Meet the Bay Space’s Hottest Movers, Shakers + Recreation Changers of 2016

Every fall, 7×7 editors scratch our heads, pull out our hair, and lose sleep at night as we deliberate the biggest quandary of our year: How to select just 20 luminaries from the Bay Area’s boundless constellation of stars.

As always, this year’s Hot 20 comprises the brightest influencers of our time, in fields as diverse as hip-hop and politics, philanthropy and fashion, theater and neuroscience. You’ll meet an activist chef, a sensational first-time author, the James Dean of rappers, and a baseballer for the history books. And now, please give a big round of applause for the 2016 Hot 20!

THE OCTOBER SURPRISE: Madison Bumgarner, SF Giants Pitcher

(Courtesy of the San Francisco Giants)

He had us all believen right to the very end: The San Francisco Giants may have ended their even-year World Series streak this season, but Madison Bumgarner is a pitcher for the ages. When, on October 5th, the 27-year-old threw a shutout in the Giants’ wildcard win over the New York Mets, The Washington Post named him “a billion times a postseason hero”; ESPN declared “Bumgarner owns October”; and The New York Times called him a “postseason king.”

But we’re really not that surprised: MadBum, who was drafted by the Giants straight out of high school in 2007, has been earning his status as a postseason icon ever since. In 2010, he started the season in the minors but went on to throw eight scoreless innings at the 2010 World Series. In 2014, he pitched a World Series shutout—a feat only two other pitchers have managed in the last century. After this year’s performance, Bumgarner is officially the only pitcher to have thrown multiple shutouts in winner-take-all postseason matches.

Giants fans get to keep Bumgarner in all his brilliance at least through 2019, and Giants GM Bobby Evans has said the club will extend the commitment whenever the pitcher is ready. —Alyssa Oursler

THE HOUSEHOLD NAME: Ayesha Curry, Author of ‘The Seasoned Life’

(Courtesy of Ayesha Curry)

Move over, Steph Curry: This is the season of Ayesha. Since her self-taught cooking skills started getting attention through her blog and YouTube channel, “Little Lights of Mine” a few years back, Mrs. Curry has become a household name with a best-selling new cookbook—The Seasoned Life serves up family stories and photos alongside 100 personal recipes (think saffron salmon and gluten-free persimmon cookies)—and her very own Food Network show, Ayesha’s Homemade.

Curry, 27, may also be one of America’s most famous moms: Sometimes referred to as the First Family of the NBA, the Currys’ entrepreneurial ventures have a strong focus on family, and their two daughters, Riley, 4, and Ryan, 1, have a fan base of their own. Curry is wrapping up a popular barbecue pop-up, International Smoke, along with chef Michael Mina; the concept is set to live on in Honolulu at the newly redeveloped International Market Place. Continuing to work where food and family intersect, Curry has also recently signed on as an ambassador for No Kid Hungry, and her own line of baby shoes, in collaboration with Freshly Picked, launched in June. Look out for her the debut of Gather, a meal-kit company that will deliver ingredients to cook Curry’s favorite dishes, later this year. —Jenna Valdespino

THE RISING STAR: Daveed Diggs, Actor/Musician

(Courtesy of Clippings)

If you’ve heard of a little Broadway show called Hamilton, then you already know (and are likely obsessed with) the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, otherwise known as Tony- and Grammy Award–winning actor/rapper Daveed Diggs.

Diggs, 34, hails from the East Bay—after graduating from Berkeley High, he attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island before returning to Oakland to teach poetry and acting. Of course, that didn’t last long: Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda cast Diggs for the show’s 2015 off-Broadway debut. When it became a runaway hit on Broadway later that year, Diggs’ star rose with it, his charismatic and electrifying rap making him a standout among the cast.

