Ten years ago, Don Steinberg was sent a CD-ROM with a program that let you play guitar on your computer. He tried it for 20 minutes, shoved the disc into a closet, and forgot about it. Harmonix, the company that made that CD-ROM, has come a long way since then. For "Just Play" (page 124), Steinberg watched the Who perform a private concert to celebrate Harmonix's astounding success with its video games, Guitar Hero and Rock Band. "The guys at Harmonix are not nerds, which was kind of depressing -- people that smart should be," he says. A former Inc. editor, Steinberg covers boxing for ESPN.com. His book, Jokes Every Man Should Know, came out in April.

Kareem Black was supposed to go to the School of Visual Arts on a painting scholarship. "I painted in the style of the old masters like Caravaggio," says Black. He started taking photos of his models, so he would have something to work with if they didn't show up for a sitting. "Eventually, the pictures got to be more fun to take," he says. "It was an instant-gratification thing." Black, at 30, is older than all the entrepreneurs he photographed for this month's cover story. The twentysomething CEOs were newer to the media game than the celebrities and musicians Black usually shoots -- people such as Venus Williams, Michael Stipe, and Mario Batali. Black has shot for GQ, Fader, and Interview.

In "Tax This; Tax That" (page 32), Robb Mandelbaum breaks down the differences between the presidential candidates' tax plans. Mandelbaum has been covering the presidential campaign for The Entrepreneurial Agenda, his Inc.com blog. He has also written an election guide for the website that examines the candidates' stances on subjects including energy and the environment, technology, immigration, health care, and trade. Mandelbaum is a frequent contributor to Discover and IEEE Spectrum.

For this month's Passions, Jess McCuan learned about "goofy foot" surfing from Ryan Black, CEO of Sambazon. (For those not in the know, goofy foot surfers put their right foot forward on the board.) At times, she wished she had Black's job. "He gets to take a break and go for a long weekend of surfing in exotic places," she says. "It's an enviable gig." McCuan, a former staff writer for Inc. and former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, is now editor of Verve, a women's magazine in North Carolina.

For the September issue, Kasey Wehrum had the daunting task of coordinating the Inc. 500 list, which meant spending his days immersed in spreadsheets. But Wehrum was used to it: He was an Inc. 500 intern for his first job out of journalism school. "It's in my blood," says Wehrum. This month, he contributes "Swiped Out", on why credit cards are getting more expensive, and harder to find, for the entrepreneurs who depend on them. His work has also appeared in The New York Times and on MSNBC.com.