This year, Inc. enlisted an outside panel of 11 judges to help identify the 30 Under 30, the best and brightest entrepreneurs in 2012.
The 30 Under 30 selection process all started in January, when Inc. put out a call for nominations, and received more than 400 online applications from some of the most impressive young companies and entrepreneurs we've ever come across. In addition to funding sources and a copy of each pitch "deck," we asked the applicants to tell us why they should be on the list (more than one answered, “Because I’m 29 and it’s the last year I’ll qualify!”) and who (besides mom) thinks they're awesome.
Our staff reviewed and culled the applicants down to approximately 120 companies. We were looking for start-ups that had achieved some measurable success, and were predisposed toward those that disclosed revenue and other success metrics.
Information about those that made the first cut was sent to our 11 judges, who winnowed the list by half, and then halved it again in another round of judging. The criteria? We sought to identify the entrepreneurs of the future, the ones already making a big impact in their communities, manufacturing innovative products, or disrupting traditional industries.
The final 30 Under 30 are the best and the brightest young entrepreneurs in 2012.
Here, let us introduce you to the men and women who generously volunteered their time and expertise to identify them:
Norm Brodsky is Inc.’s Street Smarts columnist and senior contributing editor. He is a veteran entrepreneur who has founded and grown six businesses. In 2008 he sold CitiStorage, a document-archive business based in Brooklyn, New York, for $110 million. @normbrodsky
Jon Burgstone is the co-author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship. He teaches entrepreneurship at the University of California at Berkeley, where he is the founding faculty chair at its Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology. Previously, Burgstone was co-founder and chief executive of SupplierMarket, an Internet software firm serving global enterprises that was acquired by Ariba for $1.1 billion. @jburgstone
David Cohen is the founder and CEO of TechStars. Previously, he was the founder and chief technology officer of Pinpoint Technologies, which was acquired by ZOLL Medical Corporation in 1999, and founder and chief executive of earFeeder.com, a music service sold to SonicSwap.com in 2006. @davidcohen
Donna Fenn has been writing about entrepreneurship for more than 20 years. She is a contributing editor at Inc. and the senior editor for Inc.com’s 30 Under 30 Coolest Entrepreneurs. She is the author of two books: Alpha Dogs: How Your Small Business Can Become a Leader of the Pack; and Upstarts! How GenY Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World of Business. @donnafenn
Scott Gerber is the founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, and co-founder of Gen Y Capital Partners, an early stage VC firm. He is a serial entrepreneur and author of the book Never Get a "Real" Job. @askgerber
Wendy Lea is the CEO of Get Satisfaction, a community customer support software. Wendy also founded the Chatham Group, where she currently serves as an angel investor, strategic advisor, and board member for a long list of start-up companies. @WendySLea
Aaron Patzer, a 30 Under 30 alum '08, is vice president of of product innovation at Intuit, and founder and CEO at Swift PRT, a carless transportation system. In 2007, Patzer created Mint.com, which was acquired by Intuit in fall 2009 for a reported $170 million.@apatzer
Bryan Pearce is a partner at Ernst & Young, where he leads the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards program and other entrepreneurship initiatives in the Americas and Israel. He is also leader of the firm’s Venture Capital Advisory Group in the Americas and Israel. @bryanpearce1
Eric Ries is creator of the Lean Startup "methodology," entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School, and author of the entrepreneurship blog Startup Lessons Learned. He is an advisor to start-ups, large companies, and VC firms. He previously co-founded and served as chief technology officer of IMVU, an online social entertainment website. @ericries
Tina Wells, a 30 Under 30 alum '08, is chief executive and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, which works with clients like Maidenform, PBS, and Procter & Gamble. She is the author of tween series Mackenzie Blue, and the youth marketing handbook Chasing Youth Culture And Getting It Right. @tinacwells
Joanne Wilson is an angel investor and start-up adviser. She started and co-chairs the Women’s Entrepreneurial Festival with the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. She started out as a buyer at Macy's, ran a company in the rag trade, and spearheaded sales for start-up Silicon Alley Reporter. She blogs under the name Gotham Gal. @thegothamgal
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.
Cast Your 30 Under 30 Vote!
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.