Diggs gave his final performance as a founding father on July 15th, but he hasn’t slowed down: In addition to performing in the experimental hip-hop group Clipping and as part of Miranda’s rap ensemble Freestyle Love Supreme (FLS), Diggs also plays the grown-up Zeke in Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix series The Get Down. Also look for his rap number on the soundtrack of the 2016 animated film Zootopia, as well as upcoming appearances on ABC’s Black-ish and alongside Julia Roberts in Wonder, the film adaptation of Raquel J. Palaci’s best-selling novel about a boy struggling to overcome a facial deformity. —Emily Malter

THE BABY MAKERS: Deborah and Jake Anderson-Bialis, founders of FertilityIQ

(Courtesy of Deborah and Jake Anderson Bialis)

Fertility most certainly ranks among the year’s hottest topics, and now the burgeoning industry has its boldfaced names. San Francisco couple Deborah (30) and Jake (36) Anderson-Bialis are the founders of FertilityIQ, a stunningly comprehensive database of fertility information that, while still in its infant stages, is already being called the Yelp of the fertility world.

The company was born as most startups are: from founders’ lightbulb moment in the face of something that desperately needed fixing. Let it suffice to say that one bad fertility clinic experience after another, and tens of thousands of dollars spent before finding solutions to their fertility woes, led to the watershed moment: Couples needed a smarter way to find a quality fertility specialist. The pair quit their jobs (his at a VC firm, hers at the nutrition app Rise) to pursue a venture that would have real meaning. In February 2016, they launched FertilityIQ, which neatly organizes the treatment protocols, patient ratings, pricing, and more for 98 percent of all specialized fertility doctors and clinics in the U.S. Whoa. The site’s content is generated by couples like themselves, whose care under each doctor or clinic reviewed is verified to ensure authenticity. Plus, a strict no-advertising policy guarantees 100 percent objectivity. The pure goal here is patient education and safety, and so far, access to the site has been free for users (the couple says they must begin charging a fee soon to keep the site sustainable). As icing on the cake, Jake and Deborah gave birth to a healthy baby boy, named Lazer for the Yiddish term “With God’s Help,” on April 30th. Mazel tov! —Sarah Martin

THE BEAT BOY: G-Eazy, Oakland’s Next Hot Rapper

(via hiphopdx)

2016 has been a good year for G-Eazy, the Oakland rapper you’ll no doubt recognize from his performance at this year’s Outside Lands and at the MTV Video Music Awards alongside Britney Spears. Released last fall, his sophomore album, When It’s Dark Out—his first under RCA Records—debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and took the number one spot on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop list. The album features collaborations with Bay Area favorite artists including E-40, Too $hort, and Kehlani.

With the look of James Dean (if Dean could rap and had Oakland swagger), G-Eazy has quickly earned recognition from both fans and critics. From his humble start circulating mixtapes online, G-Eazy has harnessed the power of the blogosphere—his 2011 rap rework of the 1961 doo-wop hit “Runaround Sue” went viral on Tumblr and has garnered nearly 6 million plays on Soundcloud. After appearances on festival stages at Lollapalooza, Made in America, and Bonnaroo, G-Eazy is headlining his own nationwide tour. He also has a cameo in Oakland rapper J Stalin’s “Party Jumpin 2.” —Rayanne Piana

THE OVERNIGHT SUCCESS: Emma Cline, Author of ‘The Girls’

(Isabel Magowan)

When Sonoma native Emma Cline’s debut novel The Girls crash landed on the literary scene earlier this year, critics and casual readers alike were amazed by the young, overnight success story. Cline, 27, had only a handful of works published in The Paris Review before her first book started a bidding war that reportedly resulted in a seven-figure, multi-book deal from Penguin Random House. (The film rights for the story have already been purchased by Girl with the Dragon Tattoo producer Scott Rudin.)

