There's no dogging it--unless it involves a dog-related startup. That's how Inc.'s 2017 30 Under 30 set thinks. Taking passion to its potential, they've founded firms that make stock or real estate investments, satellite engines--or your dinner. Meet nine of the next gen's rising entrepreneurs.

 

Of Course You Can Call It a Pet Project

Philip Kimmey (27) | Rover.com | Seattle

The Judges To determine this year's 30 Under 30 list, Inc. relied on staff editors, as well as a crew of outside judges who know a thing or two about what it takes to start a company. After whittling down an initial list of 300 entrants to fewer than 100, Inc. brought in the experts. This year's judges include real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, XPrize's Peter Diamandis, Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman, CB Insights CEO Anand Sanwal, and Uncharted Play founder (and 30 Under 30 alum) Jessica O. Matthews. The companies and entrepreneurs on our list have been plucked, picked at, mulled over, weighed, and measured. They stood out with novel business models, in-demand products and services­--and revenue to prove it. These young firms represent the best of what this next generation has to offer.

Philip Kimmey wasn't planning to drop out of college. But the allure of a great idea--Uber for dog care, essentially-- pulled him away, and he hasn't looked back. The year: 2011, the summer after his junior year studying computer science at Washington University in St. Louis. The setting: a startup weekend in his home city of Seattle. That's where Kimmey met his Rover.com co-founder Greg Gottesman, an experienced venture capitalist. Gottesman brought the idea, and Kimmey brought the tech savvy to build the platform. As soon as the weekend was over, the pair knew they had something: Kimmey was working on the project full time by Tuesday. "My parents never let us have a dog, but I've been a lifelong dog lover," Kimmey says. "So the idea and the mission immediately resonated with me." The company was officially born that September, with former Microsoft general manager Aaron Easterly joining as CEO and the third co-founder. Need a local sitter, walker, or someone to check in on your dog while you're at work? Pull up the app. The company has since grown to almost 200 employees--along with the 50 dogs who tag along daily to work--and recently acquired its biggest competitor, DogVacay. Woof! --Cameron Albert-Deitch

Founded 2011
Funding $91.5M
Employees 200

 

Powering Smaller Satellites for the Larger Universe

Louis Perna (29), Natalya Bailey (30) | Accion Systems | Seattle

At the center of the booming commercial universe known as New Space is an emerging generation of satellites that are much smaller than the floating dinosaurs they're designed to replace. Smaller satellites need even smaller propulsion systems, and Accion Systems makes very small ones indeed. "The key to our technology is a chip the size of a penny," says Louis Perna, co-founder and lead mechanical engineer. "We can help small satellites stay in space longer, get to where you want them to be, and maintain that location." These chips are also inexpensive and uncomplicated. They're deployable in arrays like so many postage stamps, suitable for smallsats (which are about the size of dorm fridges) and cubesats (more like whiskey-bottle boxes). You want bigger than that? No problem. The chips are scalable for satellites of any size. Powered by charged particles that accelerate to enormous speeds, the tech enables the satellites to carry out their missions once they've been launched into space. Yes, this is rocket science: Co-founders Perna and Natalya Bailey are both rocket scientists. They developed the technology while working on their PhDs at MIT. The name of the company, which had $4.5 million in sales last year, comes from Accio, the summoning charm Hermione Granger taught Harry Potter at Hogwarts. --David Whitford

Founded 2014
Funding $10M
Employees 16

 

A Stock Market Play for Young Investors

Vladimir Tenev (30) | Robinhood | Palo Alto, California

Without a second's hesitation, Vladimir Tenev will tell you the first time he invested in the stock market. He was just 12 but bullish on Palm, the maker of the PalmPilot, a hunch that earned him $1,000. That enthusiasm for mobile tech and the stock market led him to Robinhood, Tenev's startup, co-founded with Baiju Bhatt in 2013. Robinhood is a commission-free brokerage that lets you trade from a smartphone app. "If you're someone who's in your late teens or early 20s and you want to invest a hundred bucks to try it out for the first time, it [used to be] cost prohibitive," Tenev says. He's lured in enough young users to force older rivals like E-Trade and Charles Schwab to cut fees--the same way those firms forced Wall Street wirehouse firms such as Merrill Lynch to reprice trades. The company, recently valued at $1.3 billion, is focused on making money by providing premium features to its heavy-duty users through a $10 per month subscription service called Robinhood Gold. --Salvador Rodriguez

Founded 2013
Funding $66M
Employees 75

 

