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Introducing the inaugural
SIPA Next Generation Young Entrepreneur Fellows

New York, NY Columbia Universitys School of International and Public Affairs put out a call for young entrepreneurs in late 2017 with the support from the Nasdaq Foundation. SIPA is a thriving place for entrepreneurship, with several programs like the SIPA Deans Challenge Grant and leading research in the key areas of EdTech, New Technologies of Money, Urban Innovation, Internet of Things, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For our inaugural call for young entrepreneurs who are working full time on startup ventures in New York City, we received numerous applications and have now selected five fellows. These fellows will spearhead student engagement, collaboration, and write short original works at the intersection of policy, entrepreneurship, and digital technology.

Miriam Altman is the CEO and co-founder of Kinvolved, a for profit social enterprise that catalyzes communities to elevate student attendance. Kinvolved achieves this mission through a three-pronged approach: Community Summits, Teacher and Leader Coaching, and its attendance management software, KiNVO. Miriams responsibilities include strategic planning and execution, business development and sales, fundraising and investor relations, and external relations, among others. Kinvolved has been featured in press, including the New York Times, and has won awards from The Robin Hood Foundation, Teach For America, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, and more. Miriam and her co-founder are winners of the Gratitude Award, Forbes 30 Under 30, and the Jo Ivey Boufford Award for Innovative Solutions to Public Service Challenges by New York University. In addition, Miriam became is a Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation entrepreneur in 2017 and a SIPA Entrepreneurial Fellow at Columbia University in 2018.

Noelle Francois is the co-founder and Executive Director of Heat Seek NYC, a civic technology nonprofit operating at the intersection of data collection, the internet of things (IoT), and housing justice. Recognizing that the #1 housing maintenance issue in NYC is inadequate heat in the wintertime, Heat Seek builds and deploys web-connected temperature sensors and a corresponding web app to document when an apartment's temperature dips below the legal limit set forth in the city's housing code. The organization assists tenant organizers, legal service providers, and individual tenants across all five boroughs in using their sensor data to demand adequate heat.

Noelle developed an interest in housing policy while finishing a Masters in Public Administration at NYU Wagner, and her work at Heat Seek allows her to explore the myriad ways poor quality housing functions as a form of tenant harassment aimed at displacing low-income tenants without the need to formally evict them. Noelle is interested in how data, particularly open data, can help us to hold our elected officials and government agencies accountable, provide better services to citizens, and to better understand where nonprofit housing interventions are most needed.

Rebecca Garcia is a passionate advocate for STEM education for youth and minorities especially women. She is the Co-founder of CoderDojo NYC a volunteer 501(c)3 non-profit program with out-of-school group learning experiences for youth ages 7-17 to explore web, game & app development. Formerly she was a Program Manager at Microsoft within Civic Tech & Innovation for Tech Jobs Academy; a full-time technical training program for underemployed and underemployed New Yorkers. She is also an advisory board member of the Brooklyn STEAM Center. Awards include 2013 as a U.S. White House 'Champion of Change' for Tech Inclusion from former President Obama, in 2015 Glamour Magazine's '35 Women Under 35 Who are Changing the Tech Industry’, 2016 as Hispanicize’s ‘STEM Star’, Pacific Standard ‘30 Under 30’, and Crain’s Hispanic Executive & Entrepreneur Awards ‘Latino to Watch’. Press includes NY Times, Forbes, Rolling Stone, Glamour, NBC Latino and Latina Magazine.

Jeremy Hise has been supporting service-based businesses within the New York City metro area with IT consulting services, software platform design and development team management. Since 2014, he has focused on environmental science and technology, initially with the development of a low-cost, wireless sensor network (the Mini Field Station) in conjunction with the Griffin Lab at Columbias Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

In 2017, Hise established the Real Time Ecology (RTE) a for-profit project with a mission to improve our environmental stewardship through science, education and technology. This is accomplished in three important ways. First, Real Time Ecology takes advantage of recent downward pricing trends in digital technology components and the ease with which those components can be sourced. Real Time Ecology, at its core, relies on the Mini Field Station, an electronic device that is constructed of low-cost components easily found on the Internet.

