Mariam Naficy, global entrepreneur and Minted founder, is Northeastern University’s 2023 undergraduate commencement speaker

headshot of Mariam Naficy
Mariam Naficy, a serial entrepreneur, e-commerce pioneer and innovator in the creator economy, will be the speaker at Northeastern University’s 2023 undergraduate commencement. Courtesy photo

Mariam Naficy, a serial entrepreneur, e-commerce pioneer and innovator in the creator economy, will be the speaker at Northeastern University’s 2023 undergraduate commencement.

The ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 7, at historic Fenway Park in Boston.

“The Northeastern Class of 2023 has demonstrated enormous grit in adapting their educational experience around the complications of the pandemic,” Naficy said. “I’m honored to celebrate with these resilient and talented students, who will undoubtedly have great impact on our future through their ongoing creativity, empathy and drive for excellence.”

Naficy is best known as the founder and chairman of Minted, an online marketplace of design goods created by a global community of independent artists. Today, she is a founder of Heretic Ventures, an incubator launching businesses at the intersection of creators, culture and commerce, focusing on bringing emergent technologies to a broader consumer audience.

She founded Minted in 2007 on a disruptive business model that forgoes an internal staff of graphic designers and product buyers. Instead, the winning designs emerge from company-sponsored competitions—a proprietary “crowdsourcing” process integrated with in-house algorithms—that identify the likely bestsellers and hottest trends. Minted has reached 40 million households.

Naficy was inspired to found Minted by a childhood spent in five countries in the Middle East and Africa, and the eclectic range of artistic expression she experienced. At age 9, she fled Iran with her family after the Islamic Revolution. They arrived in the U.S., leaving their possessions behind. 

Initially focused on producing stationery, Minted has since expanded into a wide range of designed products, from greeting cards to home decor—all with the goal of connecting consumers to thousands of artists whose work they otherwise might never get to appreciate.

“Mariam Naficy’s journey as a global citizen and a path-breaking entrepreneur has taken her to the top echelons of business,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University. “Her success in connecting people through creativity and technology has built a global community and empowered millions of artists around the world. We are excited to welcome Mariam to the Northeastern family and hear her story of innovation with Northeastern’s remarkable graduating class.”

Heretic Ventures is a San Francisco-based venture studio that identifies and supports new businesses that provide people everywhere—especially those who are underrepresented or disadvantaged—with more opportunities in the creator economy. The company has earned the backing of industry-leading investors and entrepreneurs.

One of the businesses launched by Heretic is, a curated digital art platform for generative art collections. Connecting the physical and digital worlds, features artwork by artists who use generative AI to create original pieces.

A common thread through Naficy’s entrepreneurial journey has been her interest in the intertwining of technology and data with the creative mind. From Minted’s crowdsourcing analytics engine that identifies hidden artistic genius, to the intersection of AI and creators at Heretic, to the use of code-driven art at Tonic, she has embodied the very essence of a Northeastern “humanics” education that integrates technology, data and human literacies.

In 2000, Naficy sold her first e-commerce company, online cosmetics retailer, for $110 million. In between Eve and Minted, Naficy served as vice president and general manager at The Body Shop, a socially conscious U.K.-based beauty and cosmetics retailer. She oversaw the launch of its first online business in 2004. Naficy was also the founding vice president of Movielink, an early movie streaming service founded by five major movie studios.

Among her awards and honors, Naficy was named one of Fortune magazine’s Top 10 most powerful women entrepreneurs in the United States in 2010, and one of the 25 most creative people in business by Fast Company in 2014. She also appears regularly in Goldman Sachs’ list of the 100 most intriguing entrepreneurs.

Active in the Bay Area’s startup community, Naficy sits on the boards of Minted, Medium and Victoria’s Secret, and for over a decade at Every Mother Counts, an organization that works to prevent global maternal deaths by ensuring women have access to quality, respectful, and equitable maternity care. She is also a member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council and the Williams College Board of Trustees. Naficy earned a bachelor’s degree in political economy from Williams College.

Recent Northeastern undergraduate commencement speakers have included paralympian Aimée Mullins, best-selling author Tara Westover, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Greek yogurt brand Chobani.

Dave Nordman is executive editor of Northeastern Global News. Follow him on Twitter @davenordman