Forbes names nine top Pittsburgh-area leaders under 30
January 12, 2015 12:00 AM
CMU grad Julia Schwarz, 25, co-founded Qeexo, a startup that built FingerSense, a technology that detects how a person uses touchscreens.
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin is one of nine people working in the Pittsburgh region to make Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” lists.
By Mahita Gajanan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
To Christopher Watts, the most exciting part about being named one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30: The Sports World’s Brightest Young Stars” is appearing alongside Evgeni Malkin.
“I was so proud to be on the same list as Geno,” he said, referring to the Pittsburgh Penguins player who was named on the list for his many accomplishments in hockey.
Mr. Watts, 29, and Mr. Malkin, 28, are among nine people working in the Pittsburgh region who made the Forbes list.
Mr. Watts is the managing director of 4POINT4, a sports apparel company that partners with nonprofit groups to contribute proceeds to charity, and he previously served as an advisor to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. A native of Shaler and 2008 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, he was named to Forbes list on last week for his work in connecting sports with social causes.
This year marks Forbes’ fourth annual recognition of “young game changers, movers and makers,” according to its website. The magazine named 600 influential millennials across 20 different fields — food and technology, music, finance, media and education among them.
Acknowledgment from Forbes is exciting and life-affirming. Mr. Watts said being named to the list confirmed that he is following the right career path.
Other recipients from around the Pittsburgh region felt the same. For example, Julia Schwarz, 25, was named to 30 Under 30: Science for co-founding Qeexo, a startup that built FingerSense, a technology that detects how a person uses touchscreens. She’s a December graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction program.
Ms. Schwarz, who now works full-time at Qeexo, said her main goal is to capture the expressiveness of human hands in relation to touchscreen technology.
Forbes also named Jonathan Moerdyk, an assistant professor of chemistry at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, in the science category, honoring him for his research in making carbon-based molecules mimic metal reactions.
He joined the Seton Hill faculty in September 2014 after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Texas, where his doctoral work involved designing and researching viable carbon-based molecules.
“The ultimate idea is to replace metals with organic compounds,” Mr. Moerdyk, 28, said. This is helpful, he said, because certain reactive metals can often be toxic. His research found that carbon-based compounds can be a potential source for more renewable, cheaper materials.
On his recognition from Forbes, Mr. Moerdyk said he was “very humbled,” and thrilled with “just the honor of being considered.”
Mehdi Samadi said he hopes the recognition from Forbes will bring publicity to his start-up company. Mr. Samadi, 29, was named in the 30 Under 30 Rising Stars of Enterprise Technology category for co-founding Solvvy, a technology that uses artificial intelligence to make searching on mobile devices more efficient.
Currently on a 10-month leave from his Ph.D. work at CMU to focus solely on his start-up, Mr. Samadi said he hopes to launch the service by summer. With Solvvy, users will be able to ask a question out loud and “receive data that is relevant only to the query,” said Mr. Samadi.
Instead of providing suggestions through links, Solvvy will actually answer the user’s question based on data collected through social networking sites and previous searches.
Three CMU alumni were included on the 30 Under 30 in Energy list.
Graduates from CMU’s engineering program, Hahna Alexander and Matt Stanton, both 24, were recognized for co-founding Pittsburgh-based startup SolePower, a company that develops power-generating shoe insoles. Abe Othman, 29, is a 2012 CMU computer science graduate, who made the list for co-founding Building Robotics, a software-based systems that helps buildings become energy efficient.
Forbes also recognized 28-year old Grayson Lisenby, CFO of Canonsburg-based natural gas driller Rice Energy, in the same category for his work in helping the company raise $1.1 billion in financing before its $900 million IPO last January.
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