Inc.'s most promising young entrepreneurs, class of 2012, includes the founders of Pinterest, Spotify, and 28 other awesome, visionary outfits. You gotta meet them.
Of course you know about the "pinboard" site Pinterest, which attracts 20 million visitors a month and has been valued at, oh, a cozy $1.5 billion. And Spotify, the Internet music service, is a whisker from being a household name, with more than three million paying users and a reported $220 million funding round waiting in the wings. To have created either company would be a pretty amazing lifetime achievement.
The fact is, though, the two companies' founders are just getting started. Pinterest's leaders--Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp--are each just 29 years old. The serial entrepreneur behind Spotify, a Swede named Daniel Ek, is also a year shy of 30. In the age of Mark Zuckerberg, it's easy to shrug at tales of fabulous success among the improbably young. But seriously, now: How many great, disruptive businesses had you launched by age 29?
Odds are, quite a bit fewer than have been created by Ek, Silberman, Sharp or any of the 30 incredibly accomplished 20-something entrepreneurs identified in this year's 30 Under 30 ranking. Not to brag or anything, but Inc. has a pretty respectable record at indentifying future superstars before they're known in this ranking. Prior honorees have included Mark Zuckerberg (Class of '06), Aaron Patzer (2008), and Lauren Bush (2010), to name just a few.
You probably won't have to wait long for the class of 2012 to yield its own crop of mega-overachievers. One of them might be Jeremy Johnson, the 28-year-old college dropout behind 2tor, an online educator that is partnering with Georgetown, UNC-Chapel Hill, and USC to deliver college- and professional courses that are every bit the equal of those insitutions' classroom offerings. Ben Milne, a 29-year-old serial entrepreneur, is undercutting fee-heavy credit card companies with Dwolla, his cashless payment start-up. And Lucas Buick and Ryan Dorshorst, the 29-year-old co-founders of Hipstamatic retro photo filters for smartphones, inked a deal earlier this year with Instagram, the photo sharing app that Facebook bought for $1 billion in April. (Instagram, in turn, is led by 30 Under 30 alums Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, class of 2011.)
Some observations about this year's 30 Under 30 honorees:
DONNA FENN is the author of Upstarts! How Gen Y Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success (McGraw-Hill, 2009), about ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.
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The 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs are ranked by "Likes." Click below to read an article or watch a video about each, and "Like" your favorite to the top.
Current Top 5
2011 Read about Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger of Instagram, Matt Mickiewicz of 99designs, and Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox. Plus the start-up stories of Quora, Onswipe, Dropbox, Foodspotting, and Gemvara.
2010 Meet Alexa von Tobel of Learnvest, Naveen Selvadurai of Foursquare, Jack Abraham of Mint.com, plus the founders of Rent the Runway, Airbnb, Crowdflower, Posterous, LivingSocial, and Urban Escapes (now part of Living Social).
2009 Pete Cashmore of Mashable, Elliott Bisnow of Summit Series, Danielle and Jodie Snyder of Dannijo, Jamail Larkins of Larkins Enterprises were included on our 2009 list, as were the teams behind ModCloth, Thrillist, IdeaPaint, Foodzie, and Justin.TV.