"Rostam’s work history spans the sectors of health, education, tech, and sustainability, but at the heart of it all is his signature creativity, community-mindedness, and entrepreneurial spirit. He first gained a name for himself in the start-up world by inventing a solution to the Ebola outbreak in 2014. Rapid Ebola Detection Strips (REDS) were designed to identify the virus in record time, increase the accessibility of testing, and reduce the cost from $50,000 to less than $50. His work was recognized with the Cyrus Prize - a $100,000 genius grant awarded annually to one outstanding Iranian-American - and landed him an invitation to the White House to meet with Obama about the future of social entrepreneurship in America. At the time, he was volunteering at The New School (TNS) - an entrepreneurship-based high school struggling to get off the ground. Seeing enormous potential in their innovative model of education and diverse student body, he donated his entire prize and joined the school as Entrepreneur-in-Residence. In his first months there, he raised over $575,000 to launch a digital tutoring platform called Mystro, which connects top college students with high school students from underserved schools across the country. For his work on Mystro, he was recognized as one of the “Top 25 Young Entrepreneurs in the US” by Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Rostam's experience and network as an entrepreneur led him to found Thirty Birds, where he connects promising startups with disruptive technologies to angel and venture capital. His newest startup, Savor, is bringing the world’s first edible tableware to market this year and creating the most delicious way to end plastic.
I come from a family of political refugees and scientists, but it's not my grandfather's history of political activism nor my father's passion for medical research that inspired me most. Instead, it was their love of poetry. I grew up in a house rich with Persian literature, and from the earliest age, I'd committed to memory the words of the greats - the words of Ferdowsi and Attar, Rumi and Hafez, Khayyam and Sa'adi. Their stories had an enormous impact on the way I saw the world around me and the way I came to see my role in it. In Attar's epic poem, "The Conference of the Birds," we are introduced to a world of birds full of suffering. One bird - the Hoopoe - has a solution. He gathers all the birds of the world together and tells them he heard of a magical bird - the Simorgh (in Farsi “si” means thirty and “morgh” means bird) - who can save them from their suffering. But finding this bird will involve a treacherous journey over seven mountains. Hundreds of birds set off together, traveling over mountains that hold every imaginable temptation, and at each mountain, more and more of them give up. By the time they finally reach the last mountain, the Hoopoe looks around and sees the Simorgh he was promised is nowhere to be found. There are only thirty birds left, and together, they are Simorgh. They are the solution they were seeking. I believe that by committing ourselves to our shared humanity and committing our lives to the fight for a better world, we can become the thirty birds. This story serves as the inspiration for everything I do, because I've seen that through unity and compassion, small teams can build big ideas that change the world.