This year’s list includes edtech entrepreneurs, social changemakers and tireless educators.
By Katherine Love and Emma Whitford
A29-year-old entrepreneur with a language learning app in the Metaverse, an emergency room nurse with more than half a million TikTok followers and a doctoral student diversifying the economics field—these are just a few of the standout 20-somethings on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Education list.
For more than a decade, Forbes has highlighted the most promising young entrepreneurs, disruptors and change-makers in education for its annual list, which starts with nominations from the public. To be considered for this year’s list, all candidates had to be under the age of 30 as of December 31, 2022, and never before named to a 30 Under 30 list. Candidates for this year’s list were evaluated by a panel of expert judges, including Euan Blair, founder of the apprenticeship platform Multiverse; Sally Nuamah, a professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University, 30 Under 30 list alum and founder of the TWII Foundation; and Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University.
Several of the startups on our list were born in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic, when aspiring entrepreneurs were sent home from campus and innovators throughout education could be heard parroting Winston Churchill’s admonition to “never let a good crisis go to waste.” While home from college, childhood friends Harrison Hochman, 24, Daniel Kahn, 25, and Griffin Morris, 24, thought up their student loan app, Sparrow, an Expedia-like app that allows users to apply for student loans from dozens of private lenders using one easy application.
Stephanee Beggs, now a 28-year-old emergency room nurse, made her first TikTok video in July 2020, as she talked through a study sheet she’d made for her national nursing licensure exam. Today, she’s carved out a niche for herself on the video-sharing app by helping more than 600,000 followers study for the exam or simply learn what it’s like to work in an emergency room. To fund her content, Beggs set up an Etsy store, RNExplained, where she sells study sheets for specific topics, a comprehensive study guide and merch like stickers and crewneck sweaters for aspiring nurses.
The already growing trend toward digital learning accelerated during the pandemic. In 2021, venture capital firms invested $20.8 billion into the edtech sector, up from $16.1 billion in 2020 and $7 billion in 2019, according to a report by HolonIQ. So it’s not surprising that most of the companies launched by Forbes’ Under 30 Education listers offer a digital product or service. In 2018, Quinn Taber, 29, founded Immerse, a language learning app that allows students to gather in the Metaverse in virtual locations like a McDonald’s restaurant or a Nike store and learn useful phrases from a live teacher. The app has been downloaded more than 30,000 times, and is backed by $11.5 million in investment capital. Twenty-nine-year old Anayet Chowdhury founded the online tutoring platform ArgoPrep in June of 2015 with only $60, and today helps more than 1 million K-8 students boost their test scores in math, science and social studies. Lisa Wang, 29, also heads up an online tutoring company called Almost Fun, which has helped more than 2 million students master and enjoy math.
Several of the change-makers on our list have dedicated their time, energy and even their own savings to expanding access to and equity in education. Chinemelu Okafor, 29, created the Research in Color Foundation in 2019 to diversify the economics field through a one-on-one mentoring program, financial support for minority economics Ph.D. candidates and an annual conference. Vocal Justice, a nonprofit created by Shawon Jackson, 28, inspires young people to push for racial justice by teaching them to speak up about issues they care about. To date, Vocal Justice has worked with 57 middle and high school teachers in 17 states to create public speaking curriculums in classes and after-school programs.