The Girls tells the story of Evie, a Bay Area teenage girl who joins a Manson-like cult. “I took it as a challenge to write a book about teenage girls, who are so marginalized and objectified and given no agency and subjectivity,” says Cline, who grew up in a family of Sonoma winemakers. “How do you write about them in a way that takes them seriously?” The resulting, often gruesome, tale of sisterhood, friendship, murder, and teenage angst will have you enthralled from cover to cover. —Matt Charnock

THE ROAST MASTER: Charles Bililies, Owner of Souvla

(Kassie Borreson)

Raised in a Greek family with a love of all things barbecued on a spit, Souvla owner Charles Bililies has cooking in his blood. After moving to California from his native Boston, Bililies became the first culinary assistant to chef Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, was quickly promoted to manager at Bouchon, and later moved to San Francisco to work under Michael Mina. Inspiration hit when a backyard barbecue found him making sandwiches from the leftovers of a whole-lamb spit, and before long he had us lining up on Hayes Street salivating over meaty salads and that divine Greek fro-yo. Now, Bililies is on a tear, opening his beloved souvlaki joints, modeled after those found all over Greece, around the city: On the heels of Souvla’s Divisadero opening this past June, Souvla is expected to open in the Mission in early 2017. —Katie Wanket

THE PARTY GIRL: Julia Hartz, CEO of Eventbrite

(Courtesy of Eventbrite)

Way back in 2006, before the social media boom, Julia Hartz and her fiance, Kevin, thought it would be cool to create a self-serving box office that would enable anyone to create, search for, and attend events via one easy to use website. The entrepreneurs, together with cofounder Renaud Visage, squeezed themselves into a closet in a Potrero Hill warehouse for the next three years while they built their brand. You may have heard of it—they call it Eventbrite.

This past April, Hartz was at last crowned CEO. For the past 10 years, she has relied on her instincts to grow Eventbrite from three people stuffed in a closet to a billion-dollar empire that’s raised nearly $200 million in funding and employs more than 500 “Britelings” in 10 offices around the world. It sounds massive, but she’s been a champion of keeping a small business vibe: Britelings enjoy unlimited vacation days and bring their dogs to work, guaranteeing Eventbrite a regular spot on lists of the best workplaces, especially for women and for millennials. The girl boss herself is no stranger to hot lists; she was once named among Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs. To the rest of us, she’s the ultimate hostess who tells us where the party is. —Sarah Martin

THE FOOD ACTIVIST: Bryant Terry, Chef-in-Residence, Museum of the African Diaspora

(Courtesy of Bryant Terry)

When chef Bryant Terry first heard KRS One’s “Beef,” the then high-schooler realized that what we eat can be extremely political. As Chef-in-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora, Terry spearheads programming that highlights the intersections of food, activism, and art, such as a panel called “Black Women, Food & Power” that sold out six weeks in advance. “People are literally hungry for this programming, says the popular vegan chef, whose own accolades defy summarization. He has four books to his name, including 2014’s Afro Vegan (Ten Speed Press); is a member of the American Chef Corps thanks to Secretary Hillary Clinton; and, last year, took home the James Beard Foundation’s Leadership Award. But, says Terry, “It’s one thing to intellectually engage in food issues….we really want to feed people.” Inspired in part by the Black Panthers’ famous free breakfast program, Terry also organizes community collaborations, such as dinners with the People’s Kitchen Collective and work with local schools. Watch out for MoAD’s upcoming look at the Panthers’ impact on fashion, music, art, and food—Terry will be serving breakfast. —Alyssa Oursler

THE MISSING LINK: Caroline Ghosn, Founder/CEO of Levo

(Courtesy of Levo)

out of Stanford University in 2008, Caroline Ghosn had all the makings of a soon-to-be-success: multiple degrees (international relations, economics, and environmental studies), an innovative business mind, and ambition. But as she entered the workforce as an analyst at a New York–based consulting firm, she instantly felt the challenges that women so often face in male-dominated industries; to further confound the issue, when she sought out professional resources and advice aimed at young women like herself, she found absolutely nada. So, Ghosn put on her do-it-yourself hat and, in 2011, founded Levo, think LinkedIn for millennials.

