Ichabod Washburn Young Alumni Award for Professional Achievement 2010 Recipients

Jiong Ma '90 (MS)

Jiong Ma, your keen understanding of the intersection between business and science has enabled you to build a highly successful career of spotting opportunity on the horizon.

After completing your undergraduate studies in physics at Lanzhou University in China, you came to WPI to earn a master's degree in electrical engineering. You went on to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. A graduate of the Kauffman Fellows Program, you have published or co-authored 15 technical papers and hold a U.S. patent.

You went on to several senior positions at Lucent Technologies and Bell Labs, where you played leadership roles in product portfolio strategy, new product development launches for optical and data networking, and research and product development. You were also a founding team member of Onetta, a fiber networks start-up company, and a technical staff member of Nortel Networks.

With your deep technical knowledge and broad business experience, you plunged into the fast-paced world of venture capital. You joined 3i, a global private equity firm, where you led investment in the information technology and cleantech sectors. You then joined Braemar Energy Ventures in Boston where you currently seek breakthrough technologies in the energy sector. After two years with the firm, you were promoted to partner, becoming one of few women who have successfully climbed to the top of the venture capital field.

In your work at Braemar Energy, you have said that you are "called upon to think as an investor, an entrepreneur, and a scientist," a combination of skills that is highly valued at WPI. You demonstrate to our students how an engineering education can be the launch-pad for a successful business career. We are proud to recognize you today with the Ichabod Washburn Young Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement.

Leo Gestetner '95:

Leo Gestetner, from your early days as an enterprising teenager to your current business successes, you exemplify the WPI ideals of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Like many well-known entrepreneurs, you found your calling at a young age. Your grandmother gave you a BBC Micro computer for your 10th birthday. Three years later, you wanted an upgrade, so you sold the Micro for a profit through a free-ads newspaper. You bought a new, more powerful computer and later sold it, also for a profit. At age 16, you began selling Psion computer organizers. While your peers were likely more consumed by the typical teenage interests of music and fashion, you had become one of the largest North London dealers for the home computer manufacturer, Acorn.

At WPI you earned a bachelor's degree in management information systems and complemented your studies with an active life outside the classroom. You learned valuable lessons in teamwork and leadership from your involvement in Hillel, swimming, skiing, sailing, fencing, Scuba Club, International Student Council, Management Society, and European Student Association. Yet you never veered from your path as an entrepreneur.

Not long after graduating from the university, you launched an IT consultancy company, Unicorn IT Solutions, which provided outsourced IT solutions to small and medium entrepreneurs. In 1999 you and your brother established a successful Internet company, Shopsmart.com. You sold this shopping portal in 2001, then embarked on your latest endeavor: buying, selling, and actively managing a group of brand-driven companies. You have now firmly established Heath Capital in your new base of Los Angeles. In many ways, your career has come full circle, back to the ambitious teenager. Even then, you sought innovative ways to provide a quality product to your customers in North London. Today, you pursue the same goal on a global scale.

In recognition of your remarkable career, we are proud to honor you today with the Ichabod Washburn Young Alumni Award for Professional Achievement.

October 8, 2010