Presenting our third annual 30 Under 30, a tally of the brightest stars in 15 different fields under the age of 30. This is an exhilarating time to be young and ambitious. Never before has youth been such an advantage. These founders and funders, brand builders and do-gooders aren’t waiting around for a proper career bump up the establishment ladder. Their ambitions are way bigger -- and perfectly suited to the dynamic, entrepreneurial, and impatient digital world they grew up in.
Some are household names like Lena Dunham, LeBron James, Tumblr's David Karp, and Maria Sharapova. Others like Lucas Duplan, Meg Gill, and Divya Nag are superstars in their own realms. Clinkle founder Duplan, 22, has shocked Silicon Valley with his ability to raise $30 million from the likes of Richard Branson, Peter Thiel and Andreessen Horowitz for an unreleased secret product. Gill, 28, is cofounder of Golden Road Brewing, one of the fastest growing breweries in the U.S.: it produced 15,000 barrels last year and expects to double output this year. Nag, 22, a Stanford University dropout, is working with a $20 million grant to create heart cells in a petri dish to test new cardiac drugs.
How good are we at picking tomorrow’s superstars? Pretty solid. Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, cofounders of Snapchat, our 2014 cover profile, raised $50 million at a near $2 billion valuation in December and is reported to have turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook. Karp, 27, 2013’s cover, sold his company to Yahoo! for $1.1 billion in May. Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom, now 30, on 2012's list in social media, netted $1 billion after a sale to Facebook in April 2011. Power producer Megan Ellison, 27, developed a blockbuster portfolio of 2013 films, including American Hustle and Her, both Academy Award favorites this year. These two films box officed some $83 million to date, in addition to over $130 million for her 2012 Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty.
A walk through of the process: There are 15 categories of 30. The categories are Art & Style, Education, Energy & Industry (new this year), Finance, Food & Drink, Hollywood & Entertainment, Law & Policy, Marketing & Advertising, Media, Music, Science & Health Care, Social Entrepreneurs, Sports and Tech. Each list was vetted by a panel of three expert judges in the field. Accel Partners' Jim Breyer, Harvard Professor George Church, ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Flickr cofounder Caterina Fake, and Chef Alice Waters are among the many notables that assisted FORBES reporters in determining the final 30 for each category out of field of nominations that in some cases hit triple digits.
The class of 2014 of 30 Under 30s is in, too. Bruno Mars' exclusive playlist on Peter Asbill and Elliott Breece's Songza is a perfect example of this. As is much sought-after marketing animator Khoa Phan, who created a special Vine video. Two-time 30 Under 30 alumnus Ronan Farrow returned as a judge for this year's class in law and policy.
In each category, there are short bios of each of the 30, along with links to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for those who want to share. Also check out the videos: We interviewed 15 of some of the most fascinating members of the list and walk readers through the selection process.
30 Under 30: Finance
Lucas Duplan, 22
Just over a year after receiving his undergrad computer science degree from Stanford, Duplan is running one of the most hyped and controversial startups in the nation, Clinkle, which seeks to disrupt the way financial transactions are done—with a digital wallet used on mobile phones. He has shocked Silicon Valley with his ability to raise $30 million from the likes of Richard Branson, Peter Thiel and Andreessen Horowitz for an unreleased secret product and attract talent like former Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy, who is now Clinkle's COO. At the same time Duplan has been slammed by tech bloggers, who have pointed to the large number of departing employees—one of whom anonymously posted a harsh criticism of Duplan—and made fun of some of his decisions, like the over-the-top video ad Clinkle produced. "At the end of the day only one thing will matter: Do people like and use our product?" says Duplan. "Our focus is not on the press or who is backing it. Our focus is on product."
