30 Under 30
Now in its sixth year honoring "the brightest young entrepreneurs, innovators, and game-changers" — and boasting an acceptance rate of less than 4 percent, statistically making the list "harder to get into than Harvard" — 30 Under 30 actually encompasses 600 finalists in 20 categories. Twenty-two of this year's recipients are Texas-based.
Here are the Texas honorees that are gaining global attention.
Adam Lyons and Joshua Dziabiak: Consumer technology
Independently comparing car insurance can eat up your time and sanity, so these two lads are building a search engine to make the task easier. Called The Zebra, it will instantly compare insurance options from more than 200 companies. So far, $23 million in venture funding and a staff of 50 make The Zebra look likely to succeed — not bad when one of its founders, Lyons, dropped out of high school at age 15.
Whitney Wolfe: Consumer technology
Dating is hard and online dating can be creepy, so Tinder co-founder Wolfe decided to make it all less so with her app, Bumble. With 11 million registered users as of January 2017, it's safe to say that singles are digging the concept of women making the first move. But there's also Bumble BFF, which lets potential friends find each other based on compatible interests.
Blair Brettschneider: Education
While tutoring teenage refugees in Chicago, Brettschneider was inspired to start GirlForward, a nonprofit that five years on has provided mentorship, education, and leadership opportunities to 200 refugee girls. The U.S. Department of State chose her as one of two youth delegates to represent the U.S. at the UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris in 2011, and several other high-profile organizations have honored her and her efforts. Add Forbes to that list.
Charlie Upshaw: Energy
Getting a post-doc in energy studies from the University of Texas makes sense when you consider that Upshaw, the co-founder of IdeaSmiths, is interested in making your air conditioner run better. He created a home system that collects rainwater and cools it during the night, when power is cheap, to help reduce air conditioning loads during the day. As summer approaches, Texans everywhere will be saying, "Where can I get one?"
Miguel Garza: Food and drink
Garza says he believes everything is better together, and we believe everything is better with tortillas. The CEO of Siete Family Foods (run mainly by him and six of his family members) focuses on grain-free products so everyone can enjoy delicious Mexican food, regardless of their dietary restrictions. The company is part of the 2 percent of Latino-owned businesses doing $1 million-plus in revenue each year, and even more importantly, the tortillas are "abuela approved."
Dominik Stein: Food and drink
The South may not have been previously known for its European cuisine, but Stein, a native of Germany, is changing that with the success of his fast-casual restaurant Verts Mediterranean Grill. Originally known as Vertskebap, the build-it-yourself eatery has become so popular that its pitas and wraps have shown up in 36 locations around the country so far, 30 of those in Texas alone.
Alex Schwartz: Games
Virtual reality is poised to become the next tech must-have, and Schwartz's Owlchemy Labs is leading the way. Its award-winning game Job Simulator opened the door for its current project, a VR game based on the hit animated sitcom Rick and Morty.
Greg Glod: Law and policy
His official title at Texas Public Policy Foundation is a mouthful — manager of state initiatives and senior policy analyst — but Glod's mission is simple: advance federal criminal justice reform. He's already been integral in the passage of a historic bill that allows convicted low-level offenders the chance to seal their record, and now he's focusing on mandatory minimum penalties and reducing recidivism through programs offered to those already in prison.
Andy Bossley: Marketing and advertising
Not only does Bossley head up the worldwide marketing campaigns for tech giant IBM, he partners with other leaders such as Google to debut game-changing business technologies to the masses. Really puts stressing about your Instagram captions in perspective.
Griffin McElroy: Media
Not only does McElroy understand the value of videos, web series, and podcasts for his parent company, Vox Media, he produces some of the site's most-consumed content as a founding editor of Polygon, Vox's gaming brand. He also hosts four podcasts himself, including one which received over 3.5 million streams in November and is now being developed into a television show for streaming platform Seeso.
Kendrick Worrell: Energy
Did you found a company by age 28? Worrell did, and Accelerate Resources combines his expertise in both retrieving natural resources and raising capital, drilling primarily in the Permian Basin with funding from Pine Brook Partners.
Michael Kennedy: Food and drink
If you've ever wondered what the varietals that make up a wine blend would taste like on their own, Kennedy has the answer. He founded Component Wine to "rescue" the varietals that go into some of Napa Valley's most respected blends, then ages and bottles them to sell on their own. But oenophiles be warned: Bottles can cost upward of $100.
Chase Feiger: Manufacturing and industry
When Google Ventures wants to invest in your idea, you might be on to something. The collaborative software that Feiger's company, Parsable, makes is used by industrial companies and teams, helping their businesses run more smoothly thanks to easier communication and project tracking.
Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt: Manufacturing and industry
Not only is it possible to make hydrogen peroxide from plants (who knew?), that food-grade peroxide can then be used in pools, spas, hot tubs, and for cleaning. Chakrabarti and Hunt founded Solugen in 2016, and starting churning out PeroxyZen, the first of its kind.
Sean O'Brien: Marketing and advertising
College seniors are very into mobile messaging, but while at the University of Notre Dame, O'Brien and his Swyft co-founder, Evan Wray, were into building their own mobile messaging system (originally called TextPride). Three years later the company was acquired for $27 million by Monotype Imaging, and now Swyft runs as an independent subsidiary.
Amber Venz Box: Retail and e-commerce
First came RewardStyle, where social media "influencers" could earn money off their content, and now LikeToKnow.It, allowing Instagram users to move directly from the app to e-commerce sites where they can purchase clothes they saw on their faves' feeds. It's the only ready-to-shop consumer service on Instagram.
Christina Karapataki: Energy
Karapataki is really good at spending other people's money. Specifically, she does venture capital investing for Schlumberger, the world's biggest oilfield services company. Her money moves have helped finance 10 companies in recent years, to the tune of $9 million.
Jessica Traver: Healthcare
The mere idea of a spinal tap probably sends shivers down your, well, spine. Traver and Nicole Moskowitz thought imaging technology, pressure sensors, and predictive analytics could not only increase the procedure's accuracy but also lessen trauma to the patient, and so IntuiTap was born.
Jonathan Saperstein: Manufacturing and industry
How hard can it be to grow trees? Harder than you'd think, especially if the trees need to be consistent in appearance in order to sell. Saperstein has grown his business, Tree Town USA, into the country's largest wholesaler of trees — he even bought out his father in 2007, after beginning to run the business in 2002.
Simone Biles: Sports
The pint-size powerhouse from Spring is one of the youngest people on Forbes' list, but she also happens to be one of the most decorated U.S. women gymnasts ever with four Olympic gold medals and 10 world championship gold medals. Her athletic skill has attracted endorsement deals with Nike, Kellogg's, and Hershey's, and she even has her own line of gymnastic equipment.