One of our biggest projects of the year—in fact, it takes most of the year to bring it all together—is our list of 35 Innovators Under 35, a feature whose origins date to the late 1990s.
The good news for us is that we don’t have to do it all ourselves—we get help from you. Over the past 18 years our readers have helped to nominate such notable folks as Mark Zuckerberg (2007), Jack Dorsey (2008), Andrew Ng (2008), Danah Boyd (2010), Feng Zhang (2013), and Julie Shah (2014). The nominations from readers number in the hundreds and are subsequently whittled down by the editors. Then they’re sent to a panel of esteemed judges with expertise in varied realms of the tech world.
What’s most intriguing about the list isn’t just the people who later become important or famous, but the way the innovations described reveal the evolution of technology. That kind of evolution was evident in the 2017 list, where young people working in artificial intelligence dominated.
So who are we looking for? We’re looking for people doing interesting work with software, nanomaterials, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, computing, energy, electronics, and the Internet. What we’re most interested in seeing is a specific achievement. We don’t just want someone with an armful of degrees or patents. We like to be able to answer the question: What’s the innovation here? What, specifically, did this person achieve that hasn’t been done before in quite this way? How is this person working toward solving a major technology problem that could make a huge difference in people’s lives?
Some candidates come from high-powered research universities or massive corporations, but that’s not a requirement. The list also has room for people who might be living in more rural or economically deprived settings who are using technology to make a difference for people in their communities.
We have no idea who’ll end up on next year’s list, because it’s not in our hands. That’s up to you.