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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Alumni on Forbes 30 Under 30 list

Four Dartmouth alumni have been named among Forbes 2017 30 Under 30 ­— a showcase of the world’s 600 “brightest young entrepreneurs, innovators and game changers” across 20 industries.

Jennifer Chong ’10 co-founded Linjer, a fashion company specializing in watches and leather goods. Riley Ennis ’15 co-founded Freenome, a tech startup that uses blood tests to try and detect cancer at an early stage. Connie Hu ’11 co-founded ArcBotics, a company that teaches programming and problem-solving to students by using robots to increase their knowledge of STEM subjects. Alex Nomitch ’09 works at Viking Global Investors as a portfolio manager in the energy sector.

Ennis pursued his passions as a Thiel Fellow, eventually co-founding Freenome after completing his research. For the other three, however, entrepreneurship was not the immediate next step.

“I think I had always a bit of an entrepreneurial bug, but out of college I definitely wasn’t planning on starting a business because the risk would be too high,” said Chong, citing student debt as a main financial concern.

Chong worked in management consulting for two years prior to co-founding Linjer. She described her time in that field as a sort of “boot camp” that taught her how to work with numbers and collaborate with others, creating foundations for her later work in entrepreneurship.

Nomitch wrote in an email that he started pursuing finance in his junior year at Dartmouth, interning at Goldman Sachs in the fall of 2007 and the summer of 2008 before joining the company after graduation as an analyst in the natural resources group.

Hu said she had been interested in social entrepreneurship since her undergraduate years, but first got involved with Bridgespan, a strategy consulting firm for the nonprofit sector specializing in K-12 STEM education. While working there, she noticed that it was difficult for beginners to learn STEM subjects, prompting her to find a solution to bridge that gap through robotics. She also noted that robotics was increasing in popularity at this time, which made the founding of her company ArcBotics timely.

Hu attributed much of her success to Dartmouth, because learning at the College helped her expand her way of thinking.

“I was born in rural China, immigrated to Kansas, really surrounded in an environment where people really didn’t leave ... so for me to go a place like Dartmouth changed my life,” Hu said.

Hu said that her anthropology major, an unconventional choice that she said she explains to many people, was what taught her how to navigate and systematically examine her environment, leading her to discover her passions.

Chong recalled the Engineering Sciences 12 “Design Thinking” class she took with Thayer School of Engineering professor Peter Robbie as one of her most formative learning experiences, as it taught her how to empathize with those she designs for.

Ennis also drew from his studies at Dartmouth in biology and finance, especially from the faculty and his peers, because they offered support for taking risks and trying things in a different way, giving him clarity and conviction for what he wanted to do with his life.

Though it had not always been clear to Ennis what he wanted to do, he always knew why he wanted to help people. Largely influenced by his younger sister’s heart condition, Ennis said that he had always had a desire to help patients find solutions to their health problems, but did not know exactly how.

“Finding the solution for me was in a startup ... that took some time to get there, but it’s always been focused on the end goal of making a difference,” Ennis said.

Biology professor Natasha Grotz said Ennis’ lack of intimidation at tackling even the largest of problems is something she admired while she taught him as an undergraduate.

Philosophy professor Susan Brison, with whom Hu conducted research as a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, identified a similar indomitable spirit in Hu.

“I think she’s a real pioneer — it’s not a field that’s very hospitable for women and she is making a difference,” Brison said. “She’s changing the field.”

Hu said one of the most fulfilling outcomes of her career has been helping other women start and launch their own businesses, an indirect result of her success with ArcBotics.

“In my particular space in hardware and especially robotics, it is so hard to find people who look like me ... as someone who is on the younger side as an entrepreneur, minority, woman, I’ve just been consistently underestimated a lot for my appearance,” she said.

Hu noted, however, that though there are external hurdles she had to overcome to be successful, she also had to remind herself many times to “get out of her own way.” Realizing that she was qualified to pursue the things she wanted to do and jumping into any and all experiences, rather than making excuses for not doing them, was important to her development.

Ennis said he hopes that Dartmouth students will try to match their interests to the problems that exist in the world, rather than fixating on finding a career.

“I think people should spend more time listening to the problems that are out there, to listen deeply to why the problems are happening and to reflect on who you are as a person in terms of your values and try and find a match between your own personal values and what you believe in and the problems that are out there,” he said.