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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Sean Willems, 29

Software

Boston University

Sean Willems’s quest for simplicity dates back to childhood; he recalls being “stressed that ‘Kansas’ and ‘Arkansas’ weren’t pronounced the same way.” Now the cofounder and chief scientist of Boston-based Optiant cuts through complexity as an industrial pioneer. Willems, who is also an assistant professor at Boston University, creates software that streamlines the flow of parts and materials to manufacturers. While a PhD candidate at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, he wrote an algorithm that optimizes such supply chain flows so manufacturers can cut costs by paring inventory. Previous algorithms solved only pieces of the problem; Willems addressed the task in its entirety. Willems tested his theories with leaders like Hewlett-Packard and Nortel Networks. When he applied them in a division of Eastman Kodak, the company cut inventory levels by 40 percent and saved $10 million over two years. The “cool thing about the life I lead,” he says, “is that I get to develop the theory at Boston University and apply it at Optiant.”

2002 TR35 Winners

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Vincent Berger

Telecommunications

Eric Bonabeau

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Daniel Branagan

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Arnaud Brignon

Hardware

Howie Choset

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Michelle Effros

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Alexander Fay

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Claire Gmachl

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Michael Hansen

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Tom Hyongsok Soh

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Matt Keyser

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Kara Kockelman

Transportation

Paul Krajewski

Transportation

Der-Horng Lee

Transportation

Ihor Lys

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Larry Mianzo

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Chahab Nastar

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Bill Nguyen

Telecommunications

Rajesh Reddy

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Vincent Rijmen

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Jonathan Rosenberg

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Steven Shaw

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Anna Stefanopoulou

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Lisa Su

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Vahid Tarokh

Telecommunications

Steve Tuecke

Software

Les Welch

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Sean Willems

Software

Neil Young

Entertainment

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