Ronaldo Lemos is an internationally respected Brazilian lawyer, scholar and commentator on technology, intellectual property and culture. He is a director of the Institute for Technology & Society of Rio de Janeiro (ITS Rio) and professor of law and innovation at the Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ). He holds law degrees from University of Sao Paulo Law School and Harvard Law and has published a number of books and journal articles. He is currently a Visiting Professor at Columbia University´s School of International and Public Affairs. He is a non-resident visiting scholar with the MIT Media Lab and was a visiting fellow at Princeton University´s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) in 2011 and 2012. Lemos was one of the creators of the Marco Civil, a law enacted in 2014 regulating the internet in Brazil, protecting civil rights, privacy and net neutrality. He was elected vice-president of the Council for Social Communication in Congress, a governmental body created by the Brazilian Constitution to deal with matters related to communication, media and freedom of expression. Lemos writes weekly to Folha de S.Paulo, the top national newspaper in Brazil. He hosts a TV show focused on innovation at Canal Futura, and has contributed to a number of other publications, including Foreign Affairs, Harper's Bazaar and Bravo!. In 2015 he was appointed a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. In 2016 he was appointed a fellow with Ashoka. Lemos serves as a board member in various organizations, such as the Mozilla Foundation and Access Now. He received the Prix Ars Electronica´s Golden Nica in 2008.

Professor Lemos has been working with three research topics in 2018: IoT and the developing word, Digital Identities, and the use of blockchain technologies for the public interest,

Regarding IoT, professor Lemon concluded in the 2018 the study that support Brazil´s National IoT Plan, commissioned by the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology and Brazil´s National Development Bank (BNDES). The study was developed in partnership with Mckinsey and CPqD, and is publicly available here (in Portuguese). Professor Lemos was responsible for the legal and regulatory portions of the study.

Regarding Digital Identities, professor Lemos is working on the possibilities of building different forms of identities, which can positively promote efficiency in public services, transparency, privacy and accountability. Currently, 1.1 billion people in the world are unable to prove their identity. At the same time the Internet has several shortcomings on how to deal with identities. Professor Lemos is seeking to understand how these issued apply to the developing world, and point out possible solutions.

Finally, Professor Lemos is working blockchain technologies, and how they can serve the public interest. He recently launched the app Mudamos, which allows voters in Brazil to formally introduce Federal laws in Congress, State or City level laws. The app uses the blockchain to determine the identity of the voter, and has been downloaded by 700,000 people. In addition, Professor Lemos has just helped Brazil´s National Development Bank to issue their first blockchain token attached to public loans. The toke has no market valeu, but rather, is a transparency mechanisms that improves transparency and accountability of public loans. 

Maher Nasser is currently a visiting scholar at SIPA on Sabbatical Leave from the United Nations. Maher Nasser graduated from Bir Zeit University in Palestine in February 1986 with a BSc in Civil Engineering.  However, he opted out of a career as an engineer and worked on media, development and human rights issues with NGOs based in Jerusalem and Ramallah for two years. This shift from engineering to communications-based work led him to his first job in Gaza in August 1987 working as a Public Information  for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Other than his NGO work and a brief period in late 1991 when he left UNRWA’s Jerusalem Office to join the Palestinian Neotitating Team to the Madrid Middle East Peace Conference and subsequent bilateral negotiations in Washington, his career has been with the United Nations.  He now has over 30 years of progressively responsible work experience in the United Nations System, including as Acting Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information in charge of the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) in 2012 and 2014 and most recently as Acting USG for Global Communications from April to August 2017. His current position with the DPI is Director of the Outreach Division, a position he assumed in February 2011. As  Director, he has been part of the senior management of DPI and the UN’s strategic communications discussions since 2011. He has been in charge of managing and leading the Outreach Division with more than 230 staff working to leverage the power of partnerships and publications to amplify the work of the Department through collaborations with academia, civil society, the creative community (including celebrities, Messengers of Peace and Goodwill Ambassadors), and youth organisations. Prior to his return to New York for a second posting, he has worked with the UN in various capacities in different postings in Gaza, Jerusalem, Vienna, Amman, New York and Cairo. As he progressed into management positions, he obtained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from the Universiry of Warwick in the UK. 

As a Visiting Scholar at SIPA, Mr. Nasser is looking at how to the UN can better adjust to and utilise the potential of 21st century innovation and disruptive technologies to meet rising global challenges, including those created by certain aspects of innovation. What role is there for the UN in this space and how can it be helpful? What are the policy options and practical recommendations that would benefit the UN’s performance,  leadership and ability to adjust?

He is also looking at the wider implications of disruptive technologies on the overall environment in which the UN operates as well as on innovation work already implemented by a number of UN agencies and offices in their development and humanitarian work. 

Mike Ward is the TurboVote Program Director at Democracy Works, a 501(c)(3) organization that is improving civic participation by simplifying and modernizing the voting process for voters and election administrators. He comes to the civic engagement field with experience in human rights and inter-religious peace work, work that he began after earning an MS in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University.