30 Under 30: Hollywood & Entertainment
Olivia Wilde, 29
Actress, social entrepreneur
Fundraising is the bane of every philanthropy's existence. Do-gooders go back to the same rich donors over and over trying to convince them to keep giving. Actress Olivia Wilde thinks there's a better way. That's why she's co-founded Conscious Commerce. The company pairs brands with causes to help corporations become better global citizens. So profits from a best-selling dress at Anthropolgie go to a girls' school in India. A limited edition bag at Alternative Apparel helps fund a school in Haiti. "I've always been a huge proponent of voting with your dollars," says Wilde. "I'm inspired by the movement of entrepreneurs from my generation who are encouraging people to think about where their dollars are going." This year Conscious Commerce raised $100,000 for New Light, a community-development project serving the women and children of a red-light district in Kolkata, India. Conscious Commerce now shares time with Wilde's acting, but she's getting raves for her recent performance in the movie "Drinking Buddies."
[Related: Meet The 30 Under 30 In Hollywood & Entertainment]
30 Under 30: Technology
Evan Spiegel, 23
Runs Snapchat, mobile app used to send 450 million disappearing photos each day. Company raised $60 million at an $800 million valuation in June and is reported to have turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook.
30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs
Shiza Shahid, 24
Cofounder, Malala Fund
When Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist daring to advocate for girls' education, was shot by the Taliban in 2012, Shiza Shahid, who had met Malala in 2009 at an Islamabad retreat focused on female education, got on a plane. She helped oversee Malala's medical care in London and protect the family from the media circus. "While I was there by her side, she woke up and said 'I want to continue my campaign.' It was clear that she could now help the world in a way that she hadn't been able to before," says Shadid. A Stanford grad and McKinsey consultant became the 16-year-old's chief strategist on-the-spot. "How do we think about leveraging her voice in a way that's effective, that brings focus to the issues that matter, and creates a platform that drives all this energy around Malala into meaningful action?" A big part of the answer is the Malala Fund which she cofounded with the teen in 2012 to turn their vision for girls' education into reality. Grants to date: $400,000, half from the World Bank and half from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. A documentary on Malala's work by Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim is expected for release in 2014.
30 Under 30: Music
Bruno Mars, 28
When halftime rolls around at Super Bowl XLVIII, it's safe to say Bruno Mars won't be worried about the score. "Hawaii doesn't have a team, so I bounce around," says the Honolulu native. "I go for the underdog." That term hardly describes Mars, who will play the halftime show in the tradition of Paul McCartney, U2, Michael Jackson and other music legends. Mars is the first artist in ten years to headline before turning 30, but he's already got two platinum albums and 14 past Grammy nominations (including one win), with 4 new ones this year. His best preparation for the upcoming performance at MetLife Stadium may have been hosting Saturday Night Live in 2012, despite having about as much experience with sketch comedy as Hawaii has with snow. Says Mars: "You gotta be fearless, man. ... If I'm ever gonna sing in a blizzard, it may as well be at the Super Bowl." To listen to Mars' curated playlist, created exclusively for FORBES' 30 Under 30, go to songza.com/listen/becoming-a-billionaire-with-bruno-mars-Forbes/.
30 Under 30: Sports
Maria Sharapova, 26
Tennis player, WTA
This winter the world's fourth-ranked tennis player heads back to her hometown, the resort of Sochi, Russia, to serve as an NBC correspondent for the 2014 Winter Olympics. There's a reason the network wants her face on the games: Sharapova sells. She was the world's highest-paid female athlete last year, earning $29 million, of which $23 million came from deals off the court. A four-time grand-slam winner, she's piled up endorsements over the years from, among others, Porsche, Motorola, Tiffany and Nike, which created a Maria Sharapova apparel line. Last year she launched her first independent business, a candy line called Sugarpova, with 12 flavors of premium candies (not to mention jewelry and accessories featuring the Sugarpova lips logo) and estimated revenues of $6 million. "Business has always been a passion of mine," she says. "And I have always had a sweet tooth. ... A tennis career is such a small part of life."
