30 Most Influential Young Entrepreneurs of 2012

by / ⠀Entrepreneur Interviews Startup Advice / February 6, 2013

It’s that time of year again when we put together our 30 most influential young entrepreneurs list. 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. There are multiple companies on the list this year carrying valuations in the billions of dollars along with our first young entrepreneur running a public company.  The 30 companies below are worth hundreds of billions and employee thousands of people. All of these companies are still private (with the exception of Facebook) but we found as much financial information and data from 2012 as we could.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark ZuckerbergCompany: Facebook

Age: 28

The numbers: $104 Billion at IPO

Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004 at Harvard and since then, the social network has grown to over 1 billion monthly users. He is the world’s youngest billionaire with Facebook receiving a valuation of over $100 billion at it’s 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 the only young entrepreneur on this list with a public company.

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger

Kevin Systrom and Mike KriegerCompany: Instagram

Age: 29, 26

The numbers: $1.01 billion dollar exit

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 30 million users in April 2012, with hundreds of millions of photos uploaded. Facebook acquired Instagram in April 2012.

David Karp

David KarpCompany: Tumblr

Age: 26

The numbers: $125 million 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 92 million blogs, over 42 billion blog posts, and 150 employees. Tumblr made $13 million in revenue during 2012 and has a goal of over $100 million in 2013.

Aaron Levie & Dylan Smith

Aaron Levie & Dylan SmithCompany: Box.net

Age: 27 & 26

The numbers: $284 million 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 8 million 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

Daniel EkCompany: Spotify

Age: 29

The numbers: ~ $500 million in revenues

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. So far Spotify has landed 188 million in funding at valuations in the billions.

Nathan Blecharczyk

Nathan-BlecharczykCompany: AirBnB

Age: 29

The numbers: $120 million 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, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk. Currently, the company has listings in 26,000 cities and 192 countries.  Not bad for a few guys who started out by renting out an air mattress on their floor to help pay their rent. The CEO estimated AirBnB rented 12 million to 15 million room-nights in 2012.

Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi

Drew Houston and Arash FerdowsiCompany: Dropbox

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Age: 29, 26

The numbers: $257 million in funding at $4 billion valuation

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 passed 100 million registered users and carry a valuation of over $4 billion.

Evan Sharp

evan-sharpCompany: Pinterest

Age: 29

The numbers: $138 million in funding

Pinterest is a pinboard-style photo sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, hobbies, and more. Pinterest was founded by Ben Silbermann,Paul Sciarra, and Evan Sharp. For January 2012 comScore reported the site had 11.7 million unique U.S. visitors, making it the fastest site ever to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark. The site launched in closed beta in March 2010.

Jennifer Carter Fleiss

Jennifer Carter FleissCompany: Rent the Runway

Age: 28

The numbers: $50 million funding with over 3 million 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 35,000 dresses and accessories from over 170 designers such as Badgley Mischka, Vera Wang, and Calvin Klein.

Adam D’Angelo

Company: Quora

Age: 28

The numbers: $61 million in funding at a $400 million valuation

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 raised it’s recent funding at a $400 million valuation.

Matt Mullenweg

Matt MullenwegCompany: Automattic

Age: 29

The numbers: $45 million in revenues

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. Automatic has over 140 employees, $30.6 million in funding and powers over 70 million sites with WordPress.

Chris Wanstrath & PJ Hyett

Chris Wanstrath & PJ HyettCompany: GitHub

Age: 27, 29

The numbers: $100 million in funding

GitHub is a social network for programmers. Github allows you to take part in collaboration by forking projects, sending and pulling requests, and monitoring development. Github has over 3.1 million software projects and has more than 1.7 million users and a $750 milloin dollar valuation.

Zach Sims & Ryan Bubinski

Zach Sims & Ryan BubinskiCompany: CodeAcademy

Age: 22 & 23

The numbers: $12.2 million in funding with million of users

Codecademy was founded in 2011 by Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski. Codecademy is an online interactive platform that offers free coding classes in programming languages like Python, JavaScript, and Ruby, as well as markup languages including HTML and CSS. Codecademy now claims “millions” of students who have collectively completed over 50 million interactive exercises. The website attracted 200,000 users within 72 hours of launching in 2011.

Pete Cashmore

Pete CashmoreCompany: Mashable.com

Age: 27

The numbers: 13 million monthly unique visitors

Mashable is the largest independent news source dedicated to covering digital culture, social media and technology. 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.

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Eric Koger & Susan Gregg Koger

Eric Koger & Susan Gregg KogerCompany: Modcloth

Age: 28 & 27

The numbers: $44.8 million in funding

ModCloth was launched as a website in 2002 by Susan Gregg-Koger with the help of her then-boyfriend, now-husband Eric Koger. ModCloth.com is an online clothing, accessories, and decor retailer with a focus on independent and vintage-inspired fashion. Modcloth is expanding with more than 300 employees and more coming on board.

Hayley Barna & Katia Beauchamp

Hayley Barna & Katia BeauchampCompany:  Birchbox

Age: 28, 29

The numbers: $11.9 million 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 $11.9 million in funding and over 100,000 users since their launch in Sept. 2010.  Birchbox also went global in 2012 when they purchased Paris based competitor Joliebox.

