While many industries have suffered greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic, tech leaders and startups have pivoted, adapted, and stepped-up to meet the needs of society with groundbreaking speed and innovation.
Whether it’s converting an entire acceleration program into a virtual format, or helping small businesses learn and grow through an online academy, or providing parents with a better way to educate their children while everyone is stuck at home, the extent to which tech leaders will go to innovate under pressure will outlast the pandemic for years to come.
And tech companies would not be where they were without the perseverance, passion, and dedication of the hard-working men and women who make our lives better every day.
Many of the following tech leaders have made great sacrifices on their paths towards making a society a better place to live in, from the former Navy SEAL-turned cybersecurity VC and entrepreneur to the chief technology officer working to end human trafficking, and all the inspiring women working to empower females across the globe to thrive in their entrepreneurial endeavors, their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
These are the 20 tech leaders you should get to know in 2020 during COVID-19.
Chandini Jain, CEO at Auquan
Auquan has been modelling the Coronavirus pandemic and has been able to accurately forecast patterns of the spread in regions that were hit the hardest.
“The biggest benefits of our modelling approach were the ability to account for asymptomatic infections and model their properties separate from the reported infections,” the company reported in May.
Mike Janke, Co-Founder and CEO at DataTribe
Mike Janke is a former member of the elite Navy SEAL Team 6 who made the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship and venture capital, and with cyber attacks on the rise during COVID-19, his companies’ cybersecurity solutions are in high-demand.
Janke’s company DataTribe, for example, pulls cybersecurity talent into the private sector directly from the intelligence community, and these digital warriors have been battle-tested in the real-world against the world’s toughest adversaries.
And DataTribe’s fastest growing portfolio company ever, Strider, is the world’s first technology company enabling organizations to combat intellectual property theft and supply chain vulnerabilities beyond the cyber domain.
Inês Santos Silva, Co-Founder at Portuguese Women in Tech
Inês Santos Silva is a legend in the Portuguese tech and startup community. She has been a pioneer in building startup accelerators, growing teams, organizing and hosting events, and being an ambassador for Portugal with the likes of Singularity University and Techfugees, all within a span of less than a decade.
In 2016, she co-founded Portuguese Women in Tech (PWIT), which has spearheaded initiatives to empower women in tech by holding annual awards ceremonies recognizing top achievers, publishing pioneer reports, as well as crowdsourcing a database of Portuguese female speakers in tech to help conference organizers create more gender-balanced events.
The PWIT Awards 2020 will be a “special edition” that will culminate this September with the winners announced.
Silva is also a Managing Partner at Aliados Consulting.
Tarik Faouzi, VP at CloudBlue
A cloud wizard, Tarik Faouzi is always looking to the horizon for what’s next on the market, and his decades of IT experience have taken him across the globe, from Morocco to France and Spain, and all the way to California.
CloudBlue is an Ingram Micro business, and its technology powers Ingram Micro’s cloud management solutions.
The Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace reached a milestone this month of having grown 100% from where it was at last year when it announced on July 20, 2020, during the midst of the pandemic, that it had “surpassed 10 million managed seats on its Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace.”
Anne Philippi, Founder and CEO at The New Health Club
After having rubbed elbows with rock stars and Hollywood celebrities while writing for GQ, Vogue, and Vanity Fair, Anne Philippi made the switch to entrepreneurship and founded The New Health Club in 2019.
The New Health Club is a lifestyle platform that promotes mental wellness while advocating for the benefits of psychedelics in promoting mental health.
Philippi was inspired to look into psychedelics after hearing reports about microdosing in Silicon Valley, and after experimenting with psychedelics in a safe environment, she had a life changing experience that put her on the path towards advocacy.
On the “New Health Club Podcast” Philippi talks with innovators, leaders, and disruptors from the emerging world of psychedelics.
Rohan Hall, CEO at Vottun
Vottun is at the forefront of credentialing on the blockchain, including work on immunity passports, and Hall’s insights into the future of digital wallets is second-to-none.
Vottun has been recently named a blockchain preferred partner on the Oracle Cloud Marketplace.
Vottun’s Blockchain Digital Credentials can easily be integrated with Oracle OCI Cloud via modern APIs, further extending the value to Oracle Cloud customers, who can now issue credentials in education and enterprises via Vottun’s blockchain technologies.
