In Fall 2005, we held our first annual contest to find the country's most promising young entrepreneurs. Over the past five years our readers have searched the country and, through our Web site, made thousands of nominations. You can learn about—and vote for—this year's finalists by following the link below. Here are some standouts from the first four years.
2008 NATHANIEL STEVENS, YODLEIn 2005, Stevens took a leave of absence from Wharton to create a venture that would simplify online ads for local businesses. Now, after building Yodle into a $20 million, 306-employee lead-generation dynamo, and landing more than $25 million in venture capital, Stevens, 26, is stepping down as Yodle's president to complete his degree. He continues to be a shareholder and board member of the Manhattan-based company.
2007 SARAH SCHUPP, UNIVERSITY PARENT MEDIAUniversity Parent Media, in Boulder, Colo., has become a profitable 12-person, $1 million company. It produces print and online guides for parents visiting their kids at college and now has more than 100 schools under contract. About 80% of sales come from local advertising; colleges can also pay to customize the guides. A consortium of colleges recently tapped Schupp, 27, to help set up a professional development association for parent relations directors. She plans to expand her company overseas next year.
2006 NOAH GLASS, GOMOBOHungry diners no longer have to wait in line: Manhattan-based GoMobo lets registered users preorder and prepay for take-out food online or via text message at nearly 5,000 restaurants. Noah Glass, 28, the 10-person company's founder and CEO, raised $7 million in venture capital last fall. GoMobo offers apps for the iPhone (AAPL) and BlackBerry, (RIMM) and has adapted its system for chains such as Subway, Dunkin' Donuts, and Burger King (BKC).
2005 MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOKWhen we first profiled the co-founder and CEO of what is now the world's largest social networking site, he advised other young entrepreneurs: "Do what you think is right, not what other people tell you is right. People have strong opinions about the way to do stuff. It's really good to listen and learn from the world, but when you're making something, it's coming from you." At the time of the interview, the site had 6 million registered users. It now has more than 300 million. In a Sept. 15 blog post, Zuckerberg, 25, wrote that Facebook had become cash-flow-positive in the most recent quarter.
For more elements of the special report, including our overview on our annual roundup of young entrepreneurs, a feature on selling to universities, and a video interview with a standout alum, visit the related items box at the upper right side of this sidebar.