You can argue over whether Romney or Obama have created jobs, but there's no question that the people honored in a ceremony at the White House this afternoon have. Empact and the Startup America Partnership today honored the young founders of 100 U.S. businesses that collectively employ more than 5,500 people.
Empact, which is run by a team of young entrepreneurs with impressive credentials of their own, has a mission to "facilitate a culture of entrepreneurship in communities across the world through exposure, celebration, and early stage startup support." It runs an annual collegiate tour, promotes the "entrepreneurial mindset" at conferences nationwide, and is wrapping up a four-day entrepreneurship meeting in Washington, DC, tomorrow.
Leading established entrepreneurs, including the founders of RedBox, Chuck E. Cheese, and Priceline, chose the 100 companies honored at the White House today from a "showcase list" of 352 leading private companies started by young entrepreneurs. The top 100 were selected based on criteria including number of employees, social impact, growth over past year, and innovativeness. Each also has revenues of at least $100,000. An Empact100 media release states that the founders—none older than 30—"are a testament to the impact young entrepreneurs make on the economy and an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs." That's no exaggeration.
The Empact100 list includes eight companies that have been in business a decade or more—meaning the founders were teenagers when they launched. One still is. Some of their businesses employ hundreds of people and generate millions and millions of dollars.
Take Yodle, a local online marketing and advertising agency in New York founded in 2005 by Ben Rubenstein, 29, and John Berkowitz, 29. Today the company employs 775 people. It generated $88 million in revenue last year and was ranked #26 on Forbes' list of America's most promising companies.
Another Empact100 firm, College Hunks Hauling Junk, was founded in 2005 by Omar Soliman while a senior at the University of Miami. Now a national franchise listed among INC's 500 fastest growing companies in the nation, it employs 500 people and generates $8 million in annual revenue. Soliman has gone on to become a frequent guest on FOX Business News, MSNBC, and ABC's Shark Tank and is author of a bestseller book, Effortless Entrepreneur.
Ryan Allis, now 28, founded a social media and email marketing company, iContact, nine years ago, built it to 200 employees, and sold it last year to Vocus for $169 million.
The iOS device repair company iCracked, Inc., doesn't disclose its revenues but has more than 300 locations in 8 countries and claims to be "growing like crazy." Founders AJ Forsythe, 24, and Anthony Martin, 28, founded the company two years ago in Redwood City, Calif., and now employ 295 people worldwide.
Catherine Cook was a sophomore in high school when she founded the social networking business that became MeetMe. In 2011, she graduated from Georgetown and her company generated over $11 million in revenue.
For 95 more inspiring startup stories, check out the Empact100 list.