30 Under 30: Games
Palmer Luckey, 21
CEO, Oculus VR
Virtual reality for the masses is no longer just science fiction, thanks to this 21-year-old video game fan. Engineering prodigy Palmer Luckey started developing his own head-mounted VR displays when he was still in high school, and was in college when he created the first prototype of a consumer-priced VR headset called the Oculus Rift. "You put it on," says Luckey, "and you feel like you're inside of the game, rather than looking at it on a screen." Endorsements from game industry icons including Valve's Gabe Newell and id Software's John Carmack helped Luckey raise $2.4 million in a 2012 Kickstarter campaign. (Carmack was so impressed, he even left id to work for Luckey as his CTO). The year-old company has raised over $91 million from venture capitalists, employs 50 people, and has released an early version of the device to software developers, who are already showing off some innovative VR games and applications. Consumers should be able to buy their own headsets – which initially will work only with PC and mobile games – for a goal price of $300 sometime later this year.
30 Under 30: Science & Healthcare
Divya Nag, 22
Cofounder of Stem Cell Theranostics and StartX Med
Divya Nag is attacking one of medicine's biggest problems: the fact that most types of human cells—like those in the heart or liver—die when you keep them in a petri dish. This makes testing new drugs a risky, costly and time-consuming business: 90% of medicines that start clinical trials turn out to be too unsafe or ineffective to market. But a new technology, the induced pluripotent stem cell, may help. Nag's company, Stem Cell Theranostics, was created from technology funded by a $20 million grant from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and is closing a venture round. It turns cells—usually from a piece of skin—into embryonic-like stem cells, then uses them to create heart cells. These cells can live in petri dishes and be used to test new drugs. Someday they might even replace heart tissue that dies during a heart attack. Three large pharmaceutical companies are customers, though revenues are small. Nag, who was already publishing in prestigious scientific journals when she was an undergraduate, dropped out of Stanford to pursue her dream. No regrets: "Our technology was so promising and I was so passionate about it that nothing else made sense to me," she says. "It was very clear this was what I wanted to do."
30 Under 30: Education
Nic Borg, 27
In the white-hot world of online educational startups, Nic Borg's Edmodo is among the hottest, raising $25 million in 2012 to total $57 million since it was founded in 2008. Edmodo, a.k.a. "Facebook for the classroom," targets K-12 kids, parents and teachers and has nearly 30 million users—over a million of them teachers—in more than 210,000 schools, including public schools in Chicago and Denver. Edmodo doesn't create "content" but rather is a free, privacy-protected platform where teachers, students and administrators can compare and share lesson plans, homework and tests. It is also a showcase for app developers, and Edmodo currently offers over 600 apps, from which it takes a revenue share. Says Borg, "While the ed tech industry has evolved rapidly over the past few years, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. We'll start to better understand how technology can be used to improve student learning outcomes at scale.
30 Under 30: Law & Policy
Nate Levine, 22
As a Stanford sophomore, Nate Levine saw opportunity where governments have historically been flat-footed. "Governments struggle to access [their own] data, because there aren't good tools out there," Levine says. With that in mind, he cofounded OpenGov in 2012 at age of 20. OpenGov's software platform helps governments make intelligent, data-driven decisions and communicate financial information with their constituents. The startup has raised over $7 million—$4 million in 2013 alone—and works with more than 50 municipalities, school districts and other local government organizations, involving over 7 million people nationwide. As OpenGov expands—possibly into the for-profit sector—Levine is focused on building new tools to revolutionize how cities share data with one another and how they approach the budgeting process. Says Levine, "Better access to information allows officials to focus on the hard problems of governing. It's especially important now that governments are being asked to do more with less."
