Big problems call for big solutions — and that’s where MIT Solve comes in. This annual initiative strives to address global challenges through innovation, and invites entrepreneurs and big thinkers to offer solutions through the Solvers challenge. Each year, innovators and entrepreneurs submit their proposals for overcoming challenges like caregiving and healthcare inequity, with the best ideas winning funding and other prizes.
And we couldn’t be more proud to share that Living Proof’s own CEO, Zach Rieken, will be a member of MIT Solve’s 2022 Global Challenge Leadership Group. Over the course of 16 months, he’ll contribute to outreach and recruitment for a given Challenge, support and amplify the work of the 2022 Solver Class, and select their most promising solutions to the Challenge. Not only that, but even at an employee level, Living Proof staff will have the opportunity to participate in reviewing solutions.
Last but certainly not least, the brand is funding the Living Proof Prize: Women’s Leadership Solutions, which awards $100,000 for up to four solutions from any of the 2022 Global Challenges, with a focus on women-led teams. Ultimately, solving global challenges is a mission we support and care deeply about, and we couldn’t be more honored to be a part of it. With that in mind, we asked Rieken to share more about his role and what he hopes to achieve.
You’re participating in the Global Challenge Leadership Group (CLG), which is an invitation-only group of leaders tasked with selecting and supporting solutions during the term. What does being on the CLG mean to you?
Zach Rieken: First off, I was honored to be able to join this group of leaders! The opportunity to collaborate with like-minded supporters of the MIT Solve program and contribute to reviewing and vetting solutions during the term is personally very meaningful. Solver teams around the world are developing brilliant solutions to huge global challenges. Their passion and ingenuity are inspiring.
What do you find most exciting about Living Proof’s collaboration with MIT Solve?
ZR: This collaboration is a full-circle moment for Living Proof and MIT. Our brand was born from the unlikely combination of renowned hairstylists and elite MIT professors — including Dr. Bob Langer and Dr. Dan Anderson — in 2005. And we’ve always believed that science and technology can change the world for the better, a mission we share with MIT Solve. We couldn’t pick a more worthy cause, and the fact that MIT is already part of our brand DNA makes working together even more meaningful and natural.
In addition to my role as a member of CLG, there is an internal cohort of employees participating in the program. As members of this group, Living Proof staffers will contribute to reviewing and scoring solutions. The Solve mission resonates with our community at Living Proof, and it’s a commitment that everyone is making. We see this partnership as a way to get everyone involved; we’ve already had our first review session, and some of the solutions we saw were truly game-changing! We plan to go even deeper with the partnership in coming weeks, with some members of our team offering further guidance to Solver teams through mentorship of top teams.
What do you find most exciting about this collaboration?
ZR: At Living Proof, we’re constantly innovating and inventing. We call this approach “Science in Action”, and it defines our brand and everything we do. Since Living Proof began, the company has been dedicated to solving the world’s greatest hair problems. Through the work with MIT Solve, we continue this commitment. We can use our financial contributions, our team, and our platforms to contribute to solving some of the world’s biggest social and environmental problems.
Our hope is to have the winners of these challenges become part of the Living Proof family. We want to take them under our wing and help them advance their ideas, drum-up support and give them a platform for awareness and growth. It is our commitment to amplify the impact of their work on the Challenge. Using the power of our brand to elevate global innovators with great ideas that need support — that’s the most exciting aspect of the partnership!
What was your and the Living Proof team’s hopes for impact through sponsoring women-led solver groups?
ZR: According to the National Girls’ Collaborative, today women represent only 28% of the STEM workforce. These gender gaps are particularly big for some of the fastest-growing jobs of the future, like those in computer science and engineering. This issue really hits home for Living Proof, as our workforce consists of 75% women — including our in-house Research & Development department that fuels our product pipeline and new technologies. We see this as an opportunity to advance women within the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, elevating them and amplifying the impact they will have on the world.