Alexa von Tobel

alexa-von-tobelCompany: LearnVest

Age: 28

The numbers: $24.5 million 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 $1.1 million 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 $24.5 million in funding and has over 90 employees.

Ben Kaufman

ben-kaufmanCompany: Quirky

Age: 25

The numbers: $91.3 million 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. The company has launched more than 200 products, invented by every day people. Quirky has paid out over $2 million in royalties to inventors so far and expects $20 million in sales by the end of 2012, up from $7 million in 2011.

Jeremy Johnson

jeremy-johnsonCompany: 2U

Age: 29

The numbers: $90.8 million in funding

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

Amit Avner

Amit-AvnerCompany: Taykey

Age: 26

The numbers: $11 million in funding

Taykey is a Real-Time Topical Advertising platform that creates brand agility and discovers new hidden consumers. We find what’s topical for your audience and align you with it, in real-time. Originally founded in Israel, Taykey is backed by Sequoia Capital, SoftBank Capital & CP Lantern with global offices and New York City headquarters.

Antonio LaMartina & Craig Cordes

Cordina_Cordes_LaMartina_30U30Company: Big Easy Blends

Age: 28, 28

The numbers: $27 million in revenue

A New Orleans-based company that makes pre-mixed frozen cocktails (in flavors such as Mar-Go-Rita, Daiq-Go-Ri, and Pino-Go-Lada) in flexible, portable pouches. The company was started in 2007 and now has its products distributed in stores like Wal-Mart, Winn Dixie, Dollar General, Walgreens, and Duane Reade. In 2012 they produced over 1.2 million cases of their products.

Amy Jain & Daniella Yacobovsky

amy-jian-daniella-yacobovCompany: Baublebar

Age: 29, 29

The numbers: $11 million in revenue

An online jewelry retailer that sources pieces directly from designers and sells them at a discount under the BaubleBar label. The company was founded in 2011 by two Harvard grads who decided the world of finance wasn’t for them. Baublebar has since raised $5.6 million in funding and has 25 full-time employees.

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Trip Adler

trip-adlerCompany: Scribd

Age: 28

The numbers: $25.8 million 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 10 million times across the web, on sites like The New York Times, USA Today, Guardian, and TechCrunch.

Jonas Falk

Jonas-Falk-OrganicLifeCompany: OrganicLife

Age: 28

The numbers: $20 million in revenues and 300 employees

OrganicLife creates healthy lunch programs for schools and is expanding it’s services for business, restaurants, and home delivery. They are basically betting that is the food is good more kids will choose to eat from their cafeterias. About twice as many kids choose to eat in an OrganicLife cafeteria as compared to their food-service giant competitors.

Patrick & John Collison

stripe-patrick-and-john-collisonCompany: Stripe

Age: 22 & 24

The numbers: $38 million in funding

Stripe is a simple, developer-friendly way to accept payments online. They believe that enabling transactions on the web is a problem rooted in code, not finance, and they want to help put more websites in business. John previously founded Auctomatic, which he sold for $5 million in 2007 at the age of 19.

Adam Goldstein & Steve Huffman

Adam_Steve_Hipmunk-520x305Company: Hipmunk

Age: 24 & 29

The numbers: $20.2 million in funding

Hipmunk is a travel search site that aims to take the agony out of travel planning. Their mission is to help people book travel faster and more efficiently. Hipmunk was designed to help people who are overwhelmed with pages of irrelevant search results. Hipmunk launched in 2010 and has over 15 employees today.

Jessica Scorpio

jessica-scorpioCompany: GetAround

Age: 25

The numbers: $19 million in funding

Getaround was founded in the summer of 2009 by Sam Zaid, Jessica Scorpio, and Elliot Kroo. Getaround provides a peer-to-peer carsharing marketplace that enables car owners to rent their cars – from Priuses to Teslas – to a community of trusted drivers by hour, day, or week using just their smartphones. CEO Sam Zaid says that about 95 percent of cars go unused 22 hours a day, and the startup’s goal is to make them available to users who need a car but don’t have one.

Adam Pritzker & Matthew O.Brimer & Brad Hargreaves

adam-pritzker-jake-schwartz-brad-hargreaves-and-matt-brimerCompany: General Assembly

Ages: 27, 25, 26

The numbers: $14.3 million in funding and 11 locations

General Assembly is a campus for technology, design, and entrepreneurship. They provide educational programming, space, and support to facilitate collaborative practices and learning opportunities across a community inspired by the entrepreneurial experience.

Tom Lehman & Ilan Zechory

rap-genius-foundersCompany: Rap Genius

Age: 28, 28

The numbers: $15 million in funding

Rap Genius is your guide to the meaning of rap lyrics (basically the internet version of the nerd-ass “rap dictionary” dorm-mate you had in college). You can listen to songs, read their lyrics, and click the lines that interest you for pop-up explanations. Our aim is not to translate rap into “nerdspeak”, but rather to critique rap as poetry.

Adam Braun

adam_braunCompany: Pencils of Promise

Age: 29

The numbers: Over 100 schools built

Pencils of Promise builds schools and trains teachers in the developing world with a focus on Ghana, Laos, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Founded in 2008 and within four years they broke ground on their 100th school, has staff on four continents and delivered more than 4 million instructional hours to kids around the world.

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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