White House honors local immigrant innovators

Four Bay Area residents are among 11 Americans being honored by the White House today as Immigrant Innovator “Champions of Change,” described as “the best and brightest from around the world who are helping create American jobs, grow our economy, and make our nation more competitive.”

“Immigrants have long made America more prosperous and innovative, and the Champions we are celebrating today represent the very best in leadership, entrepreneurship, and public service,” U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said in a news release. “We are proud to recognize these leaders who work every day to grow our economy, advance science and technology, and support their home communities.”

The Champions of Change program is the White House’s effort to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

Here are the four Bay Area honorees, as described in the White House’s news releases today:

Victoria Ransom, Menlo Park
Victoria RansomVictoria Ransom has been an entrepreneur since her early twenties and has developed three companies, the most recent of which, Wildfire, was acquired by Google in 2012. As founder and CEO of Wildfire, Victoria led the company to profitability in just one year and built the company to tens of thousands of customers, over 400 employees, and eight offices worldwide. Victoria is #19 on Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40 list and she was named one of Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2012. She has been featured in several publications including The New York Times’ Corner Office, Bloomberg TV, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. In her spare time she is an avid snowboarder and surfer and a passionate adventure traveler who once spent six weeks living with a remote Amazonian tribe and five months living in a favela in Brazil.

Anna Mongayt, Palo Alto
Anna MongaytAnna Mongayt is a Co-Founder at Upstart — a crowdfunding platform that lets people raise money in exchange for a portion of their future income. Upstart is enabling young people to alleviate financial burdens such as student loans or living expenses by monetizing their future potential. It helps recent graduates pursue their dreams—to start a business, learn to code, or begin a career in a field they’re passionate about—by matching them with backers who believe in their aspirations. Investors can opt-in to become mentors and earn a return based on a regression model that predicts an individual’s income over ten years.

Jonas Korlach, Newark
Jonas KorlachJonas Korlach is Chief Scientific Officer at Pacific Biosciences. He co-invented the company’s SMRT technology with Stephen Turner, Ph.D., Pacific Biosciences Founder and Chief Technology Officer, when the two were graduate students at Cornell University. SMRT technology dramatically improves the accuracy and speed of DNA sequencing. Dr. Korlach joined Pacific Biosciences as the company’s eighth employee in 2004. Dr. Korlach is the recipient of multiple grants, an inventor on 33 issued U.S. patents, and an author of numerous scientific studies on the principles and applications of SMRT technology, including publications in Nature, Science, and PNAS. He received both his Ph.D. and his M.S. degrees in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology from Cornell, and received M.S. and B.A. degrees in Biological Sciences from Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.

Zack Rinat, Redwood Shores
Zack RinatZack Rinat is Model N’s Founder and has served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors and as Chief Executive Officer since its inception in December 1999. Previously, Mr. Rinat co-founded and ultimately served as President and Chief Executive Officer of NetDynamics, Inc., an application server software company, before its acquisition by Sun Microsystems in 1998, where he served as the Vice President and General Manager of the NetDynamics business unit. From 1998 to 1999, Mr. Rinat served as a founding member of the Board of Directors of TradingDynamics, and from 2005 to 2012 he served on the Board of Directors of Conduit Ltd., serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 2005 to 2011. Previously, Mr. Rinat held senior management positions in operations, marketing, and engineering at Silicon Graphics, Inc., and at Advanced Technology Israel. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in computer science from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology).

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR senile columnist

    Where are these “immigrants” from? Sydney?
    Toronto? London?

  • GV Haste

    Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and one possibly from Russia.

    This a event promoted by the White House to highlight the positive aspects of the immigration reform debate.

    Not by chance it came out at this very moment.
    Much as Facebook Zuckerbergs big new PAC was introduced just as the push for more HB1
    Visas was being waged.
    Business, big business, the tech industry, are all trying to get changes made to the Senate bill.
    It has now grown from 844 pages to well over 1,000 pages as more amendments are being added to please various groups.

    Sadly all the media coverage has been on groups who have organized pressure behind them.
    You see, the tech groups, big business, agriculture, skilled unions, and a bevy of others all getting their way with the legislation.

    Then you look at those unspoken for.

    American citizens and legal residents who have no one speaking out for their economic future.
    Especially those with high school or less education, who are unemployed by they millions with rates double and triple the national numbers.
    While they suffer, senators at the behest of the pressure groups are writing ever more competition for them into the bill.

    Allowances for ever more, newly arriving future low skilled workers are being included.
    Even local “progressive” Democratic leaders have abandoned their plight in order to build some coalition and to gain certain ethic voting blocks.

    Rarely do you see any local or national reporting on these suffering Americans and how the new immigration reform will affect their economic future.

    The Oakland Tribune has been sadly lacking in any stories covering this issue so critical to so many who live in their own area. Sure, with unemployment in some local groups at 30%, they’ll report on the consequences of such blight. Yes you get endless articles about homicides, guns, break-ins, gangs, but never about the impact of immigration, both illegal and the newly proposed legal levels, on these very groups mentioned in the proposed bill.

    Lots of journalist covering HB1 visas, but no one covering those in Oakland who will be impacted by raising the levels of unskilled workers.
    Nor any discussion about proposed workplace enforcement after passage.

    On small ray of light, a drop in a bucket compared to other coverage, was a piece seen Monday the 27th on the PBS News Hour.

    Take a look at it and ask yourself, when is the last time the Tribune, the Chronicle, or any local TV stations covered this issue… or looked at the impact on local affected groups?
    Over 30% unemployment and not a mention locally.
    Guess local press only cares to cover homicides and violence, not any factors that bring it about.


    Nine minutes long, run on a low viewer holiday.
    Better than nothing, but shameful in how little coverage this issue is given nationally or locally.

    BTW, the local coverage of the same issue is NEVER discussed on local news shows such as This Week In Northern California.
    Apparently it isn’t politically correct to even raise the issue. Either that or it is so far removed from the lives of those that decide, that they choose to ignore the affect it has on tens of thousands of Bay Area residents.

    Much easier to cover the homicides and “newsworthy” behavior, as well as the promotions and marches organized by large organized pressure groups.

    Quietly, away from cameras and press, the economic future of so many poor lower skilled workers is slipping away while congress debates ever rising annual levels of designated unskilled immigration for the future. Ever more workers into occupations where local unemployment is already above 20 and 30 percent for some groups.

    If this were happening to lawyers, doctors, teachers, or other protected occupations, you’d have them pounding on the doors of congress.

    Unfortunately, the unskilled have no one representing them in Washington DC. They don’t have local marches to protect their future. Even local pols have largely ignored them since they have no political clout.

  • Elwood

    In the ’70s the car wash I used in Oakland was manned by guys named Willie, Tyrone and Lamont, guys from the ‘hood.

    Now the workers are named Carlos, Juan and Pedro, from God knows where.

  • Elwood
  • JohnW


    Without exception, every president’s press spokesperson from James Hagerty to Jay Carney eventually gets caught up in “Baghdad Bob” status. The ones coming from serious journalism backgrounds, like Jay Carney, take the job thinking it will be different for them and that the press corps will love them. About 18 months in, they are fried and wish they were back on the other side. The saving grace is that they get to make tons of money when they finally leave. In Carney’s case, he not only has to deal with the usual “scandals” that all administrations have, but also has to deal with one where the ox being gored is the press itself. “Hell hath no fury like a woman (or reporter) scorned.”