30 Under 30: Media
Trip Adler, 29
An avid surfer and sometime street-busking saxophonist with a Harvard degee in biophysics, Adler is a man of many interests. He thinks readers ought to be able to indulge their own diverse curiosities as well—and be able to "think about what to read, not what to buy," as he says. Scribd, the digital content-sharing platform he cofounded in 2007, is betting big on subscriptions: $8.99 a month for unlimited e-book downloads. It has already partnered with more than 100 publishers for a catalog of more than 100,000 titles and has ambitions that extend well beyond books. "We want to be the world's digital library," he says. Profitable, with revenues in the "tens of millions" and a user base of 80 million, Scribd no longer has to rely on VC funding. "Our challenge now is how to take our profits and reinvest them to continue to grow our revenue," he says.
30 Under 30: Marketing & Advertising
Brian Wong, 22
Imagine you just posted a 5-mile run to the RunKeeper app when an ad on your iPhone pops up offering you a free liter of Propel Water. Or you just finished a particularly fiendish level of Candy Crush and you are offered free Sour Patch Kids as a reward. These "moments of achievement" and "serendipitous rewards" are a big part of the future of advertising, at least according to Wong, who cofounded Kiip in 2010, a year after graduating from the University of British Columbia at age 17. "We track almost half a billion of these achievement moments every month," he says. "These are moments that brands can be a part of and own." In three years Kiip has raised $15.4 million and is now used by more than 500 major brands to reach 70 million users through 1,500 games and apps. Procter & Gamble, Pepsi and Disney are clients. He expects to be profitable next year.
30 Under 30: Art & Style
Carter Cleveland, 27
When Carter Cleveland was a Princeton computer science student back in 2008, he went online searching for a picture to decorate his dorm room. "I assumed there would be a website with all the world's art on it," he recalls. There wasn't. So he set out to build one, with a Pandora-like feature that recommends artists to users. His company, Artsy, displays more than 85,000 pieces of art from 400 foundations and museums (including the National Gallery of Art and the Getty) and 1,400 galleries. Though his first impulse was simply to create a repository of images, he quickly realized the site could make a lot of money from commissions (60% of the art on the site is for sale). Investors including Twitter's Jack Dorsey, Google's Eric Schmidt and mega-art dealer Larry Gagosian have pumped $14.5 million into the company. Cleveland says Jeff Bezos is his inspiration: "We're going to become Amazon for the art world."
30 Under 30: Energy & Industry
Jamail Larkins, 29
Founder, Ascension Air Management
He started flying at the age of 12 and was immediately hooked. While still a teen he sold instructional aviation manuals and equipment and also performed in air shows. In 2006 he formed a joint venture with an established broker to sell general aviation aircraft. His Ascension Air now sees $8 million in annual revenue and is a leading regional distributor for Cirrus Aircraft, the top manufacturer of piston-driven planes. But the most popular propeller-driven craft costs $850,000, and most pilots fly only four or five days a month, so Larkins is focusing on selling fractional ownership. "I want to become the NetJets of piston-driven aircraft."
30 Under 30: Food & Drink
Meg Gill, 28
Cofounder, Golden Road Brewing
Beer, it's clear, isn't just for dudes. Women are drinking more of it. And as Meg Gill proves, they're making more of it, too. Amid America's craft beer explosion—more than 2,000 at last count—FORBES reckons that Gill, 28, is the youngest female brewery owner in the country. And her Los Angeles-based Golden Road Brewing is one of the fastest-growing; it produced 15,000 barrels last year and expects to double that output this year. "It's all about finding those relationships to help support the story behind the beer, the beer itself and all the love that goes into getting the beer into the right vessel," says Gill, who spent her time at Yale in the decidedly beer-unfriendly realms of classics study and varsity swimming. Yet she credits the former with her unique outlook on suds: "Latin is about putting pieces of the puzzle together, and the same thing is true of getting beer on the shelf." Gill, who sold beer from an R.V. before cofounding Golden Road with an industry veteran, Mohawk Bend owner Tony Yanow, reaches those shelves by putting her high-end brews—$7.99 for a 16 oz. four-pack—inside aluminum cans. Revenues exceeded $10 million in 2013, and Gill plans to expand her dozen-plus offerings outside her southern California base in 2014.
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