This article was originally published on entrepreneur.com.
Our list of some of the most interesting and notable entrepreneurs to keep an eye on in 2018 highlights CEOs and founders making waves. Venture capital investment in startups has surged to its highest level ever — $148 billion last year alone. What’s more, in the last 12 months, more than 40 VC-backed companies achieved billion-dollar valuations and joined the unicorn club. At the same time, though, deal count and the number of VC-backed IPOs are down, suggesting that some of the froth in the tech market is falling away and startups are increasingly being required to earn into their valuations. Combine this with solid expansion of the economy, steady job growth, adjustment of the business tax code, and a booming stock market, and you’ve got the most fertile soil for entrepreneurial companies to grow in that we’ve seen in years. Take a look at some of these top millennials, growth hackers, and flat out rockstars that are making strides in 2018:
1. Zachary Dempsey, 19 — CEO of Slogan Social
"In today's age of digital marketing, brands are struggling to keep the attention of their consumers, in order to stay relevant brands need to embrace new mediums and leave behind old strategies."
2. Alain Meier, 23 — CEO & Co-Founder, Cognito
Founded when Alain was a student at Stanford University; Cognito (formerly Blockscore) launched with a vision to solve global compliance and identity issues. Today, Cognito powers compliance and KYC services for companies like Nextdoor, Coinbase, and AngelList.
Cognito focuses on simplifying identity verification through cutting-edge technology, seamless integrations, and partnerships. Their technology is a full spectrum verification solution, built to optimize the customer signup experience, complete with a developer-first infrastructure.
"User verification shouldn't come at the expense of user experience. It's crucial to ensure the first stage of the customer journey is as seamless and secure as possible," says Meier. "Cognito adapts to our customers' existing signup flow rather than defining it."
3. Stefan Furlan, 35 — Director of View.ly
Stefan is a serial entrepreneur with a PhD in computer science from the University of Ljubljana. Stefan is a founder, partner or director of several startups in data science, analytics and blockchain space, including Dodona Analytics, Unblock Technology, Behaviour Exchange and Optilab.
Most recently, major video sharing platforms have announced changes to monetization programs, which has stifled the content creators ability to monetize - particularly smaller channels. Sensing the opportunity, Stefan founded View.ly - a decentralized video platform which eliminates the need for ads by utilizing the patronage model, allowing creators to use fan support, micro-payments, sponsorships, memberships, premium content and more to monetize their content. Viewly aims to provide sustainable revenue for all creators, not just mainstream content producers.
audiences that don’t function well within the current ad-based model,” says Furlan.“Viewly allows them to build a profitable channel without having to build an entire business.”
4. Jesse Leimgruber, 23 — Co-Founder and CEO, NeoReach
Jesse studied computer science at Stanford University, serves as an advisor to The Alchemist Accelerator, a Thiel Fellow, and a mentor at the European Innovation Academy. He’s served as a guest lecturer at Stanford University, The University of Southern California, DePaul, among others. Jesse founded an enterprise analytics software, NeoReach while a student at Stanford alongside his brother, P.J.
NeoReach provides analytics for Fortune 500 brands including Microsoft, Citrix, Walmart, among others. They’re currently collecting and analyzing data on social media influencers audience across all major social channels to help brands make the most informed decisions when using channels like influencer marketing to reach new audiences.
5. Joshua Cartagenova, MBA — CEO, Therapy Source Staffing Solutions
Josh hails from a background in marketing and leadership in the technology, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, and financial industries. It's no wonder that after co-founding Therapy Source Staffing Solutions with his wife Stacey, he has focused his efforts on providing the company with leadership, operational management, and strategic insight. Through his hard work -- and that of his team, Therapy Source has made the Inc. 5000 list for 9 years in a row -- a feat most companies never achieve even once. For those that don't know Therapy Source (www.txsource.com), the company is focused on providing comprehensive in-person and online staffing services and solutions to educational institutions nationwide. As a leading provider of special education services, Therapy Source is literally changing lives. According to Josh, "the code we operate under is being an ethical business, and striving to provide the highest quality therapists. Our clients entrust us with their children, so we always ask ourselves who is the best, most-qualified person to help?" That entrepreneurial spirit, combined with his desire to help others, has certainly earned him -- and his company -- a place on our list.
