This past summer, we kicked off our third annual contest to identify and recognize the most promising young U.S. entrepreneurs. The goal was to find businesses that demonstrate potential for growth and establish the talent of the savvy young people behind them, possibly identifying the next Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook fame) or Maxine Clark (who created Build-A-Bear Workshop (BBW)).
We asked readers to nominate candidates age 25 and under who are running their own successful companies. Readers responded with an impressive selection, including Sarah Schupp, 25, of University Parent Media, a profitable company that produces guides for parents visiting their kids at college, and Ben Keighran, 25, of Bluepulse, a startup that created a popular mobile social messaging platform. Many of the nominees reported healthy revenues and a handful said they had already secured venture funding.
This fall our editors and reporters sifted through the 200-plus nominations and narrowed the selection to 25 finalists (BusinessWeek.com, 10/22/07). We posted each of the 25 finalists' profiles in an online slide show and asked readers to vote for their favorite finalist between Oct. 22 and Nov. 5, using a form at the end of the slide show.
Points for Originality and Courage
By the end of the voting period, more than 6,000 votes had been cast, and readers posted dozens of comments expressing their enthusiasm for the companies and the people behind them, though a few readers posted comments expressing their skepticism about some of the entrepreneurs' self-reported revenues. (All of the revenues included are self-reported, because each company is private.) Now the results are in.
Readers' top picks reflected this year's mix of mainly Web-based ventures, though a few more traditional businesses made the cut. All were similar to last year's picks for their originality and courage in making the leap from a traditional path to an independent, more improvised route. That's not to say planning wasn't important.
All of the chosen businesses' founders said they had plans to expand or to continue to expand nationally or internationally. And based on a look at where last year's finalists (BusinessWeek.com, 10/22/07) are today, this year's crop is sure to be worth watching.
To all nominees, finalists, and winners, congratulations.
For profiles of each of the top five, as chosen by our readers, flip through this slide show (BusinessWeek.com, 11/12/07).