Illustrations by Joel Kimmel
John Ott '19
One summer in high school, John Ott ’19, computer science and business, watched a YouTube lecture series about being an entrepreneur created by Y Combinator—a startup accelerator. “That was my introduction to the west coast startup world,” Ott says. “Now, I’m actually in the Y Combinator program, which is cool.” Ott and his two co-founders (whom he met during an internship at Tesla) were in the Y Combinator’s summer 2023 class together. Of the 24,000 startups that applied, only 200 startups were accepted into the program.
Ott’s company, Zelos Cloud, is creating the first cloud-based platform for firmware development and testing. Ott explains that although there are companies selling equipment for this already, “we’re flipping the platform model on its head. Instead of selling hardware to people, we sell the service, so customers just connect to our hardware in our data center and develop and test as they need.”
The Y Combinator program ended this past September (after we went to press) with a “Demo Day” when the entrepreneurs pitched their creations to potential investors.
Robert Lemery '07
The River Arts District Brewing Company opened this past May in Asheville, NC, after three-and-a-half years of effort by founder and head brewer, Robert “Lem” Lemery ’07.
Post-Lehigh, Lemery was passionate about cooking and considered culinary school. “I’ve always been a creator,” says Lemery, “and I like sharing the things I create.” He took an online brewing course in the summer of 2010 and never looked back. Brewing, Lemery feels, offers higher risk and higher reward than cooking due to the batch size and time spent. “Making dinner takes a few hours,” he explains. “It
takes weeks to make a batch of craft beer.”
What lessons did Lemery gain from Lehigh Business? “A successful enterprise takes work,” he says. “The amount of effort you apply is equal to the amount of satisfaction and success you receive.”
Fifteen of Lemery’s Lehigh fraternity brothers (Theta Chi) traveled from up and down the east coast to attend the grand opening of his The River Arts District Brewing Company.
Robyn Friedman Tannenbaum '07
This past March, Robyn Friedman Tannenbaum ’07 was named president of AFC Gamma, an institutional lender for the cannabis market. She and her husband, Len, founded the company in 2019. Now a publicly-traded REIT (NASDAQ: AFCG), the company has expanded its footprint to become an institutional lender that originates, structures and underwrites loans secured by commercial real estate and offers loans to state-licensed cannabis operators.
“As president, the biggest challenge is to tell a cohesive story around our brand,” says Tannenbaum. “We have to make sure the marketplace and our employee base understand our ever-evolving story.”
Tannebaum says she thinks her finance background gave her the fundamental building blocks to be successful in banking, but “the marketing and PR classes have proved to be extremely useful, especially now in leading AFC Gamma.”
Suzanne Zar '17 MBA
This past June, Suzanne Zar ’17 MBA was promoted to market access strategy manager at AstraZeneca. Zar’s been with the pharmaceutical company since she graduated with the first 1-MBA cohort at Lehigh Business. “I have always worked in the pharmaceutical industry because I have a sincere passion for the patient,” she explains. One of Zar’s responsibilities in her new role is to lead the pharmacy marketing and affordability strategy for a new respiratory product so patients are able to secure access to this medication in an affordable way.
Zar still speaks with, “as many MBA classes and students as will have me.” She works with mentees, hosts mock interviews and recruits for the college. “I try to give back as much as I can because I felt 1-MBA was the best opportunity for me,” says Zar. “It was exactly what I needed.”