The SF-based CEO, 29, is now providing millennials, particularly women, with their own social-professional network. Like LinkedIn, Levo allows users to create their own profiles, forge connections with peers, and access career-related content and job opportunities. Unlike LinkedIn, Levo has the fresh, and dare we say sexy, vibe of a women’s lifestyle magazine: large format photos, personal tidbits, stylish design. There are coaching sessions and quizzes to guide millennials toward their career destinies, not to mention videos from a star-studded cast of mentors—think Chelsea Clinton, Self editor in chief Joyce Chang, Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton, and even Kevin Spacey. While Ghosn has become quite the media darling, her Levo has also become a hit among millions of members, with 30 local chapters, and growing. —Rayanne Piana

THE SERIAL PHILANTHROPIST: Ido Leffler, Founder/CEO of Yes To and Yoobi

(Christopher Michel)

There’s no project too big or too small for Ido Leffler, the Israel-born, Australian-raised founder of companies with great causes. His motto, Yes to Positivity, has led him to launch such inspired businesses as Yes To, Inc.—one of the top natural beauty brands in the U.S., which also plants organic gardens in schools around the nation—and Yoobi, a line of wickedly cool school supplies that follows the Tom’s Shoes model: For every item purchased, Yoobi donates an item to an American classroom in need. And, his stylish paper plate company, Cheeky Home, partners with Feeding America and No Kid Hungry. This year, Leffler, also chairman of the board of the sustainable, plant-based water filter company SoMa, added TV to his growing list of credits: Look for Leffler on Oxygen’s Quit Your Day Job. —Katie Wanket

THE LOVERS: Aubrie Pick and Erik Newton, Founders of ‘Together’

(Aubrie Pick)

Aubrie Pick and Erik Newton are this year’s It couple among foodies and lovers: She’s the stylish shutterbug behind some of the hottest cookbooks around (think Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings). He’s the recovering divorce lawyer pursuing his calling to help couples thrive. Together they are writing the book on love in a popular online magazine and twice-weekly podcast, aptly called Together.

Founded in January, Together is a kind of anthology of true stories from real couples that shares inspiration, and truths about love (and sex). Mobile-friendly and minimalistic, the site (unlike relationships) is easy to navigate and, thanks to Pick’s contribution as head of creative (she oversees the site design, photo curation, and illustrations), it’s always beautiful, too. “I love that Erik and I can collaborate and bring our strengths and passions to a shared project,” says Pick.

The couple is making heart connections with readers, too: In its first month alone, Together saw more than 300,000 page views and 10,000 podcast downloads. With big plans for the future—documentary-style podcasts, a print magazine, oh, and their own wedding—the pair is plenty busy: You might find Newton marrying couples down at City Hall and Pick behind the lens for clients including Williams-Sonoma and Blue Bottle Coffee. Look for her images in the upcoming cannabis cookbook, Marley Natural (Pam Krauss/Avery) in summer of 2017. —Mikaela Luke

THE CAFFEINE FREAK: James Freeman, Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee

(Clay McLachlan)

Ten or so years ago, when we were all queuing up in front of a garage on Hayes Valley’s blustery and then mostly forlorn Linden alley for Gibraltars—then the new coffee drink du jour for which takeaway cups were verboten—we wonder how many of us might have guessed that James Freeman, the Blue Bottle Coffee guy, would one day become James Freeman, master of the caffeinated universe.

Since opening his Oakland roastery in the early 2000s and the Linden Street kiosk in 2005, Freeman has raised over $120 million to become not just our region’s most iconic coffee company—Blue Bottle has reached global cult status. In addition to 26 locations around the Bay Area, in Los Angeles and New York City—as well as the upcoming East Coast expansion what will effectively double BBC’s U.S. market share—Blue Bottle is also huge in Japan, with four shops in Tokyo already. But for a man who long ago vowed to serve coffee no older than 48 hours out of the roaster in order to guarantee “coffee at peak flavor,” Freeman’s recent move into pre-ground packaged coffee is perhaps his most out-there venture yet. Having acquired Perfect Coffee in 2015, along with its founder’s proprietary vacuum-sealing technology, Blue Bottle has introduced Perfectly Ground with the promise that its beans—wherever they are shipped and whenever they are opened, will never ever taste stale. —Emily Malter