6. Denis Globa, Konstantin Ivanov, Andrew Kirillov and Stan Bokov — Founders of TradingView
“We're democratizing finance by empowering regular people to talk about the markets in a safe and transparent way. The community enables a learning cycle, where users can message tens of thousands of other people, ask their opinion, get trading ideas, do market research and analysis - and all of it for free. Anyone should have access to top-notch tools that used to be reserved only for the pros. It's all about leveling the playing field! The next step is being able to manage your portfolio with E*TRADE, Robinhood and other top brokers around the world.
7. Mark Stephen Meadows — CEO & Founder, Botanic Technologies, Inc
Meadows began his AI career in 2000 at Xerox-PARC where he focused on AI and interactive narrative. Founding Botanic in 2011 he approached AI from the user perspective. Today Botanic provides the tools to deploy multi-modal, trusted bots to Fortune-100s, government agencies, and startups around the globe. These AI characters converse via text chat, video chat, and even VR/AR in which the system is able to speak, see, and measure user emotion.
"We all know that industries as broad as healthcare, finance, education and other industries will be impacted by AI. What we don't know is how. Once upon a time, the computer and calculator were desk jobs: now they are automated tools. What will happen to clinicians, CPAs, teachers and other knowledge workers? All we can see is that conversational AI needs to be humane, and democratic. We're now exploring uses of Blockchain so that AI does not eliminate jobs, but creates them."
8. Gabriel Rene — Founder of VERSES
“We are powering the largest potential asset class in the blockchain space.
We think that provenance and persistence of 3D virtual objects is the key to a multi-trillion dollar Virtual and Augmented Reality market that is predicted to revolutionize nearly every major industry over the next decade. VERSES utilizes next generation blockchain technologies to provide virtual objects the missing proof of existence, ownership, and location-awareness necessary for cross-platform interoperability in the virtual and real world.”
9. Yuval Samson — Co-Founder and CEO, Eyecon Global, Ltd
Yuval Samson comes from a background in telecommunications and has a track record leading software and mobile service companies. After realizing that our current communication methods needed to evolve, he created Eyecon with his co-founder, Erez Dado. The Eyecon App, available on google Play and iTunes, is rapidly changing the way we communicate -- from across the street to across the globe. "It is so important for people to connect on a much more intimate level, even through smartphones," says Yuval. "When we engage our brains in the communication process through visual stimuli, we respond much faster and much more intimately to our calls and texts, than when we simply see numbers and letters on our screens." The app, which is both fee and ad free, pulls pictures and inserts them automatically into contact lists. In fact, his app is the only dialer available today that not only works in your caller id, but also across multiple messaging platforms. For his commitment to enhancing our communication -- and our relationships -- Yuval Samson is one of the top entrepreneurs to watch in 2018.
10. Shannon Travis, 46 — Founder, CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Higher Glyphs Content Group
Travis has earned a spot on our list for what he’s doing — and for what he’s done. He’s a former CNN journalist who shares an EMMY win and has traveled to nearly all 50 U.S. states covering all manner of personal, political and national stories - even covering and traveling with Vice President Joe Biden. Now, he puts his experience to work running the communications, content and branding startup he founded. His company, the Washington D.C.-based Higher Glyphs Content Group, has a unique communications approach: it relies on Travis’ storytelling expertise to create marketing and communications that are heavy on powerful narratives. Higher Glyphs clients who’ve praised this approach come from sports, entertainment, finance, corporate real estate, health and beauty and government organizations. In under two short years, Travis is projected to take Higher Glyphs to $600,000 in revenue. “We recognize that in today’s cluttered communications environment, it’s hard to breakthrough to new audiences,” Travis said. “So we aim for disruption. Our unique narrative approach helps clients gain traction. We have been blessed with a terrific response and we’re executing an aggressive growth plan for the company.”