Anjana Rajan, Chief Technology Officer at Polaris
Putting victims first, this week, Rajan testified before Congress in a hearing on human trafficking that “Technology should not only enable law enforcement to identify traffickers; it should also be used to put power back in the hands of victims and survivors.”
Previously, Rajan was the CTO of Y-Combinator and Greylock Ventures-backed Callisto, a Tech Policy Fellow at the Aspen Institute, and a deployment strategist at Palantir.
Dr. Srinivas Rao, Co-Founder and CEO at EntheogeniX Biosciences
As the CEO of biotech startup EntheogeniX Biosciences, Dr. Srinivas Rao is looking to psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms, as inspiration in developing more scalable psychedelic drugs for clinical treatments that last between 30 and 40 minutes in duration.
The process helps streamline “set and setting,” so patients feel more comfortable and less anxious about each session. “Set” refers to a person’s mindset before going into the experience and “setting” is where the actual experience takes place — like at a doctor’s office.
By allowing the patient to “have an experience. Integrate it. And then have another experience,” Dr. Rao believes that EntheogeniX will be able to “automate some aspects of set and setting.”
Ayumi Moore Aoki, Founder and CEO at Women in Tech and Social Brain
Her organization boasts membership across 70 countries all working towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in STEM fields.
Between giving keynotes and advocating for inclusion and empowerment, Aoki is a part-time Senator at the World Business Angels Investment Forum, and she has been the CEO at digital ads agency Social Brain, based in France.
Wesley Lorrez, Founder of Toadi
Toadi Founder Wesley Lorrez found green pastures in the robotics industry and created “the most advanced robotic lawnmower,” but that’s just one step towards the bigger ambition of creating worker robots for a sustainable future.
Lorrez sees the intelligent lawn assistant with built-in cameras and state-of-the-art sensors as a stepping stone towards greater sustainability.
Toadi aims to create worker robots that seed and plant gardens for healthy food, replace gas-powered tools while cleaning up pollution, and free up people’s time, so they can invest in their own “spiritual growth.”
Mona DeFrawi, Founder and CEO at Radivision
In 2017 Mona DeFrawi founded the “ESPN of Entrepreneurship,” Radivision to highlight stories from radical visionaries while supporting entrepreneurs through its consumer discovery and lead-gen fintech platform for the Private Markets ecosystem.
The Radivision Originals video series looks like it was produced in a Hollywood studio and the interface gives the user the feeling that they’re browsing through Netflix — looking for something bingeworthy while stuck at home.
Throughout her career, DeFrawi has been an inspiration to many, making it onto Forbes’ Most Powerful Women in Technology, setting up the first entrepreneurship curriculum at Johns Hopkins University, and raising or placing over $6 billion in equity funding.
Apu Pavithran, Founder and CEO at Hexnode
Businesses operating in over 100 countries rely on Hexnode’s UEM to simplify workflows while powering digital transformation across the globe, and the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated demand.
“COVID-19 has forced billions of organizations around the world to adopt remote work policies. The transition has led to a rapid increase in demand for tools to support remote teams and workflows,” Pavithran wrote on The Sociable.
Last month, Hexnode won recognition as a “high performer” in G2’s Summer 2020 Grid Report for Best Mobile Device Management Software.
Roberta Lucca, Co-Founder at Bossa Studios
You can find Roberta Lucca in just about every list of the most influential women in tech and gaming, and she deserves every bit of recognition and more.
She co-founded Bossa Studios in 2010, and the multi-million dollar gaming company has produced hit titles for PC, mobile, console, and VR platforms including the BAFTA-nominated Surgeon Simulator and the BAFTA-winning Monstermind.
Lucca is also a keynote speaker, futurologist, and Angel investor who invests in gaming, beauty, and health innovation.
She has been named to Forbes’ Top 50 Women in Tech and London’s Most Influential People 2019, among many, many high honors.
Jonathan Greechan, Co-Founder at the Founder Institute
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Founder Institute moved all of its 2020 programs online, which has presented some unique opportunities for founders that are unique to the virtual programs.
For example, the Founder Institute is offering founders in its virtual 2020 cohorts even more opportunities for collaboration, relationship building, and feedback with more office hours, weekly AMAs, and a fast track to the Post-Programs (“Founder Lab”).
Sheena Brady, Founder at the Founder’s Fund and Merchant Success Team Lead at Shopify
Sheena Brady started the Founder’s Fund in 2019 as the first digital accelerator catering to those who are under-represented, supporting over 350 women-identifying members with mentorship and access to capital.