THE FIXER: Katrina Lake, Founder/CEO of Stitch Fix

(Michael O’Donnell)

Named this year as one of the 40 most influential entrepreneurs under 40 by Fortune magazine, San Francisco native Katrina Lake is already a household name in the worlds of tech and fashion. Her six-year-old company, Stitch Fix, is cashing an estimated quarter-billion dollars annually just by mailing regular fixes to fashion addicts. The self-made woman, with degrees from both Stanford and Harvard Business School and previous experience at Polyvore and the Parthenon Group, puts her understanding of big data to work in generating customized recommendations for clothing, accessories, and, as of recently, shoes for women who want personal styling services at their fingertips. Big growth is just part of the game: In 2016, Stitch Fix added 2,000 warm bodies to its ranks—the company employs about 70 percent women—and also deployed styling services for men. Stitch Fix plans to add plus-size offerings next year. —Rayanne Piana

THE WEARABLE WIZARDS: Daniel Chao and Brett Wingeier, Founders of Halo Neuroscience

(Gabriela Hasbun)

Halo Neuroscience cofounders Daniel Chao and Brett Wingeier are redefining what it means to get your head in the game. Since launching their SF-based company in 2013, the two have combined their backgrounds in brain technology and biomedical engineering to create the neurostimulating Halo Sport headset, a device that taps into athletes’ brains to help them become better, faster, and stronger. While similar in style to Beats headphones, the sleek wireless headset delivers more than just your playlist—the headband features soft foam electrodes, known as neuroprimers, that send small electrical pulses to the brain’s motor cortex, which controls movement. When used before or during a workout, this stimulation sends stronger signals from brain to muscle, creating a state of hyperlearning that leads to increased muscle memory, accelerated gains, and more productive training. Elite athletes are already signing on: The U.S. Olympic Ski Team, Major League Baseball, the NFL, and even the Golden State Warriors are all incorporating the device into their training sessions. Guess what? So can you. —Jenna Valdespino


(Joel Angel Juarez)

How many people does it take to make real noise about police brutality? This past April, it took just five hunger strikers—and the city that rallied behind them. The Frisco 5—including rapper/educator Ilyich “Equipto” Sato, his mother Maria Gutierrez, fellow rapper Sellassie Blackwell, poet Ike Pinkston, and SF District 9 Supervisor candidate Edwin Lindo—camped outside the SFPD’s Mission station to protest brutality and racism in the force’s ranks, spurred by the recent killings of young men Mario Woods and Alex Nieto at the hands of the police. When the group’s call for the resignation of police chief Greg Suhr went ignored, they fought back with what is widely considered to be the longest hunger strike in the city’s history.

For 17 days, beginning on April 21st, the Frisco 5 survived on fluids. On April 30th, 66-year-old Gutierrez was sent for X-rays for irregular breathing patterns; on May 4th, Blackwell went to the ER. By the 16th day, all five members were hospitalized, and soon began a lengthy process of reintroducing solid foods. But the Frisco 5 had already made their point: On May 3rd, they marched on City Hall, joined by nearly a thousand supporters. Mayor Ed Lee did not meet with the ralliers that day, sticking to his promise to back Suhr. But as Equipto reminded supporters gathered at Civic Center, “It’s a marathon — it’s not a sprint.”