11. Marvin Coles, 50 — President and CEO, The Coles Group
Coles is on our list for having one of those classic, self-made American success stories. In 2015 he founded The Coles Group, an SBA 8A company based in Washington, D.C. and specializing in Temporary Help Services, Consulting Services, as well as Technical and Grant Writing Services. The Coles Group is unlike competitors in that it’s CEO is extremely hands-on in all client projects, allowing customers to take advantage of his 25-years of sales and client management experience. And the company has been highly noted for finding, developing and deploying pools of talented candidates. The efforts and reputation are paying off. Since 2015, The Coles Group has grown to $2 million in revenue; it’s won a key 2017 Small Business of The Year Award from the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development and The D.C. Chamber of Commerce; and Coles Group clients come from over 25 local and federal government agencies. “We are ecstatic at the client response and loyalty we’ve seen,” Coles said. “Now we are aggressively expanding the company into new growth sectors, including international markets.”
"Consumer attention is shifting. Children and millennials today are not watching TV. They're not listening to radio. We've seen what happens when brands fail to adapt, RadioShack, Toys R Us... brands that are not able to pivot their marketing strategies will fall victim to a changing media environment. At NeoReach, we focus on building the future of marketing and data, allowing marketers to comfortably allocate budget and spend to influencers and new media,” says Jesse Leimgruber.
12. Andrew McCarthy, 19
Along with owning many different ecommerce stores, McCarthy has begun teaching others how to take advantage of the space by offering help to other people who are interested in the ecommerce space. Andrew plans to continue to grow his stores and teachings in 2018, while investing into other ventures on the side. If you’d like to get into the ecommerce space, you can follow @andrewmccarthy_ or go to www.zmentors.orgfor more information.
“Right now we are living in a time where you can make five figures in one day off your laptop from anywhere in the world,” McCarthy told me. “With the opportunity to reach millions of people from an instagram influencer, facebook ad, or twitter impressions, ecommerce stores are thriving. I aim to continue to take advantage of this digital gold rush and help others in doing so as well.”
13. Gregory Meade, 23 — Novlte, The King Brand, CROSSNET
Greg has earned a spot on the list because of his entrepreneurial ventures. At age 23, he has been successful at creating brands from scratch and turning them into million-dollar companies. Greg's social media skills paired with connections made along the way has allowed him to efficiently scale all three brands while eliminating common startup mistakes.
Greg has been successful in building personal relationships with some of the most popular social media influencers in the world. His two companies, Glunt and The King, have grown into household names due to the power of influencer marketing on both Twitter and Instagram. As his companies evolve, he plans to bring these strategies and tactics to his newest project,
CROSSNET, the world's first four-way volleyball game.
You can keep up with Greg and his latest moves on Instagram @woeismeade.
14. Davante Rowe, 26 — Novlte, The King Brand, Vegi
Davante has validated his spot on the list after spearheading the success of Novlte, a 420 eCommerce company, grossing over a million in sales within 12 months of launch. At age 19, Davante started his first company, The King Brand, and he admits the mission of getting people to gravitate toward your product was certainly more challenging than he anticipated. He quickly learned that developing a strong brand is vital to the success of an eCommerce company. A lot of Davante's triumph with online marketing is attributed to his skillful abilities in branding products and convincing the market that his products offers something truly unique and transformative.
In addition to Davante’s mastery of online branding, he has also been able to build a strong network of influencers and publishers with a combined reach of over 10 million people in a single day. These affiliates help develop content and communicate to their audiences what about Davante's products makes it worth purchasing.
“A fundamental understanding of human nature should be at the forefront of any marketing strategy," Davante told me. "We are all impacted by the convictions of the individuals we come in contact with everyday, whether that be a sibling, parent or a social media icon we've never met. So as an entrepreneur, if I can convince the most popular icons on social media that my product is what's hot, I stand a good chance at getting their audience to adopt a similar sentiment.”