The Founders Fund consists of “Members, Mentors and Funders who believe deeply investing in themselves while paying it forward.”
On top of that, Brady has helped scale Shopify Plus’s Merchant Operations team from eight people to more than 150 over the past few years.
“It is only that if we share our stories that we continue to learn from each other and continue to improve,” said Brady.
Sam Corcos, Co-Founder and CEO at Levels
A serial entrepreneur, Sam Corcos leads the charge on metabolic fitness as the head of Levels, a healthtech startup that tracks and measures blood glucose levels in real-time through its sensor while relaying all the data back to the user on a simplified dashboard.
The Levels CEO recently penned an article in Entrepreneur explaining the importance of creating a healthier workplace environment and that “creating a strong culture of health and wellness in your business has the potential to benefit both your employees and your bottom line.”
Previously, Corcos founded and led Y-Combinator-backed automotive repair concierge service CarDash, and before that, he founded Sightline Maps, which sold solutions primarily to the US military.
Jamie Petten, President and Executive Director at the Kanata North Business Association
Jamie Petten has wasted no time in spearheading Kanata and Ottawa as a tech hub for entrepreneurs.
As president and executive director of the Kanata North Business Association, Petten brings her community-building and thought-leading skills towards a prosperous future for Ottawa’s economic development.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Petten has been providing resources, guides, updates, and general news about how COVID-19 has been affecting the local entrepreneurial scene while providing recommendations to mitigate the risks.
Through her passionate dedication, Petten has positioned her and the entire Kanata North Business Association as the go-to leaders when it comes to supporting the local business community.
Manuel Zamora, Founder at Dailies
If there were ever a more urgent time for edtech solutions to help parents take control over their children’s education, that time is now, and those solutions are being provided by Manuel Zamora through the Dailies app.
With schools forced to shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions, teachers cannot be there physically to watch over the students, and this responsibility has fallen back on parents as they juggle their time between working and raising family, and now, having a more direct involvement in their children’s education.
Dailies’ gamified micro-lessons make learning fun for students while their parents benefit from the insights the app provides about how they can better help their children learn and grow.
Chaesub Lee, Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau at the International Telecommunication Union
With over three decades of experience in standardizing ICT, Chaesub Lee helps the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) achieve and apply common standards to build trust and strengthen trade and business among diverse communities across the globe.
“The ultimate goal of ITU standardization is the establishment of high-quality international standards, developed using an open, inclusive process, meeting the needs of ICT innovators in a wide variety of industry sectors,” Chaesub penned in the United Nations Chronicle.
The ITU recently partnered with the Global Esports Federation to launch a global dialogue on esports as part of the AI for Good Global Summit — the United Nations’ leading platform to discuss inclusive AI.
“Our world is highly diverse, but sport has extraordinary power to unite us,” said Lee at the time of the announcement.
Bryan Janeczko, Founder at Gro Academy
Thanks to the remote nature of the academy, entrepreneurs are not burdened by travel restraints, and virtual sessions assure them greater accessibility, no matter where they live.
During the coronavirus pandemic, startup accelerators have begun to see the unexpected upsides of virtual programs, citing greater flexibility as having a positive effect.
Janeczko was recently on the Brains Byte Back podcast where he discussed what makes a good business idea, how anyone can turn an idea into a business, and what are the greatest hurdles aspiring entrepreneurs will face when they start out.
Gro recently partnered with Entrepreneur.com to co-launch a new education platform for idea-stage entrepreneurs called Start Your Own Business which offers educational resources, and webinars with industry experts, which can help guide those at the start of their journeys to create profitable businesses.
Honorable Mention: Cuco Vega, Co-Founder and CTO at Bexi
A technical background and an eye for design have helped propel Cuco Vega to become a thought leader in the design space in Silicon Valley.
Starting off his career as an engineer, Vega quickly shifted gears to focus on design, working for design firms in the Valley before beginning a nearly half-decade career at multinational software developer Citrix.
In 2016, Vega co-founded Bexi, a digital-first design studio based in San Francisco that’s helped reshape the looks of large companies like Booking.com, HBO Go, and BIO RAD.
Vega is also the founder of JalisConnect, A global initiative that connects Jalisco, Mexico’s technology ecosystem with tech hubs around the world via innovation programs.
Disclosure: This article includes clients of an Espacio portfolio company