From “Rough Draft” to Forbes: A Flashback to Forbes Under 30 Honorees’ First Photos & Products

This post is co-authored by Risham, an RDV Venture Fellow at Harvard College.

We’re counting down the days until the Forbes Under 30 Summit — the world’s largest celebration of young entrepreneurs, leaders, policy-makers and artists. Inspired by the Forbes 30 Under 30 List, which honors rising leaders across 20 industries each year, The Summit shares Rough Draft’s ethos of championing and connecting top rising talent.

We’re proud to have seventeen Rough Draft student founders and Venture Fellows recognized as Under 30 Honorees over the past three years. The rapid success of these founders is remarkable: We met each of them as students with nothing but a prototype and a pitch deck outlining an ambitious vision. Fast-forward a few years and these visions have come to life–they’re helping law enforcement officers fighting crime through reimagined software and empowering millennials to make smart financial decisions.

As we prepare to celebrate these founders next week, we’ve found ourselves reminiscing on their scrappy starts and decided to hit the archives to dig up their “rough drafts.” We hope these humble beginnings will inspire the next-generation of student founders to chase their crazy dreams! (P.S. if that’s you, drop us a line.)

Ari Weinstein–Workflow

2016 30 Under 30 honoree in Consumer Tech.

Left: Workflow demoing at MHacks in 2014; Right: Workflow product today.

Ari Weinstein is a co-founder of Workflow, a powerful automation tool that allows users to connect apps into custom “workflows.” Using Workflow, a user can program their morning routine, for example: “Alarm–>Open Weather App–>Open News App–>Map to first meeting in Calendar.” The company, which Ari co-founded alongside Conrad Kramer in 2014, was acquired by Apple this Spring. The company started as a hackathon project at MHacks, The University of Michigan’s annual hackathon, in 2014 when Ari was a freshman at MIT.

Rebecca Liebman–LearnLux

2016 30 Under 30 honoree in Education.

Left: LearnLux Presenting at a Draper Institute Business Plan Competition; Right: LearnLux product today

Rebecca is a co-founder of LearnLux, a personal finance platform that helps millennials take control of financial lives. From basic banking, to retirement planning, to insurance, and building credit– LearnLux gives users the information and tools to make informed financial decisions. Rebecca and her brother Michael, a student at Bentley University, founded LearnLux in 2015 with nothing more than a business plan. Fast-forward to last year and Rebecca was on stage at the Under 30 Summit inspiring the next generation of student founders.

John Wise–LovePop

2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree in Arts & Design

Left: 2014 sketched of LovePop cards; Right: LovePop cards today

John Wise is a co-founder and COO of LovePop, Boston’s beloved 3D pop-up card startup. As a ship-designer turned founder, John’s background is somewhat unconventional: He and co-founder Wombi Rose first met as naval architect students at The Webb Institute in 2005, re-connected at Harvard Business School in 2013. The earliest editions of LovePop cards were nothing but mere sketches but with the team’s unique design, architecture, and business backgrounds, their vision of building beautiful 3D gifts quickly came to life. In just 3 years, the company has already appeared on Shark Tank, partnered with the Billboard Music Awards, and raised over $8M in follow-on funding.

Scott Crouch, Flo Mayr, and Matt Polega — Mark43

2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 honorees in enterprise technology.

Left: Mark43 founders present their class project in 2013; Right: Mark43’s Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system today

Scott Crouch, Flo Mayr, and Matt Polega first started reimagining public safety software as seniors at Harvard College in 2013. The team was grouped together for a class project that involved shadowing Boston-area police officers. After just a few ride-alongs, the team recognized the opportunity–and urgency– for software to help law enforcement officers fight crime and improve public safety.

Fast forward to 2017 and the team has grown to more than 100 full-time employees in NYC and now provides software for the Washington D.C., Los Angeles County, Camden, NJ, and Jersey City police departments.

Rory O’Reilley & Kieran O’Reilley–

2016 30 Under 30 honorees in consumer technology.

When we first met Rory and Kieran O’Reilly in 2014, the brother/founder duo had built a scrappy tool for converting YouTube clips into gifs. The two dropped out of Harvard after receiving the Thiel Fellowship soon after and have since scaled the product into a major GIF site.

Peter Boyce — Rough Draft Ventures

2015 30 Under 30 honoree in venture capital

Left: Rough Draft’s first portfolio dinner with our first two companies; Right: Rough Draft Ventures co-founder Peter Boyce judging the Forbes Change The World Pitch Competition alongside Ashton Kutcher.

Four years ago, Rough Draft Ventures held its first pitch meeting in Harvard Square with the goal of helping student founders get their ideas off the ground. Since then, RDV has been supporting and connecting the nation’s largest network of university entrepreneurs. We’ve backed more than 250 founders representing over 100 companies from 30+ schools. The founders celebrated today are just a sample of the amazing work our community of students is driving. The best is yet to come!

As always, if you’re working on something cool, let us know. We’re always looking for stellar additions to the RDV family.