30 Most Influential Young Entrepreneurs of 2011

by / ⠀Startup Advice / February 22, 2012

It’s that time of year again when we put together our 30 most influential young entrepreneurs list. Last year, the entire list was valued at close to $100billion, this year we lead off with a young entrepreneur who’s company is valued at $100billion alone. Each of these founders and CEOs are running incredible ventures that have taken a lot of sacrifice and hard work to get to where they are today. All of these companies are still private but we found as much financial information and data from 2011 as we could.

Mark Zuckerberg

Company: Facebook

Age: 27

The numbers: $75 -$100billion after IPO

Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004 at Harvard and since then, the social network has grown to over 800 million users. He is the world’s youngest billionaire with Facebook receiving a valuation of close to $100 billion with it’s upcoming IPO. Zuckerberg has literally changed the way people interact and has broken down social walls faster than ever imagined. Time Magazine named Zuckerberg Person of the Year for 2010 and is going to be the first of this group to build a public company.

Tim O’Shaughnessy

Company: LivingSocial

Age: 29

The numbers: $808million funding

LivingSocial is the social commerce leader behind LivingSocial Deals, a group buying program that invites people and their friends to save up to 90 percent each day at their favorite restaurants, spas, sporting events, hotels and other local attractions in major cities. LivingSocial has an extensive user base of more than 85million and has spent over $353million in acquisitions.

Naveen Selvadural

Company: Foursquare

Age: 29

The numbers: $71.4million in funding

Naveen founded Foursquare with partner Dennis Crowley to simply help he and his friends explore more things in New York City. Today, Foursquare has become a leader in location based networking, helping to spring numerous other startups looking to capture a similar model. The company has a valuation near $600million with 15million+ users.  Naveen and Dennis’ celebrity has even brought them appearances in Gap advertisements.

David Karp

Company: Tumblr

Age: 25

The numbers: $125million in funding

David started Tumblr in 2007 with his own savings from previously held jobs in the software industry. By early 2010, Tumblr was reportedly getting 15,000 new users per day, with over 2 million daily posts being made. Tumblr now has over 85 employees and is ranked as the 39th largest website in the world by Alexa.  As of February 13, 2012, Tumblr had over 44.3 million blogs with 15billion monthly pageviews.

Aaron Levie & Dylan Smith

Company: Box.net

Age: 26 & 25

The numbers: $159million in funding

What started as a college project for their business class exploded into a venture backed startup with millions of users. Box provides more than 8million users with secure cloud content management and collaboration. They say their platform “allows personal and commercial content to be accessible, sharable, and storable in any format from anywhere.” The company employs over 225 people.

Daniel Ek

Company: Spotify

Age: 28

The numbers: $183M funding

Spotify has created a lightweight software application that allows instant listening to specific tracks or albums with virtually no buffering delay. Spotify was launched in the fall of 2008 and had approximately 10 million users by September 2010.  It certainly helps that Spotify has landed Napster Co-founder Shawn Parker on their board.

Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk

Company: AirBnB

Age: 29, 29, 28

The numbers: $120million in funding

Airbnb is an online service that matches people seeking vacation rentals and other short-term accommodations with those with rooms to rent who are generally not professional hoteliers. The site was founded in August 2008 by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. In July 2011, the company had over 100,000 listings in 16,000 cities and 186 countries.  Not bad for a few guys who started out by renting out an air mattress on their floor to help pay their rent.

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Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi

Company: Dropbox

Age: 28, 25

The numbers: $257million in funding

Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi. Frustrated by working from multiple computers, Drew was inspired to create a service that would let people bring all their files anywhere, with no need to email attachments. Drew created a demo of Dropbox and showed it to fellow MIT student Arash Ferdowsi, who dropped out with only one semester left to make Dropbox a reality. Today, they have 25million registered users who save over a million files every five minutes.

Jennifer Carter Fleiss

Company: Rent the Runway

Age: 27

The numbers: $30million funding with 1.5million members

Rent the Runway is a membership-based website that rents high-end designer apparel and accessories on a 4- or 8-day basis. The company was founded by two Harvard Business School graduates, Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Carter Fleiss. Launched in November 2009, the website now offers over 25,000 dresses and accessories from over 165 designers such as Badgley Mischka, Vera Wang and Calvin Klein.

Adam D’Angelo

Company: Quora

Age: 27

The numbers: $11million in funding

Quora was co-founded by two former Facebook employees, Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever. D’Angelo quit his position at Facebook in January 2010 to create Quora and said he was inspired to create Quora because he thought: “Q A is one of those areas on the internet where there are a lot of sites, but no one had come along and built something that was really good yet.” Quora’s base of users grew quickly and even has rumors of a near billion dollar valuation, with only 34 employees.

