50 on Fire finalist image

Tonight, the website BostInno’s year-end award celebration, 50 on Fire, will celebrate the people and companies who are innovating and disrupting nine major industries in Boston. SPECTRVM took a look at this year’s nominees and spotted a number of MIT-connected influencers in the mix—with particularly strong representation from the MIT Media Lab.

Update (12/5/14): The results are in, and 11 of MIT’s finalists were named to the 50 On Fire list. Watch the winners’ video at BostInno.


Christien Rioux ’98 is cofounder and chief scientist of this cyber-security company. Veracode is the most widely used cloud-based security platform for web, mobile, and third-party applications.

iRobot's vacuum cleaning robot, the Roomba. Image: iRobot
iRobot’s vacuum cleaning robot, the Roomba. Image: iRobot

Cofounded by Colin Angle ’89, SM ’91, professor emeritus Rodney Brooks, and Helen Greiner ’89, SM ’90, iRobot has sold 10 million of its Roomba floor-cleaning robots worldwide. The company is also an industry leader in defense and public safety robots.

An email productivity tool for salespeople, Yesware was cofounded by Rajat Bhargava ’94. Yesware recently expanded beyond email, allowing users to place calls from their inbox and the ability to track how prospects spend time reviewing presentation materials.


Ricarose Roque
Roque is part of the MIT Media Lab research team behind Scratch, a programming language for kids. One of her current projects involves collaborating with community centers to design creative learning experiences in communities with limited computing resources.

Mona Vernon SM ’11
Vernon serves as the vice president of the Thomson Reuters Data Innovation Lab, which she started earlier this year. In partnership with businesses and universities, the lab aims to develop data-driven innovations.


Sanjay Sarma
AS MIT’s Director of Digital Learning, Sarma is leading an educational revolution in higher education. The Institute’s first director of digital learning, he is shaping a new education model at MIT that blends the best of residential education with the best of online learning.

Cynthia Breazeal SM ’93, SCD ’00 is the creator of Jibo, the world's first family robot. Image: YouTube screenshot
Cynthia Breazeal SM ’93, SCD ’00 is the creator of Jibo, the world’s first family robot. Image: YouTube screenshot

Cynthia Breazeal SM ’93, SCD ’00
A pioneer of social robotics and director of the MIT Media Lab Personal Robots Group Breazeal has created some of the world’s most famous humanoid robots. She is the creator of Jibo, billed as the “world’s first family robot.”

John Werner
The head of innovation and new ventures at MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture Group, Werner develops hardware and software technologies that augment human vision, including a video display that can compensate for a viewer’s poor eyesight. Werner is also the founder of Ideas in Action/TEDxBeaconStreet.

Peer Transfer
Founded by MIT grad Iker Marcaide MBA ’10, PeerTransfer offers international students an easy way to make education payments, providing competitive currency exchange rates and mutilingual customer service. Marcaide was inspired to create peerTransfer after his own payment to MIT from Spain was lost in transit.

Hugh Courtney PhD ’91
Courtney has served as dean of Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration since 2012. Under his leadership, the school launched a one-year Master of Science in Innovation program, and was ranked number seven on Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Top 25 Colleges for Entrepreneurship for 2015.”

Dorm Room Fund
Dorm Room Fund is a venture firm run by students, investing in student-run companies, and currently has offices in four cities. The organization has helped launch MIT spinouts such as Grove Labs, an eco-friendly indoor food growing system. A number of MIT students and alumni comprise the Boston investment team or serve as advisors, including Bruno Faviero, graduate student Chris Alexander, Max Kanter, and Akanksha Midha MBA ’14.


Open Style Lab
MIT’s Open Style Lab, run by the MIT Assistive Technology Club, creates “accessible fashion” for people with disabilities. The Lab’s designs were shown at this year’s New York Fashion Week and Boston Fashion Week.

Cofounded by David Cranor SM ’11, Maxim Lobovsky SM ’11, and Natan Linder SM ’11, MIT spinout Formlabs is bringing high-quality, low-cost 3-D printers to the world. The rapidly growing company recently opened an online European store and has expanded distribution to Australia and Singapore.

Medicine and Health Care

Every two weeks, PillPack customers receive a personalized roll of pre-sorted medications, along with a recyclable dispenser and any other medications that cannot be placed into packets. Image: PillPack
Every two weeks, PillPack customers receive a personalized roll of pre-sorted medications, along with a recyclable dispenser and any other medications that cannot be placed into packets. Image: PillPack

PillPack is a full-service pharmacy cofounded by Elliot Cohen MBA ’13, designed especially for people who must manage multiple medications. Pre-sorted prescriptions are shipped to customers bi-weekly and has pharmacists on call to answer questions.

Hugh Herr SM ’93
A pioneer in biomechatronics at the MIT Media Lab, Herr is responsible for breakthrough advances in bionic limbs. A double amputee himself, he created the world’s first bionic foot and calf system and is the founder of BiOM.

Among the founders of T2Biosystems are Michael Cima, the David H. Koch Professor Engineering; Director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research Tyler Jacks; David H. Koch Institute Professor Robert Langer SCD ’74; and the Koch Institute’s Integrative Program Officer, W. David Lee ’69, SM ’70. The company has developed a technology that delivers fast and simple diagnostics, allowing doctors to more quickly make treatment decisions.

Cofounded by Jay Caplan ’83, Fractyl is dedicated to improving the health of people with Type 2 diabetes. A non-invasive endoscopic procedure to improve glucose control and reduce the need for medication is currently undergoing clinical trials.

Jennifer Lewis SCD ’91
This materials scientist is creating new “ink” to revolutionize 3-D printing. Lewis’s research team printed cellular tissue constructs with embedded blood vessels earlier this year, a step towards the ability to 3-D print functioning organs.

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