A staffing company that supplies carpenters, general and demolition laborers, landscapers, and snow removal personnel.
In the spring of 2010, Alex Riley was working a construction project in Detroit and discovered that not all laborers are suited for the same tasks. “We had a labor force of 150 demolition employees,” he recalls, “but we were supposed to be doing a residential rehabilitation--carpentry, plumbing, roofing, masonry.” After a frustrating experience trying to recruit workers, Riley--along with co-founders Patrick Beal and Paul Kaser—built a staffing website, billing it as “LinkedIn for contractors.” Now, besides connecting talent to local employers, MeritHall and its affiliate companies find road salt for clients, offer facility management and vocational training services, and provide management consulting--all the while helping to revitalize the Motor City. “We really focused on getting Detroiters to work Detroit jobs,” Riley says. --Zoë Henry
Almost 10 years ago, Suhail Doshi founded Mixpanel, a near-unicorn analytics startup, when he was practically fresh out of college. Doshi learned how to navigate the professional world straight from the CEO position, alongside co-founder Tim Trefren (who only recently turned 30). Before too long, Mixpanel quickly reached $40 million in revenue, without "doing a lot of explicit sales," according to Doshi. "There were a lot of growing pains," Doshi recalled. "But we also had a little bit of luck. And the luck was that we ended up building a product that people really, really loved." Doshi hit on the right idea at the right time, and he managed to convince the boss of a company where he'd interned to invest. That boss happened to be Max Levchin, one of PayPal's legendary co-founders. With Levchin's help and a stint in Y Combinator, Doshi and Trefren set out to revolutionize the business world's data expectations. Now you couldn't just measure page views and call it good--Mixpanel and its peers opened up a world of user engagement data that changed how software products were created and judged. It's a far different set of challenges from what he'd envisioned: Once, Doshi's goal was a $90,000 salary as an Intel engineer. --Sonya Mann
Sells naturally-derived hair care products inspired by traditional African home remedies.
Muhga Eltigani's waist-length tresses were thin and brittle, but, while in Africa during her junior year at the University of Pennsylvania, she discovered homemade hair treatments using avocado and mango. Eltigani, a Sudanese immigrant, loved them. As she worked at a startup in 2015, she raised more than $9,000 through Indiegogo for an avocado-and-oil deep conditioner for black women with frizzy or unruly curls. A second product, derived from Jamaican black castor oil, followed, and production has outgrown the basement facility overseen by co-founder Sam Roberts. Recent funding freed Eltigani from pitch competitions, at which she's won $120,000--and Eltigani is thinking big. "I don’t see why we can't be the next L’Oréal," she says. --Leigh Buchanan
Sells low-sugar and dairy-free protein bars, cookies, and nut butters.
Ten years ago, if you had told Daniel Katz that he'd be running a $10 million company by the time he could drink legally, he would have probably wondered what would take so long. He started eight businesses in his teens--selling, variously, electronics, cars, snakes, a house, and energy drinks. In 2015, he started No Cow, which sells low-sugar and dairy-free protein bars, cookies, and nut butters. Last year, it attracted a "sizable" undisclosed minority investment from General Mills and Chicago-based private equity firm 2X Partners. Since then, the company, which expects to book $20 million in 2018 sales, has changed its name (from D's Naturals), revamped its packaging, and hired a CEO. It had been a one-man operation before the investment came through. "I was working 18-hour days seven days a week. Buying 10-for-$10 canned vegetables to live off of and sleeping in the office," Katz says. "It was time to get rid of my air mattress." --Diana Ransom
An internet service provider catering to businesses across New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
In 2010, 16-year-old Joe Fasone discovered what many entrepreneurs take years to realize: The best businesses solve problems. His particular pain point came to him through the then-teenager's employer, WeWork, which, at the time, was a scrappy co-working startup in New York City. By attempting to connect the growing company with reliable internet service, he realized just how hard that can actually be. It was expensive and the time it took to actually get companies to call him back was unacceptable. "I finally hit the realization that no ISP was built to deal with a company growing as fast as WeWork," says Fasone, who had already dropped out of high school to work at the startup full time.
By the end of his four-year tenure, he had conceptualized a business that would do just that. By tapping into so called "dark fiber"--that is, underutilized fiber-optic cables that serve many of the nation's biggest cities, he says he's able to charge less for better service. Today, the 24-year-old operates Pilot, an internet service provider that caters to businesses across New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Pilot has 98 employees, 1,250 clients, and more than 75,000 users on the East Coast. It has also raised more than $32 million in funding. --Guadalupe Gonzalez