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Many innovations can’t happen without the right connections.

Rebeca Hwang thinks the insularity of Silicon Valley stifles innovation. To fix this, she’s become what she calls a mega-connector, trying to make it easier for entrepreneurs anywhere to find opportunities.

Hwang has spent the past few years as CEO of San Francisco–based YouNoodle, which helps run competitions among technologists and entrepreneurs. For example, the Intel Foundation used YouNoodle’s online service Podium to run business-plan competitions in Latin America and Europe. The government of Chile used it to solicit requests for funding from entrepreneurs.

It’s one of many ways Hwang, who was born in South Korea and raised in Argentina, has tried to link far-flung people or ideas. As an MIT undergrad she studied chemical engineering; at Stanford she cofounded the Cleantech Open business accelerator and pursued a PhD in social-network theory before joining YouNoodle. 

“I could have chosen to just go the academic route; I could have just done entrepreneurialism,” she says. “But I think I excelled most at the intersection—bringing all these parties together and coming up with solutions that have several perspectives.”

Rachel Metz

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Credit: Portrait by Brett Affrunti

Tagged: Web, EmTech2014

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