash your confidence.”

Praveen Arichandran
Praveen Arichandran

Praveen Arichandran (BA ’13, BASc ’13)

Age: 28

Company: Director of Growth, Tesla

Education: Faculty of Arts—Economics and Faculty of Engineering—Computer Engineering

Category: Marketing & Advertising

Praveen Arichandran joined Tesla’s executive team as head of growth in 2016 at the age of 25. According to Forbes Magazine, Arichandran has led Tesla in non-traditional marketing and advertising models based on a word-of-mouth approach that builds digital tools to reward owners for sharing Tesla products with their friends. Arichandran is reportedly the youngest executive hired by Elon Musk at Tesla.  Prior to his role with Tesla, Arichandran held the positions as product manager and data analyst of growth at Facebook, quantitative/technical equity researcher at BMO Capital Markets, and engineer of software and hardware at AMD, which is an American multinational semiconductor company that develops computer processors/related technologies for businesses and consumer markets.