Davante is now looking to apply his knowledge and skillset to the beauty industry, leading the launch of Vegi, the first natural edible beauty brand. You can keep up with Davante and his latest ventures by connecting with him on LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/in/davanterowe
15. Dusty Varpness, 23 — Founder of Cryptoinsiders.io
Serial entrepreneur (ranked #2 millennial to watch out for in 2018) has found himself continuously identifying and executing new cryptocurrency trends. Pairing his past experience as a certified financial advisor, along with his passion for blockchain technology he has quickly grabbed the attention of many cryptocurrency investors and advocates. In a little less than a year he has gained thousands of loyal cryptocurrency and blockchain technology followers.
Varpness has many documented 5 figure profit trades along with his most recent grossing him $50k (1,600%) profit on a single $3k investment. His latest venture, Cryptoinsiders.io offers everything from introductory level education about what bitcoin/blockchain technology is, to daily swing trades for more advanced crypto experts. The goal of Cryptoinsiders.io is to help members make sense of this mysterious new world of blockchain technology and take their cryptocurrency experience to the next level. Varpness firmly believes blockchain technology and cryptocurrency are the way of the future and will have a lasting impact on our world.
16. Jithin V G
Jithin started Accubits Technologies (www.accubits.com), an AI & Blockchain focused solutions company, with a seed investment of 30,000 USD in 2016 and over a period of 18 months, he grew it into a multi-million dollar business. He believes that AI & Blockchain have the capability to augment our abilities to innovate and push this world forward for good. Accubits currently have their presence in 12 countries and work mostly with Governments and Fortune 500 companies. He has also co-founded Accubits ventures, a seed stage PE fund focusing on AI & Blockchain startups through which he has invested in 8 companies over the period of 6 months. He also started a Blockchain & AI research lab in Trivandrum, Kerala, to push the frontiers of these technologies. One of his companies - Coinfactory(www.icoplatform.tech) has hosted 13 ICOs and raised over $120 million USD for their customers so far. He has also served as the advisor for several major ICOs.
17. Pavel Osokin, 32 — Founder and CEO of Como Capital
Como Capital is also a member of Blockchain Residence, the Russian headquarters of blockchain technologies, organized by the initiative of the adviser to the President of the Russian Federation on Internet Development Herman Klimenko. Along with the largest companies in the industry, this organization includes the International Decentralized Association for Cryptocurrency and Blockchain (IDACB).
“To be honest, I came into the blockchain industry for money - in a broad sense: I saw an increasing crisis of confidence and wanted to withdraw the cryptocurrency business from a nose dip, once again making ICO a worthy way to build companies and invest. Smart Escrow was in the right place at the right time. When the number of scams exceeded all conceivable limits, the platform offered a way out. Those who wanted to use it were found immediately, and DAICO's presentation by Buterin showed that the direction was chosen with surgical precision. Over the past two years, Como Capital has advised dozens of companies on the implementation of blockchain, since May 2017 started to help projects conduct ICOs, about a dozen clients have received support in promoting their blockchain products. Today, Como is focused on the one major project, which fully corresponds to Paul's philosophy. Secrecy allows us to say only that this project will stir up the global market of cryptoexchanges. As they say, stay with us.”
18. Trac Stephenson — Founder of BUILD1x, Inc
BUILD1x is revolutionizing construction through the introduction of the world’s first digital currency built specifically for the construction industry, BUILDCoin. BUILDCoin will be utilized within the BUILD1x mobile application, set to launch Q2 2018. One of the biggest challenges the industry has is the extended payment cycle for materials and labor, which inflates project costs, and the purchase price of homes. BUILD1x will empower the construction industry with blockchain technology and smart contracts eliminating some of the inflated costs associated with delayed payments.
“An $8+ trillion global industry that supports approximately 100 million people, needed a mobile platform that was made for them, by one of them. By combining known mobile app features like project management and networking, with blockchain, BUILD1x will positively impact everyone from the sub-contractors to the home buyer.” – Trac Stephenson
19. James (JJ) Sowers — Investor
One startup advised by James is bubbloapp an AI-powered discovery platform that gives users a real-time recommendations on restaurants, bars, or other venues based on a constant flow of user-generated data.