Cathrine and David Cook

Company: MyYearBook.com

Age: 21 & 23

The numbers: Acquired for $100million

Cathrine and David Cook created one of the most popular teen websites in the world with MyYearBook.com. In 6 years the site grew to 20million users, and generated 1.2billion monthly pageviews. They also raised $17 million in financing before the sale.  Catherine attended Georgetown University while building this company.

Matt Mullenweg

Company: Automattic

Age: 28

The numbers: $30.6million in funding

If you use WordPress to blog you have Matt to thank for that opportunity. Automattic is the software and services company behind popular blog platform WordPress.com. In addition to WordPress.com, Automattic runs several additional Web services, including Akismet, Polldaddy, IntenseDebate, Gravatar, VideoPress, After the Deadline, and WordPress VIP Hosting. Mullenweg started WordPress in 2003 and then started working on it full-time in 2005. WordPress has over 20million blogs run on it.  Mullenweg mainly works from home.

Gurbaksh Chahal

Company: RadiumOne

Age: 29

The numbers: $33.5million in funding

Gurbaksh founded RadiumOne in 2009 as a social media currency platform that went on to raise over $12million later that year. Prior to RadiumOne, Gurbaksh had already sold two previous ad networks, one for $40million and the other for $300 million. Today, he heads up RadiumOne which connects advertisers with over 2billion digital consumers accessing the web on desktop and mobile devices.

Pete Cashmore

Company: Mashable.com

Age: 26

The numbers: 50+million monthly pageviews

Mashable is one of the world’s largest websites and reports on “All thats new on the web”. Cashmore bootstrapped Mashable in 2005 from his home in Scotland to a company with 50 employees today. The site is larger than Techcrunch which sold to AOL for between $25-40million. Revenue is in the millions but that is as much as Cashmore will say about it.

Michael Seibel, Emmett Shear, Justin Kan and Kyle Vogt

Company: Justin.tv

Age: 28, 28, 28, 26

The numbers: 41million+ monthly visitors

Justin.tv allows you to live broadcast anything out over the web. The four founders have created the largest live streaming, life-casting platform that handles over 50 million hours of video streamed each month. Justin.tv has become the most widely used live video system in existence and with a huge fan base and even major artists on board, it shows no signs of slowing.

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Matt Mickiewicz

Company: Sitepoint.com, 99designs.com and flippa.com

Age: 28

The numbers: Companies valued at over $100million

Matt launched Sitepoint.com in 1999 to help educate web developers at the age of 14. The site quickly grew into the industry leader and a multi-million dollar company with no outside investment. Since then he founded 99designs which currently sees a new graphic uploaded to the site every 7 seconds and pays out over $1,000,000 to designers every month. Matt then launched Flippa.com in 2009, which currently sells over $2 million worth of website assets per month.

Ben Lerer

Company: Thrillist

Age: 29

The numbers: $50M+ in revenues

Thrillist is a newsletter that caters to men’s lifestyle in 20 cities in the U.S. and U.K. The newsletter has over 3million subscribers and has a revenues around $50M/year. The company employees 160+ people and was founded in 2004 by Ben Lerer and Adam Rich.  In a recent interview, Lerer said his company could hit $100m in revenue this year and does not rule out an IPO in the future.  Lerer also runs the venture firm Lerer Ventures with his father Ken, Co-founder of the Huffington Post.

Trip Adler

Company: Scribd

Age: 27

The numbers: $25.8million in funding

Scribd is a social reading and publishing website with over 40 employees. The company houses tens of millions of written works, including best-selling books, magazines, research reports, recipes, presentations, and more. Recently, Scribd’s document reader has been embedded more than 10million times across the web, on sites like The New York Times, USA Today, Guardian, and TechCrunch.

Eric Koger & Susan Gregg Koger

Company: Modcloth

Age: 27 & 26

The numbers: $19.8million in funding

ModCloth.com is an online clothing, accessories, and decor retailer with a focus on independent and vintage-inspired fashion. Modcloth does alright for itself with $15 million+ in revenue in 2009 and a reported 138 employees.

Hayley Barna & Katia Beauchamp

Company:  Birchbox

Age: 27, 28

The numbers: $11.9million in funding

BirchBox is a monthly subscription service that delivers beauty product samples to users on a monthly basis. The site offers relevant editorial content and a e-commerce site. With $11.9million in funding and over 45,000 users and launched in Sept. 2010.  Birchbox is invested in by Lerer Ventures and Sam Lessin who was featured on last year’s list.

