You know you’ve made it when you’ve found yourself on Forbes’ Billionaire list - an annual collection of the world’s most rich and powerful men and women, carefully curated by Forbes’ increasingly selective (and increasingly prestigious) panel of judges. But for founders and investors, more interesting than a study of those at the top is one of those on their way there.
Enter Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List: a selection of the most ambitious technologists, entertainers, entrepreneurs, marketers, investors and more, many one day destined for Forbes’ other list.
You wouldn’t be blamed for getting list fatigue: since Forbes’ list started making waves, LinkedIn launched Next Wave for doers under 35, Peter Thiel’s sometimes controversial Thiel Fellowship became the de-facto selection of 20 under 20, and even the 10 under 10 space is heating up.
With Forbes’ latest list now live, we linked up with some of the list’s top founders to learn what all the fuss is about.
Brian Wong, Co-Founder & CEO of Kiip
A three time awardee, Brian Wong is the CEO of Kiip, and one of Forbes’ consistent favorites for his innovation in advertising.
Kiip is a hot advertising platform letting brands reach users at their happiest moments when they’ve reached a new level in the game they’re playing, finished off a difficult boss battle, or cracked a difficult puzzle. These rewards continue to be Kiip’s secret sauce: 17% of people who see a Kiip reward claim it.
For Brian, the 30 Under 30 list has been a chance to extend the reach of his business and connect with a tribe of likeminded builders. “When people are looking for experts - press, analysts, speaker bookers - they often find people from the list,” letting Wong or Ozonian get in front of new audiences. “30 Under 30 gives you a great halo effect - it’s immediately validating,” he adds.
But it’s not all work: "One of the biggest values of the list is meeting other people on the list. Everyone in the room is here for the right reasons. Everyone is addicted to growth.” Through local events like the Boston Summit this week, a Facebook group, and plenty of texts shot between attendees, Brian says, really, it’s all about making friends. “We get really inspired, and bring back applicable learnings to your own work.”
So how do you get on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list? Having served as a judge, Brian admits everyone’s journey is different, but that the final list put before him and other judges like Gary Vaynerchuck is more impressive every year.
See Brian Wong at Startup Grind San Francisco on November 10th!
Ryan Ozonian, Co-founder & CEO of Dust Messaging
Just 2 years ago, as Ryan was testing business ideas around user privacy, Ryan - and his partner in crime in the venture, Mark Cuban - found a hit: formerly Cyberdust, Dust Messaging released just in time to take advantage of a global move towards encryption and security. Following celebrity hacks, Snowden leans, NSA controversies, and Hillary’s email leaks, Dust has been getting a lot of attention.
About a year and a half of breakneck growth into the project, Ryan got the attention of Steven Bertoni, an editor for Forbes 30 Under 30, on a panel at Social Media Week in Los Angeles.
On attending his first 30U30 summit, Ryan had such a good time he started hosting Under 30 meetups in Los Angeles. It wouldn’t be long before Ryan was himself nominated, making it into the 30 Under 30 family. The key lesson: give first.
“It’s incredible recognition,” Ryan says, and a “lot of friends and speaking opportunities have grown out of it.” Remaining helpful as ever, Ryan notes the opportunity has let him become a mentor to others on the path to building their businesses.
Jakob Schillinger, Co-Founder of OneDollarGlasses
It’s said that if you want to feed a man for a day, give him a fish; if you want to feed him for a lifetime, teach him to fish. This translates well to impact work in developing countries, where OneDollarGlasses doesn’t supply relief, but rather, creates an opportunity for those living in poverty to relieve themselves. One Dollar Glasses trains African craftworkers to create inexpensive glasses for their own communities, and this year reached the 50,000 glasses sold mark. They plan to roll out their retail business into the most remote areas of Africa rapidly.
Jakob, a co-founder of the business, has been as hands on as it gets, spending months at a time across Africa developing the business and the skills of locals. Now a member of the 30 Under 30 list in Europe, he says the community has given him inspiration: “spending time with people on a similar path and connecting with them regularly opened my mind up to think bigger and implement faster.”
But it’s not easy to connect deeply one day and be on a different continent the next. Constant international travel and running a business can be isolating,” shares Jakob, “You don't share the same experiences as the people around you.” In the 30 Under 30 crew, Jakob says he “found my brothers and sisters.” He adds, “connecting with people from the list has created a tribe of like-minded people sharing a similar path and similar mindsets. Plus, we have a ball together.”
Grace Hsia, Co-Founder & CEO of Warmilu
Grace is a founder on a mission: born 4 weeks premature, Grace’s company Warmilu makes nonelectric warming blankets to reduce the likelihood of infant death from hypothermia. The team has just entered Kenya and celebrated its first year of in-house manufacturing by locking down a 2,041 sq ft office lease in Ann Arbor, MI.
Grace says “being on the list has been amazing for our work,” both from a personal and professional perspective. Though Grace says it was “truly inspiring” to meet the other 30 Under 30, it really pushed the business forward: the Summit led Warmily to make a new distribution connection and sped up the partnership and distribution agreement with Relief for Africa Foundation.
“The Forbes list really honored our team and spoke volumes of our ability to execute,” says Grace, which led to a request from other African Ministry of Health officials. Grace is also seeing more inbound requests for speaking engagements, giving as many as 6 back to back lectures on problem identification, prototyping, and bringing a physical product to market.
How to Get on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List?
Though there’s more ambitious young founders than space on the list, Forbes’ lineup still proves out that “age is not a limiting factor,” says Grace, debunking the myth that impact comes from “those with a certain number of years of expertise under their belts,” but rather those with the “ability to connect effectively with people, and to bring together those with diverse skill sets and insights to address the most complex modern problems.” If that’s you or someone you know, enter your nomination here!