“Blockchain, AI and Quantum computing will bring about exponential technical breakthroughs in Genomics, Space exploration and Urban tech,” James told me. “It is an honor and a privilege to work with the best and brightest founders in the world creating the future in the the new digital revolution.”
20. Greg Frisoli, 24 — Owner/Founder of Vulcan Bags & Social Talent Mgmt
Frisoli was able to earn a spot on this list due to his ability to bring an unknown product to the masses and make it well known. Frisoli had his first success when he co-founded the well known brand Vulcan Bags in April of 2017. Frisoli quickly scaled Vulcan Bags to over one million dollars in sales in the first 3 months by using the power of social media. Vulcan Bags is most known for their USB charging backpacks.
Frisoli is continuing to develop new marketing campaigns in order to expand Vulcan in hopes of making it one of the premiere backpack brands. In addition to Vulcan Bags, Frisoli is focused on growing other e-commerce stores in different niches.
“Social media is such a prominent part in everyone’s day to day life, like it or not. Today, everyone is affected by social media one way or another.” Frisoli told me “Social media is such a powerful tool that everyone has the ability to use, however very few people really know how to use it. I want to share with everyone the power social media has. Social media helped me grow my first 7 figure business. The opportunities are endless if you properly know how to use social media to your advantage.”
21. Billy Howell, 25 — Owner/Founder of Vulcan Bags & Social Talent Mgmt
Outside of e-commerce, Howell also founded Social Talent Mgmt, a company that manages Instagram influencers and helps them grow and monetize their accounts. He sometimes shares his growth secrets on his Instagram account @administrator.
“Whether you like it or not, social media is the driving force of almost every trend out there in today’s world," Howell told me. "We have so much potential at our fingertips, but way too many people have no idea how to properly take advantage of it. My goal is to help everyone I come in contact with learn how.”
22. Nick Filchy, 20 — CEO, Bangerbuddy LLC
Filchy has earned a spot on the list because of his rapidly growing social media empire. As the brains of the operation, Filchy administrates a multitude of massive Instagram pages which he uses to do sponsored posts for brands, market his personally owned online stores, and throw large 18+ events.
In total, Filchy owns over 1.2 million followers worth of pages that are growing incredibly fast. Filchy showed me a female modeling Instagram page he started from scratch a week before we spoke, and the page already had 50,000 followers! Most people will never get 50K followers in a lifetime, or spend years building that large of an audience, while Filchy built that fan base in one week with what he claims was "Minimal effort" for him.
“In today’s digital economy, social media is so crucial, yet so many businesses still lack a strong social media audience and some do not even have a presence at all." Filchy told me. "The time to step up your social media game is now. The longer you wait the farther behind you will be. Although the time to ride this wave was years ago, it is much better to be late than never start."
23. Alan Cheung, (Alan King), 21
"This is over half a decade of hustle and just the beginning." Alan told me. "We are here to revitalize traditional manufacturing, branding, and social media companies to help them grow continuously through evolving markets.”
24. Justin Woll, 22 — CEO & Mentor, BeyondSixFigures
Woll earned a spot on the list due to the astounding success of his growing E-Commerce Marketing Mentoring Company. As the CEO & Head Mentor of BeyondSixFigures; Woll works with countless aspiring & highly successful entrepreneurs from all over the globe as he walks them through the road map to Multi-Six-Figure online Income. Woll first gained recognition in the field during the launch & success of one of his many online apparel brands that generated well over multiple six figures in less than a year from conception; ultimately leading to the creation of “BeyondSixFigures: The E-Commerce Profit University w/ Justin Woll”.