She Fired Microsoft and Accidentally Launched a Business

Karen X. Cheng (29) | Karen X | San Francisco

Web video is the medium of the moment. And Karen X. Cheng is the kind of talent who seems made for it. She's a one-woman creative agency, known as Karen X, who writes and directs viral videos for brands as varied as Beats and Credit Karma. Her videos have attracted millions of hits. Did she ever expect to get into this line of work? "No, absolutely freaking not!" Cheng says. In 2012, she announced her resignation from Microsoft by writing lyrics about her team, performed as a parody of "American Pie," which she posted on YouTube. After TechCrunch got hold of it, the video went viral. These days, Karen X is a boutique marketing firm that offers both consulting and video creation services. Being a solo entrepreneur doesn't mean that Cheng works alone. She marshals a slew of creative contractors, including video editors, lighting directors, storyboard artists, composers, and PR researchers. "I'm able to access a level of talent that I couldn't if I were hiring full time," Cheng says. --Sonya Mann

Founded 2015
Funding $0
Employees 1

 

Renovating Real Estate Investing

Ryan Williams (29) | Cadre | New York City

Three years ago, Ryan Williams quietly launched Cadre from a supply-closet-size office. The chiseled chief executive says the goal was to create a digital stock exchange for alternative assets. Cadre allows investors to more easily buy portions of commercial properties--such as apartment buildings and offices--for what the company says is 50 percent less than what a real estate investment fund charges. Cadre asks for an upfront fee and a subscription fee; funds typically get a fee and 20 percent of the profits. "We're giving people direct, deal-by-deal access to commercial real estate, like you would buy and sell something on Amazon," Williams says. He has raised capital from brand-name investors, including his fellow Harvard alum and co-founder Joshua Kushner, who's behind Thrive Capital and the Obamacare insurance startup Oscar Health. Another co-founder is Kushner's brother Jared, the son-in-law of and a senior adviser to President Trump. The startup has driven nearly $1 billion worth of deals to date. --Zoë Henry

Founded 2014
Funding $68.5M
Employees 40

 

Her Shippo Is Sailing

Laura Behrens Wu (25) | Shippo | San Francisco

Laura Behrens Wu started a business to solve a problem--a problem for the business she was then running. In 2013, Wu--a German graduate student and tech worker living in San Francisco--launched an online store, selling sustainable handbags. She used Shopify to process sales and Stripe for payments. Problem was, frequent trips to the post office became a time suck. "We were making two to three trips a day," says Wu. She figured she wasn't the only one feeling the pain--that same year, she abandoned her shop to found Shippo. Before Shippo, she says, it was next to impossible to easily compare prices, routes, and times among carriers like UPS and FedEx. That's just not tenable, Wu thought. "In e-commerce, shipping is such a cost factor," she says. "So we started to look into the inefficiencies of shipping." Today, some 10,000 customers use the company's platform. --Graham Rapier

Founded 2013
Funding $9M
Employees 60

 

Picture This: A New Way to Capture Virtual Reality

Han Jin (29) | Lucid VR | Santa Clara, California

Lots of companies have made consumer products for experiencing virtual reality. With Lucid VR, Han Jin has created a simple way to capture it. The company's $499 LucidCam, set to ship in June, is among the first virtual reality cameras geared toward the average consumer. It uses two eyes to take in the world, in much the way humans do, and then converts those images into three-dimensional photos or video that can be viewed through Google Cardboard or Lucid's $30 phone case. The smartphone-size LucidCam can be strapped to a filmer's chest to act like a GoPro. Its video and image files are small enough to be easily shared, and the system supports live streaming over Wi-Fi. Jin, who co-founded the company with Adam Rowell, uses LucidCam as a way to stay in touch with his family back in Germany and China. "Sharing experiences through normal pictures is great, but it doesn't really show them how I'm living life," Jin says. "This is the closest you'll get to feeling like you're right there with somebody." --Kevin J. Ryan

Founded 2015
Funding $2.6M
Employees 8

 

Finding a Mate and a Metier in Sous Vide

Lisa Q. Fetterman (29) | Nomiku | San Francisco

Working in restaurant kitchens during college, Lisa Q. Fetterman became obsessed with large, industrial sous-vide cookers. These appliances heat vacuum-sealed food, slowly, in a low-temperature water bath, preserving flavor and texture. She told Abe Fetterman, her future husband, about the devices on their first date. They finished out the evening building one. The couple started making sous-vide cookers for friends, and then created a DIY kit that they sold, along with classes, in maker spaces. In 2012, they raised close to $600,000 on Kickstarter and moved to China to study manufacturing. Now the Fettermans' company, Nomiku, is manufacturing the $250, Wi-Fi-enabled appliances in San Francisco and selling them to home cooks and restaurants around the world. A best-selling cookbook, an appearance at the first White House Maker Faire, and a Shark Tank moment (Chris Sacca bit) have further raised Lisa's profile. The company chiefly sells direct, but recently made its debut in Williams-Sonoma. Investors include Y Combinator, which helped Nomiku develop a sous-vide recipe-sharing app. The company recently dipped its toes into frozen foods. "In the beginning, it was just us and our friends," says Lisa. "Then it moved to professionals and food fanatics. Now it's anyone who knows how to put food in a bag." --Leigh Buchanan

Founded 2012
Employees 15

FROM THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF INC. MAGAZINE