After meeting as interns at J.P. Morgan, co-founders Charlie Tribbett and Larry Baker, both 28, saw a way to help entrepreneurs engage local investors without breaching SEC laws. They launched Chicago-based Bolstr, a community funding marketplace that makes sure small businesses remain in compliance and lowers the legal costs businesses incur. Among Bolstr’s investors are John Rogers of Ariel Investments L.L.C. (No. 7 on the be asset managers list with $4.4 billion in assets under management).
Founded by Andrea Adams and Teri Johnson, TravelGirls Unlimited L.L.C. is a boutique production company and award-winning travel and lifestyle brand specializing in global travel content. The 30-something jet-setters provide useful travel tips in their original Web series on Travelista TV and other sites such as AOL Huffington Post and BET.com. Their HD video content has garnered more than 9 million views, and their social footprint boasts close to 3,000 Facebook likes and more than 3,000 Twitter followers. This year Travelista TV will unveil an e-commerce component and perfect its mobile presence.—Janel Martinez
Since 2007, Atlanta-based Konsole Kingz has been one of the few minority-owned companies that have a contract to create and sell virtual goods on the Xbox platform. Partners C.J. Peters (pictured) and Marcus Matthews have sold more than 1.3 million unique gamer pics, themes, and avatar accessories. The two partners recently worked with Kandi Burruss of Real Housewives to produce her mobile app, Kandi-Koated Spades.
Model turned serial entrepreneur turned early stage venture capitalist and angel investor Lauren Maillian Bias, 28, is a co-founder of Gen Y Capital Partners in New York City. After successfully exiting SugarLeaf Vineyards in Charlottesville, Virginia, she founded Luxury Market Branding, a strategic brand building consultancy firm for high-end consumer products. Her advice to aspiring tech investors:
Invest in the team. “I look for people who are able to evolve and adapt. Companies pivot all the time. You have to feel like you’re investing in a team that moves as fast as the market.”
Don’t lead, follow. “Make a small investment in the early stages and follow up selectively in companies that show significant traction and are breaking away.”
The Data Hound
In a world where big data technologies are becoming part of our everyday lives, Jon Gosier, along with business partner Matthew Griffiths, co-founded metaLayer in 2011 to help non-technical users perform data-driven research such as trend spotting in big data sets, predictive analytics, and visualization, using drag-and-drop data science technology. “One of the biggest pitfalls of other companies in this space is they are all targeting super-sophisticated individuals who are highly educated and highly trained, but that doesn’t help smaller companies that have non-technical staff. So we decided to build metaLayer in a way that helps people who don’t know anything about big data but who know how to drag and drop things on a screen.” The Philadelphia-based data analysis startup, which Gosier, 31, says is totally bootstrapped, aims its services at government, media, and nonprofit organizations and has grossed annual revenues of $500,000. –LaToya M. Smith
After a year of trying unsuccessfully to teach themselves how to code using online tutorials and e-books, Neal Sales-Griffin, 25, and Michael McGee, 24, founded the Starter League (formerly Code Academy) in 2011. The 12-week program teaches aspiring programmers and Web designers how to turn their ideas into working Web applications and interactive prototypes. More than 500 students from 25 states and 15 countries have graduated from the program. This summer, Starter League will participate in an innovative teach-the-teacher partnership with the city of Chicago. It will teach Web development classes to teachers from select Chicago public schools. —LaToya M. Smith
Don’t call it a comeback, call it a startup. Boomdizzle Networks, co-founded by Grammy Award-winning entertainer LL Cool J, is a virtual recording studio that allows two musicians in different locations to collaborate in real time without experiencing latency issues. Sony found the software to be so cutting-edge that the company partnered with Boomdizzle to include the software in Sony VAIO E 14P series laptops. In 2012, the Sony/Boomdizzle Future Sounds bundle sold for $900 in 30 Sony Direct stores as well as Walmart.com, Fry’s, and a number of additional retail outlets. “Boomdizzle makes it easy for the next generation of great artists to come together, regardless of geography, and create the next big project,” says LL Cool J. He used the software to create a few tracks on his newest album, Authentic, which will be released this spring.
The History Maker
Serial entrepreneur Clarence Wooten is founder and CEO of Arrived Inc., a consumer mobile startup. He has launched and operated five tech startups since founding his first, an architectural rendering and animation service company, Envision Designs, while in college. He also co-founded ImageCafé in 1998 (acquired for $23 million by Network Solutions/VeriSign). Wooten founded Groupsite (formerly CollectiveX) in 2006 and will launch his newest venture, Progress.ly, this spring. Groupsite will be introducing a companion product this spring as well, called Roundtable. —LaToya M. Smith
Making life easier for women on the go, Tracey Solomon and co-founder Katrina Carroll-Foster created Hoseanna, a site where busy women can sign up for monthly or quarterly deliveries of must-have pantyhose, trouser socks, leggings, and shape wear. Delivering brands such as Berkshire, Hue, and Hanes to your doorstep, the nearly 2-year-old company has more than 1,000 customers.
“We recognize that pantyhose can be a nuisance for women to buy, so we’ve brought together top-selling brands under one house to make it easy for women to get the hosiery they need,” says New York City-based Solomon.—Janel Martinez