Six high achievers on our radar this month, from Bay Area heavyweights to the next generation shaking things up.
Square’s longtime CFO is moving on up, taking on the role of CEO at the SF-based neighborhood social network Nextdoor. The company bids adieu to current CEO Nirav Tolia, who said in a statement that he was waiting for the right person to take the company to the next level before he stepped down, and it looks like they’ve found her. Aside from being Jack Dorsey’s right hand at Square, Friar sits on the board of the team-collaboration company Slack and e-commerce giant Walmart. Here’s to the new title, Sarah!
Lt. Mike Wu
The Foster City local adds hometown hero to his already honorable resume as an off-duty marine investigator with the U.S. Coast Guard! While hiking Mt. Whitney, he and his colleague Lt. Rachel Thomas went into rescue mode after three hikers plummeted down the notoriously steep grade. Wu and Thomas tended to the victims’ medical needs for hours before more help arrived, potentially saving their lives. The Coast Guard recently held a ceremony in their honor, awarding them with a prestigious accommodation medal. Wu told local press that the weekend after the rescue, he and Thomas hiked Mt. Shasta. Talk about fearless!
The co-founder and director of the social-justice fueled nonprofit Silicon Valley De-Bug was awarded the esteemed MacArthur Fellowship for his work in protecting defendants and their families against the corruptions of the criminal justice system. Affectionately known as the “Genius Grant,” it will fund Silicon Valley De-Bug’s efforts with $625,000 over the course of five years while the organization offers support for defendants and their loved ones through story-telling, community organizing and advocacy. The 2018 fellow has been quoted saying that the recognition came as a total surprise. “The first thing that ran through my head, I have to tell the people who really won this award,” Jayadev told The Mercury News. “The way I see the award, it’s a recognition of a community journey.”
It’s been a wild few months for this Chicana blues sensation by night and Spanish professor by day. After releasing her deeply intimate debut album, Never Too Soon, under the Little Village Foundation label, followed by highly successful performances in Half Moon Bay and Martinez, Crouse is looking toward the soul-filled future that she was always meant to have. The late-blooming musician earned her doctorate from UC Berkeley, raised two children and worked her day job at Diablo Valley College before pursuing her singing career by taking a class at the Jazzschool with respected blues musician Pamela Rose. “This class mostly focused on how to sit in with a band,” Crouse told The Mercury News. “Pamela is amazing. She approached me early on and said, you’re really good at this and could really do this if you want.
Kerri Walsh Jennings
The beach volleyball Olympic gold medalist and Santa Clara native has her eyes on the prize for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The Stanford alumna recently announced her partnership with defensive rockstar Brooke Sweat in preparation for the qualifications. “I was so excited that Brooke wanted to play,” Walsh Jennings said in an interview with the Associated Press. “She’s literally a jedi on defense. You can tell Brooke was born to play this game. She’s elevated every single partnership she’s ever had.” As it stands, Walsh Jennings (nicknamed Six Feet of Sunshine) is already the most celebrated American athlete in her field. If she and Sweat make it to the games, she will become a six-time Olympian. Best of luck to this power duo!
In an attempt to fight the slew of parking tickets he was getting as a teenager, the recent Stanford alum and son of famous financier (and acclaimed human rights activist) Bill Browder, developed DoNotPay, a chatbot that allows its users to “sue anyone” with the touch of a button. The AI-powered legal counsel is now available as a free iOS app, which seems somehow preferable to the hefty retainer fees and big hourly rates charged by human attorneys. At its core, DoNotPay attempts to educate people on their rights, but it’s not afraid of guiding people through the process of suing someone if need be. Cheers to Mr. Browder, and woe to lawyers everywhere — the robots are coming