Maddie Hall ’14 and Lydia Li ’13 are trailblazing for a cleaner world
Two CMCers made the Forbes Under 30 lists this year. Entrepreneur Maddie Hall ’14 was the featured headliner for the Science List, and investment professional Lydia (Yancan) Li ’13 appeared on the Energy List.
Chosen by Forbes editors, reporters, and expert judges, 30 Under 30 designees are drawn from tens of thousands of nominations. First launched in 2011, the North American lists recognize 600 change agents on the cusp of major advances across 20 industries. The lists are considered the go-to guide for tomorrow’s leaders and innovators.
While passionate about sustainability, neither Hall nor Li are scientists. Both were government majors who, after graduating from CMC, ventured outside their comfort zone to trailblaze new ways of harnessing the engines of commerce to create a cleaner world.
Hall is CEO of Living Carbon, a San Francisco-based biotech startup that’s developing super trees. To combat climate change, she and co-founder Patrick Mellor are developing genetically modified pines and poplars that grow much faster, absorb more carbon dioxide and produce more durable wood than the naturally occurring species. Living Carbon will start planting its super saplings for carbon projects later this year. Potential buyers range from private forests, which seed the lumber industry, to the energy sector, where mitigation banking is used to absorb powerplant runoff. Living Carbon’s long-term goals include aggregating carbon credits associated with their trees for additional revenue streams.
Li is an investor with Generate Capital, a San Francisco-based company that finances, builds, owns, and operates sustainable infrastructure projects. The Forbes editors credit Li with making headway in the pernicious “valley of death problem,” which deters traditional investors from funding emerging technologies. Li bridged the chasm by immersing herself in renewable energy research, acquiring special expertise in the hydrogen fuel cell niche. Her technical and financial analyses allowed Generate Capital to underwrite more than $200 million in power, transport, and waste sector investments, including several first-of-its-kind hydrogen infrastructure and fuel cell projects.
Both women are enthusiastic CMC alumnae.
Hall regularly participates in the College's VC events through the Randall Lewis Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and is, for the second time, a CIE mentor this year. Living Carbon recently hired two CMC student interns.
Li cites the CMC motto as her inspiration in choosing to champion clean enterprise.
“Crescit cum commercio civitas basically means you need money to make great things work,” she says. “That’s why I became an investor: because I think there are great technologies, great things we can do to help the environment and fight climate change. And it takes capital to do that.”