David Gorodyansky and Eugene Malobrodsky

Company: Anchorfree

Age: 29, 29

The numbers: 7.5million monthly users

AnchorFree enables millions of users across the globe to surf the Web freely and securely through Hotspot Shield. Anchor Free is the world’s first and most popular ad-supported, virtual private network. More than 7.5 million monthly users, in 100 countries, rely on Hotspot Shield to secure their Web browsing experience, proliferating freedom of information online and democratizing the Web. It is the only free way to ensure privacy and total anonymity online on desktop computers, laptops and iPhones.

Ryan Allis

Company: iContact

Age: 27

The numbers: $50million in revenues

Ryan started iContact with Aaron Houghton in 2003 to help small businesses better manage their email marketing campaigns. The company started by solely marketing through Google AdWords and has grown to over 70,000 customers and 300 employees today. Ryan is the author of the book Zero to One Million, published by McGraw-Hill, which reached the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list.

Junaid Shams and Ahmed Khattak

Company: GSM Nation

Age: 25, 25

The numbers: $35million+ in revenues

The pitch: Customers get cheaper, contract-free service and save hundreds of dollars each year, says Shams.  This gives GSM Nation an advantage over retailers that sell phones only with expensive, multiyear commitments. With about $150,000 from savings and friends/family, free office space and support from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, the two launched GSM Nation in March 2010.

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Alexa von Tobel

Alexa-Von-TobelCompany: LearnVest

Age: 27

The numbers: $24.5million in funding

Alexa started her career at Morgan Stanley but left the job and invested $75,000 into her company LearnVest. LearnVest quickly recruited advisors like the former CEO of the Huffington Post and former COO of DailyCandy. After securing $1.1million in funding in 2009 the site launched and has signed up over 100,000 members.

LearnVest focuses on helping young women develop good financial habits early on in life. Today, the company has raised over $24.5million in funding and with an experienced team behind it they are poised for growth.

Ben Kaufman

Company: Quirky

Age: 24

The numbers: $23.3million in funding

Quirky is an industrial design company, located in New York City, that uses crowdsourcing to determine which products to design and manufacture. The company solicits ideas for new products via its website; ideas are voted on by readers of the website, as well as by employees of the company. Products that are chosen get designed, manufactured and marketed by Quirky. The inventor and any other contributors then get up to 30% of any resulting revenue.

Matthew Corrin

Company: Freshii

Age: 29

The numbers: $50million in revenues

Freshii was founded by Matthew Corrin in Toronto, in 2005. Originally called “Lettuce Eatery”, the store opened to large queues and ran out of food on the first day before the end of lunch. Corrin’s vision of fast, fresh food, custom-built, inspired Freshii’s reputation for healthy, environmentally sustainable meals and snacks served quickly in a cool, clean setting for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Today, they have over 500 employees, in 35 stores, across 4 countries.

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger

Company: Instagram

Age: 25, 27

The numbers: $7.5million in funding

Instagram is a free photo sharing application that allows users to take a photo, apply a digital filter, then share it a variety of social networking services including Instagram’s own. A distinctive feature confines photos into a square shape, in homage to both the Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid cameras. The application had over 12 million users in Oct. 2011, 1 year after launch, with hundreds of millions of photos uploaded.

Jeremy Johnson

Company: 2tor

Age: 28

The numbers: $64.8million in funding

In 2008, at 24, Jeremy co-founded 2tor with John Katzman, founder of the Princeton Review, to explore the final frontier of online higher education. 2tor supplies universities with the tools, expertise, capital, and global recruiting needed to compete in a space currently dominated by mediocre programs. 2tor has partnered with schools like USC, UNC and Georgetown to use their technology and grow their university programs online.

Siamak Taghaddos, David Hauser

Company: Grasshopper

Age: 29, 29

The numbers: $15million in revenues

Founded by two entrepreneurs, Grasshopper has been making it easier to start and grow a small business since 2003. Since then the company has served over 100,000 entrepreneurs and their small businesses. The company has over 45 employees and was formally known as GotVMail.

Nick Friedman & Omar Soliman

Company: College Hunks Hauling Junk

Age: 27, 27

The numbers: $10M+ in revenues (acquired)

Nick and Omar started a franchise of junk collection and removal from a summer business they had started in 2002. A way to earn some summer income during college turned into a company that has over 38 franchises and 654 employees. The company was acquired by full-service waste management and recycling company 1-800-Junk-USA in August 2011.  These guys can be seen making appearances on ABC’s Shark Tank and Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker.

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About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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