My latest column on AmEx Open Forum is about NatureBox, a startup founded by Gautam Gupta and Ken Chen. The company delivers full-sized packages of healthy snacks to subscribers’ doorsteps for $19.95 a month. As the mom of two young adults who no longer live at home, I loved this idea immediately. What a great way to make sure my cash-strapped and super-busy kids get a little something nutritious into their bodies once in a while. I thought of what I’d put in a healthy care package: a few Kind bars, some Craisins, maybe some Green and Black dark chocolate, and a box of Sesmark rice crackers. Gupta and Chen think along similar lines, but there’s one crucial difference.
There’s a lot to like about the founders of TripTrotting. Shana Zheng and Aigerim Shorman met as students at USC and shared a common love of travel, which they did frequently through the University. But they both longed to get off the beaten tourist track and started noodling around an idea for a business that would help travelers do just that. TripTrotting is an online platform that matches travelers with like-minded local hosts who want to show off their cities’ hidden gems.
Last week, we launched this year’s 30 Under 30 Coolest Young Entrepreneurs list on Inc.com—the culmination of a good six months of work by me and the Inc.com team. This year, we collected online applications (we received over 400!), and enlisted an outside panel of judges to help us create the list. The result is an outstanding group of young innovators, some whose names you’ll recognize (Daniel Ek of Spotify and Ben Silbermann of Pinterest, for instance) and some who you’ll meet for the first time (like Jeremy Johnson of 2tor and Ben Milne of Dwolla).
I had this video made in iMovie made by my awesome web developer Jeff Nordstedt for the presentation I did at SXSW in March. It’s fun to watch, but also gives you a really good flavor for what/who is in the book. Not everyone who’s in the book is in the movie, BTW, because we wanted to keep it on the short side. Take a look and tell me what you think!
Most entrepreneurs have a tough time transitioning from the heady start-up days to growth-mode, when companies need more than a steady flow of great ideas and a few devoted souls to execute them. Growing companies require management skills and great entrepreneurs are very rarely great managers. Young entrepreneurs, particularly, often lack not only the desire, but the solid experience to manage growing staffs. That’s when it’s time to call in reinforcements, as Nick Thomley at Pinnacle Services did three years ago. Thomley, whose company provides home health care, housing, and employment services for seniors and people with disabilities, is featured in the “Social Capitalists” section of Upstarts!. He’ll tell you that he became a much happier CEO—and that his company became a much better place to work—when he hired a trusted COO and gave her responsibility for most of the day-to-day decision making that he had come to loathe. You can read about his journey on my BNET/CBSi blog. For Thomley, one of the best by-products of ceding many of his management duties was having the time to focus on making Pinnacle’s corporate culture a bit more fun. For a little glimpse of that, take a look at the video below!