On May 19th, after yet another fatal police shooting, Lee forced Suhr to step down. The work of the Frisco 5 was an inspiration to many, and their victory was heard round the country. But Edwin Lindo keeps it real: “We weren’t aiming to inspire; we acted out of desperation to stop the killings by the police,” he says. “To me, what was most beautiful about the hunger strike was the solidarity, making very clear that our collective struggle is freedom. This struggle did not start or finish with us.” —Mikaela Luke

THE VOICE: Sarah Shourd, Activist and Playwright

(Carla Hernández Ramírez)

If rest is allowed in the world of social activists, survivor-cum-playwright Sarah Shourd really deserves a break. This year, her hit play The Box—staged at Z-Space for 3,000 theatergoers (including two state senators) and praised as both “strikingly beautiful” and “immersive”—bridged the worlds of journalism, activism, and theatre to share the physical and psychological torments of people held in solitary captivity. The piece was informed by Shourd’s own harrowing experience: Having once accidentally crossed the Iraq-Iran border while hiking with two friends, Shourd was detained in a solitary cell in Iran for 14 months. The experience informed the memoir, A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran, which she co-authored with Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer.

For ‘The Box’, Shourd traveled around the country interviewing dozens of people in isolation units, weaving their stories together in a bold play about human resilience. While she shops The Box to New York theaters, the UC Berkeley alumna is using her voice to continue advocating against the use of solitary confinement. She co-edited Hell is a Very Small Place (The New Press), an anthology of haunting firsthand accounts of life in solitary confinement, and works as a contributing editor at the web-based journalistic project Solitary Watch. In August, Glide Community Church honored her with a 2016 Community Hero Award. —Mikaela Luke


(Ben Baker, via Allthingsd)

Thirty-six-year-old billionaire Sean Parker is well known for his achievements and extravagances. (But hey, when you’re worth $3 billion, you can have whatever kind of wedding you want.) Whatever you think of him, Parker has lately been employing his wealth and influence for civic good, sharing the love through his $600 million Parker Foundation, which launched last year “to aggressively pursue large-scale systemic change” in life sciences, public health, and civic engagement; and through Brigade, the new social platform designed to connect voters around local and national elections (Parker is the primary investor).

Of course, he’s also been making headlines as the most ardent financial backer of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), having made several donations. To date, Proposition 64, as it is called on your California election ballots, has raised about $5 million; Parker is the largest single donor, his contributions now totaling $2.5 million. Come next month, the likely fall of cannabis prohibition will be in large part thanks to him. —Emily Malter

THE LUNCH LADIES: Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Founders of Revolution Foods

(Courtesy of Revolution Foods)

Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey started their food revolution in a small Emeryville kitchen in 2006. The mission was simple: make healthy, sustainable meals for kids in school. Fast forward 10 years, and the moms-on-a-mission have been named to Fortune‘s 40 Under 40 list, while Revolution Foods is now valued at $125 million dollars and serving thousands of lunches a day to kids in the SF and Oakland school districts. In 2010, Richmond was even named to the White House Council for Community Solutions.

With their recent launch into retail, you can now pick up Revolution’s tasty meals—which range from noodles to chicken nuggets to chocolate cookies—either online or at your local grocery store (they’re currently stocked at Whole Foods, Safeway, Sprouts, Target and more). Plus, one percent of all proceeds go towards making school lunches more nutritious and more affordable to kids across the country. —Matt Charnock

THE ENFORCER: Kamala Harris, California Attorney General and Candidate for U.S. Senate

There’s nothing that’s not impressive about Kamala Harris. Born in Oakland to an Indian mother and Jamaican father, Harris, 52, served as Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County for eight years, worked as the managing attorney of the Career Criminal Unit in the San Francisco D.A.’s office, and was touted as one of the best lawyers in the Golden State before becoming the first female, first African-American, and first Asian-American Attorney General elected in California’s history.

Six years in, Harris has been at the center of code enforcement. One of her most ubiquitous actions: forcing nearly 100 mobile app developers in the SF Bay Area to comply with privacy policy agreements (you know, those pesky Apple agreement messages), an act that shook up Silicon Valley. Now, Harris has her eyes set on Barbara Boxer’s senate seat. With the June primary results declaring her a clear winner, she’s that much closer to being elected come November 8th. We think Harris said it best herself: “If you are fortunate enough to have opportunity, it is your duty to make sure others have those opportunities too.” —Matt Charnock

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