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Meet This Year's Top Young Entrepreneurs

They’re among the most intriguing young business owners in America—and they’ve barely gotten started.
Best in ClassJennifer Schnidman Medbery, making rounds at Kipp Believe College Prep
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Think of Inc.'s 30 Under 30 as a glimpse into the next generation of business owners, as well as a reflection of the trends that have taken shape over the past few years. Last year, for example, we were struck by how many young women were starting companies. This year, the trend is even more noticeable: A third of the companies on this year's list were founded or co-founded by women. They include smart tech firms, ambitious social ventures, great service businesses—and that's just the four companies featured on the pages that follow. To meet the rest of the group—including the young men on the list—head to www.inc.com/30under30, where you'll also find videos, photo galleries, and the chance to vote on your favorites.

Keeping Kids on Track

Jennifer Schnidman Medbery knew that teaching at a New Orleans charter school would be tough. What surprised her was that the most challenging aspect of the job wasn't connecting with the kids as much as it was keeping track of their progress and behavior. So Schnidman Medbery, who studied computer science at Columbia before spending two years with Teach for America in Arkansas, decided to create software to help teachers track and analyze student performance.

That software, called Kickboard, allows teachers to make notes about their students—to note, for example, discipline problems or difficulty grasping key concepts—as well as view their colleagues' notes about the same kids. The software then analyzes the data and searches for patterns. Tulane M.B.A. students helped Schnidman Medbery write a business plan, which she submitted to the university's business plan competition, as well as contests at Penn and The Idea Village, an incubator in New Orleans. Schnidman Medbery's business, Drop the Chalk, won all three.

Kickboard is running in 15 New Orleans charter schools. Schnidman Medbery has raised a round of funding from angel investors and is looking for more. "We've had 100 percent customer retention for the past year," she says. "Next year, we want to expand to work with schools in other urban regions." —Donna Fenn

You Ate What?

Photograph by Lianne Milton

1,000 Words
Soraya Darabi (left), Alexa Andrzejewski, and Ted Grubb share their desserts with the world.

Alexa Andrzejewski's first big entrepreneurial idea was for something you don't hear many San Francisco twentysomethings pitching these days: a book. The book would be a field guide to global food, with beautiful photography and vivid descriptions, printed on actual paper. Then Andrzejewski met Ted Grubb, a Web developer and (at the old age of 30) a veteran of several Bay Area start-ups.

By the time Grubb got through with it, Andrzejewski's project had taken a decidedly 21st-century turn. Instead of a book, the pair decided to create Foodspotting, a website and mobile app that let users post photographs of their meals and find and rate restaurants. After capturing the top prize at San Francisco's Startup Weekend in 2010, the duo added New York City media pro Soraya Darabi to their founder roster and scored $3 million in venture capital. Foodspotting is an international hit, with enthusiasts staging "eat-ups" in hundreds of cities worldwide.

This year's aim? To become a smart-as-Pandora recommendation engine for nearby food. And, just maybe, get back to the print idea. Says Andrzejewski: "Now, with more than 600,000 photos of food from around the world, it would be so easy." —Christine Lagorio

Making Her Mother Proud

Photograph by Robyn Twomey

From Laos, With Love
Gianna Driver waves a silk scarf woven by a woman in rural Laos.

When you buy a silk Goddess Scarf from the online retailer Gianna Fair Trade, not only are you getting a stylish new accessory, you are also helping MaeTa, the Laotian mother of five who made the garment, send her children to school. That's because a portion of the garment's $59 retail price goes right back to MaeTa. Gianna Driver, the founder of Gianna Fair Trade, in Redwood City, California, feels the plight of women like MaeTa acutely. Driver's own mother came to the U.S. as a mail-order bride from the Philippines; she later fled her husband and sought refuge with her daughter in a women's shelter in East Texas. "I looked around and saw all of this pain and unhappiness, and I knew my mom didn't want me to have this life," says Driver, who attended the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship.

Driver left a lucrative job at a large insurance company to launch her boutique in 2005. She now has arrangements with some 60 women from impoverished villages and urban slums in Laos, Thailand, India, and the Philippines. She finds them through nongovernmental organizations and women's cooperatives. "I'll provide a loan," she says. "If they want to buy a sewing machine, I front the money, and over time, they pay back the value of the machine through the sale of their products." Women receive 25 percent to 58 percent of the retail price of their products. Revenue is modest—it has yet to reach $1 million—but Driver has helped more than 200 women, who wind up earning two to three times the local wage. "There's a waiting list of women who want to work with us," Driver says. —Donna Fenn.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

Photograph by Mark Peterson

High Flier
Adriann Wanner chats with a pilot at an aircraft show at the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York.

Need to get from Aspen to Miami? How about Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi? The person to call is Adriann Wanner, founder of evoJets, an upstart private-jet charter company. Wanner draws on a pool of more than 6,000 aircrafts from a worldwide network to "provide the right jet at the right time for the right price," she says. Jets include the Cessna Citation Ultra, which can carry up to eight, and the Gulfstream G450, which seats up to 14.

Wanner, a native of Aspen, Colorado, is no stranger to private jets. She cut her teeth as director of sales at a fractional jet service, but she soon decided she could do it better on her own. "I got an inside look at the inner workings of the private-jet card and fractional industries, which were riddled with high fixed costs and limited in types of aircraft," says Wanner. She launched evoJets in 2007. Her first client was her friend's father. He liked the service, and word began to spread. Sales have grown 35 percent a year—putting evoJets on track to bring in $1.8 million in 2011. —Tiffany Black

 
IMAGE: Daymon Gardner
From the July/August 2011 issue of Inc. magazine




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