Woll has now helped generate over $4,500,000 in student entrepreneur sales over the course of the last few months, which is a staggering number towering over almost all competitors in the space, which speaks volumes about the quality of Woll’s BeyondSixFigures Program offerings. Some of Woll’s students are now generating over $100,000 a month due to training provided by Justin Woll. BeyondSixFigures arm’s each and every student with the necessary knowledge, tactics, strategies & guidance needed to be able to utilize the online marketplace to generate multi six-figure income online and build massive brands that yield values surpassing millions of dollars. One of Woll’s recent BeyondSixFigures Students has been able to build an online empire that generates over $1,500,000 annually.
25. Matt Schroeder — Shelly Cove
Shelly Cove is a charitable apparel brand established in 2015 that sells preppy shirts and accessories. Shelly Cove donates 10% of net profits to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Island, NC, and has had the privilege of donating 6-figures to the organization.
"It seems as though a lot of apparel companies do not genuinely care about the customer - the group of individuals who pay the bills. We aim to change that fault in our industry by putting our customer, as well as our mission to help Save The Turtles, on the forefront of our business model. This focus has led to success to our business so far, and hope it will continue to do so in the future."
26. Andy Hinrichs, 46 — Founder and CEO, AutoGravity
Hinrichs earned a spot by founding an award-winning digital platform that integrates state-of-the-art technology to transform the way that people buy and finance cars. AutoGravity has provided more than 1.7 million car shoppers with a convenient, transparent mobile app that streamlines the auto-financing process. The FinTech pioneer, which continues to gain roughly 150,000 new users per month, recently surpassed $2 billion in financing requested.
By connecting prospective car-buyers with the world’s leading financial institutions, as well as a comprehensive dealer network containing more than 2,200 franchise car dealerships nationwide, AutoGravity unifies variables such as vehicle and dealership preference and credit worthiness to intelligently match consumers with lenders and financing offers that create the most value — all in a matter of minutes.
27. Parker J. Russo, 25 — Founder, PJR Designs | Co- Founder, The Geofilter Guys
Russo earned his spot on Entrepreneur for his well rounded talent and experience within the social media marketing and advertising field as well as graphic design. Russo strives to create innovative ways for companies to brand themselves and stand out amongst thousands of other local businesses.
At the age of 18, Russo began his journey of entrepreneurship by starting PJR Designs, which focuses on top quality Graphic Design work for businesses. This has grown to build a relationship with over 250 clients and growing.
“I believe my team offers a larger amount not only because of our knowledge in the social world, but we also bring great value in helping with the visual branding for our clients.” He added. Russo is currently in the process of growing his business into a larger Branding/Social Media Marketing company across several platforms.”
28. Rex Chen — Ecoinmerce.io
"Blockchain-powered e-commerce marketplaces will completely transform online shopping as we know it today. ECoinmerce will lead this sector by providing transparency and fairer rules for retailers, more incentive for influencers to spread the word, as well as better prices and options for consumers. Plus, stores can launch their own ICOs directly on the ECoinmerce platform to turn their loyal customers into early investors."
29. Charles Nader — Docademic.io
Docademic is a company founded in Mexico by former Med Students who created a method of offering Free Basic Medical Health Services to the public. This may seem simple to grasp but it’s quite complicated and it is why their company is now on a path to change the world as we know it.
Docademic CEO, Charles Nader, explained the dynamics powering the company in a public telegram group chat where he personally responds to questions from participants.
“Docademic has clients in government and private healthcare industry. We provide governments real time data analytics products where they can monitor their population in real time and send targeted messages to certain patients.”
30. Joey Dilliha, 18 — CEO/Founder Rockwood
Joey has earned his spot on the list because of his expertise within the social media influencer community, as well as his most recent project, Rockwood. Starting his career with social at a mere age of 15, this millennial has not only left his mark on the field of social, but paved the way for others.
After running his collection of large Twitter accounts for a number of years, he made a few changes to how he would use his social presence. Joey founded Rockwood (an e-commerce store) in late 2017, as a personal project where every purchase plants a tree.
"In today's marketing economy, social media is paramount, yet so many businesses do not know how to successfully utilize this tool," Joey told me. "Sometimes it just takes a young kid like myself to bring this valuable tool to the eyes of these business executives.”