Ernst & Young has named LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner as its 2011 national Entrepreneurs of the Year.
LinkedIn is, of course, the professional social network and resume website. The site has grown to more than 135 million members in 200 countries and territories, went public in May, and recently had a market capitalization of $7.62 billion.
Co-founder and executive chairman Hoffman, who is also a partner at Greylock Partners, the venture capital firm that led a $10 million funding round in LinkedIn in 2004, started the company in 2002 in his living room. Weiner, a former Yahoo! executive and venture capitalist, came on as LinkedIn chief executive in 2008.
In accepting the award, which was announced at the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs, California on Saturday night, Weiner said: "Let’s toast the risk takers, the job creators, the engines of economic opportunity everywhere—entrepreneurs." This is according to a Tweet posted by entrepreneur and conference attendee Cindy Gallop.
Hoffman and Weiner received the 25th annual Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. Past winners include: Howard W. Lutnick, chief executive of BGC Partners, who was credited with rebuilding BGC’s predecessor Cantor Fitzgerald after two-thirds of its headquarters workers were killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2010; Tom Adams, chief executive of language-learning software Rosetta Stone, in 2009, and Matthew Szulik, chairman of Red Hat open-source software, in 2008. Other high-profile awardees are third-generation Kohler chief Herb Kohler, and Wayne Huizenga, founder of AutoNation, Blockbuster Entertainment, and Waste Management.
Hoffman and Weiner were selected from a pool of 250 regional winners. More than 1,800 people were nominated whose companies bring in $125 billion in revenue, and employ 500,000 people. Ernst & Young says winners are chosen by an independent panel including entrepreneurs, investors, and academics—not Ernst & Young execs—based on their “vision, leadership, achievement, and social responsibility."
Ernst & Young also named a series of industry-specific winners. They are: Roger D. Linquist, CEO of MetroPCS Communications (media); Jose R. Mas, CEO of Mas Tec (real estate); Dr. Patrick M. Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com (retail); Tim Sullivan, former CEO of Bucyrus International (distribution and manufacturing); Andrew Mason, founder and CEO of Groupon (emerging); Aubrey K. McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corporation (natural resources); Steve Streit, CEO of Green Dot Corporation (financial services); Chirag Patel, President, and Chintu Patel, CEO, Amneal Pharmaceuticals (life sciences); and Ric Elias, Founder and CEO of Red Ventures (services).
Some 2,300 entrepreneurs, investors, and Ernst & Young employees attended the Strategic Growth Forum this year, up from 1,700 attendees in 2010. It was the largest since Ernst & Young started it four years ago.
"That tells me people are very, very interested in entrepreneurship," says Bryan Pearce, Ernst & Young Americas Director for Entrepreneur of the Year.
In addition, there were 400 "private meetings" reserved in an exclusive location this year, compared to 150 at last year's awards conference, says Pearce. "As much as there was some great entertainment with concerts—the Beach Boys, and Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh,” he adds. "More importantly, for people to fly across the country, they want to get some good business done."