Despite popular perception, twentysomethings don't generate most of the nation's startups. It is boomers who start the most businesses in the U.S. Over the past decade or so, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belonged to the 55-64 age group while the 20-34 age bracket had the lowest rate, according to a recent Kauffman Foundation report. Finding those twentysomething go-getters is one reason our annual roundup of promising young entrepreneurs from across the country is such a compelling exercise.
As in previous years, we asked BusinessWeek readers to nominate candidates age 25 and under who were running their own companies with potential for growth. Given the severity of the recession and that most entrepreneurs are much older than 25, we were pleased to receive a record number of nominations—more than 600. After the call for nominations ended in mid-August, our staff sifted through the nominees and looked for the most impressive. Then we profiled each of the finalists and asked readers to vote for the business they felt held the most promise. By the end of the voting period, nearly 13,000 votes had been cast.
Now it's time to meet the companies that received the most votes and the people behind them.
No. 1 With 1,511 votes, Boston-based renewable energy consulting group Emergent led the pack. Founded in 2006 by Jesse Gossett, Jayson Uppal, Chris Jacobs, Jared Rodriguez, and Greg Hering, the former Tufts University and Babson College students wanted to guide municipalities and private companies toward using renewable energies and setting up sustainability practices. Before graduating, they landed their first consulting contract. Now they say Emergent is profitable, has about 30 clients, and estimate $250,000 in revenue by yearend.
No. 2 YouRenew, the New Haven (Conn.)-based used electronics reseller, earned 1,115 votes. Yale students Rich Littlehale and Bob Casey launched the business in March to encourage people to recycle their obsolete gadgets, using a pricing algorithm that determines trade-in values based on users' responses on the YouRenew Web site. Littlehale says the 10-person company is close to breaking even, recently raised $800,000 in equity capital, and projects revenue of $600,000 to $1 million this year.
No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 The next three runners-up: Cambridge (Mass.)-based specialty paintmaker IdeaPaint, founded by Babson undergrads John Goscha, Jeff Avalon, and Morgen Newman (1,088 votes); childhood friends Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith's online collaboration tool Box.net, (903 votes); and Lauren Berger's Los Angeles-based internship placement consultancy Intern Queen, (851 votes). A hearty round of applause to all. You can find more details on each of the top vote-getters as well as the rest of the finalists in this slide show.
Be sure to check our staff blog for periodic follow-ups on this year's alums, and keep your eyes peeled for nominees for next year's roundup. We'll post a nomination form near the top of the Small Business channel next summer. For more elements of this special report, visit the related items box at the upper right side of this overview.