Students speak out

Student entrepreneurs speak out: #2 in a series

Tony WangCMU senior, Tony Wang, reflects on Inc’s 30 under 30.

Entrepreneurs are often thought of as people who don’t accept the current status quo. They are the ones with the ideas and know-how to really change how the world operates. They are the ones that propel the United States economy forward. And they are also getting younger and younger.

It used to be that college graduates would enter the typical office place workforce for many years to gain experience and expand their corporate knowledge. After numerous years in the business, they would then go on to risk their cushioned jobs to make the world a better place. However, young entrepreneurs have begun to push that typical path to take bigger risks earlier on in their lives. And this has resulted in a slew of success for many early entrepreneurs.

Last year, Inc. published a list of 30 Entrepreneurs under 30. Here are some of the courageous highlights:

  • Naveen Sevadurai, 28, and his co-founders started Foursquare to better incorporate social media and geolocation. He envisioned a world where everyone would be able to quickly and easily determine where all their friends are and set up meeting spots through impulse, without the meticulous planning often necessary beforehand. He created awards and rankings for people to strive after and got them involved in the application rather than merely asking them to use it. Foursquare had more than 2 million users and was quickly valued at around $100 million.
  • Brian Chesky, 28, Joe Gebbia, 28, and Nathan Blecharczyk, 27, are trying to solve the problem of connecting people with space to rent and those looking for a quick place to crash. They started a company called AirBnB that mimics couch surfing, but to a longer and more sustainable degree. After graduating form the prestigious incubated Y Combinator, they have expanded to include listings in 5,000 cities in 142 countries.
  • At only 21, Fraser Doherty has been revolutionizing the stereotypical and ordinary peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Using his grandmother’s homemade jam recipe, Frazer has created an entire new line of all-natural fruit spreads that not only taste better than many well-know jam companies, but is also healthier. Given the new health crazy that has taken over many countries, his company, Super Jam, has been able to achieve $1.1 million in sales in the United Kingdom alone. He plans to expand his business to numerous international countries in the near future.
  • Everyone likes to gossip on campus, and Stephanie Kaplan, Windows Hanger, and Annie Wang, all only 21 years old, have turned that tendency into a full fledged magazine called Her Campus. This once college fashion magazine features a wide breadth of articles that can enrich any college student’s life, mainly focused on females though. It contains articles about dating, relationships, internships, school work, and general hardship throughout life. Of course, it continues to stick to its roots and deals extensively with female fashion as well. It has spread to over 30 campuses and continues to grow.
  • Printers seem to continue growing more and more out of date with all of the new wireless technology that allows us to flash our smart phones for almost everything from Starbucks gift cards to movie tickets. Joshua Dziabiak continues to expand that horizon at only 23 years old. His company, ShowClix, previously featured on New Venturist, delivers tickets for larger events such as concerts and events through email and text messages. This allows people to ignore the hassles of printing out the tickets and physically bringing them to the event (I’m sure many people have experience the ‘Oh!’ moment when they realize they forgot them on the kitchen table). He continues to expand his  business based in Pittsburgh and has increased sales from $4.5 million in 2009 to $8 million in 2010.
  • Learning to invest one’s own personal finances is hard, very hard. Alexa von Tobel,  only 26, also had very little idea about financial literacy and only grew to learn more from her year and a half at Morgan Stanley as a proprietary trader. However, she had a dream of enabling other college graduates to achieve financial literacy and started the company LearnVest to better help these students. She was able to receive funding from Accel Partners for $4.5 million because of her broader applicable goals. She likens her site to The Suze Orman Show but says “Suze Orman helps 45-year-old women get out of debt; why not reach 20-year-olds to keep them from getting into debt?”

With a growing base of younger entrepreneurs, one can only imagine the continued innovation that they can achieve. Check out this year’s honorees!

Tony Wang is a Carnegie Mellon University senior majoring in Business Administration who hopes to one day make an impact in the financial arena as many entrepreneurs have done in every field.

Reinventing the stroller (and the bouncy seat, playard, and more): 4moms
Funding: structure, post #7 of “Startup Briefs”
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