Fifteen years ago, a non-English-speaking man applied to work at GT’s Living Foods. In Spanish, he told the hiring manager, “I am willing to do anything.” He got the job.
Originally, his job was to sweep and mop the floors. He moved up to housekeeping, and later was promoted to work on the bottling line.
“Every month, every quarter, every year he grew, and his attitude got better,” says GT Dave, founder and CEO of GT’s Living Foods. “He promised he would do anything, and he did. He had zero ego, zero pride, and the best attitude I’ve ever seen.”
Dave even goes so far as to say that this hire is better at his job than any other employee–even those with more education and industry experience. Unlike many people, who are specifically good at only one or two tasks, this employee has an affinity for quickly learning how to do many different things. And now he’s an executive at GT’s Living Foods. His job is to develop kombucha flavors and to run production lines. He’s also a general problem solver for the company.
In a company like GT’s Living Foods, Dave says, he needs people who are scrappy, flexible, and quick to jump on problems that need solving. “We’re very, very lean. We’re very, very agile. We’re much more artistic than we are corporate,” Dave says. “It’s a hard environment for your typical executive to exist in.”
As such, Ivy League degrees and decades of experience don’t necessarily count for much. Dave says résumés don’t matter to him: He looks for the same can-do attitude in every applicant who walks in the door. And, once he hires someone, that person has to keep proving she’s worthy of the job.
“I want to see what you can do here, and now. That’s my litmus test for talent,” says Dave.
Edgar Sia’s fortunes increased more than fivefold to $475 million since debuting on Forbes Asia’s list of the 50 richest Filipinos in 2011.
Edgar Sia II made his fortune a decade ago feeding the Philippines’ appetite for chicken. Now he stands to make an even larger one feeding China’s appetite for gambling. Sia’s company DoubleDragon Properties spent the last few years building, among other things, office towers along Manila’s once-sleepy waterfront. Sia figured he’d lease the space out to call centers and business process outsourcers, key drivers of economic growth in recent years. He estimated that he could collect about $14 a square meter.
He didn’t count on demand from across the South China Sea. DoubleDragon got its towers up and running just as warming ties between Beijing and Manila sparked a boom in arrivals by Chinese eager to open offshore casinos offering online gaming to countrymen back home where casinos are illegal. DoubleDragon’s Meridian Park complex is a 10-minute drive from Manila’s Entertainment City casino complex. Sia found himself not only among the largest commercial property owners in the area, but the only one with new property to rent.
By the end of last year, tenants were signing leases for nearly $24 a square meter. “We were positively surprised with the outcome,” DoubleDragon’s 42-year-old chairman and chief executive says, with considerable understatement. The boost from offshore China gaming is just part of a property push that’s helping turn Sia from fast-food tycoon into one of the country’s biggest commercial landlords.
Far from Manila Bay, DoubleDragon is building shopping malls, hotels and industrial warehouses in smaller cities across the Philippines. Last year, it tripled net profits to roughly 7.4 billion pesos ($141 million) as revenue more than doubled to 14.3 billion pesos. DoubleDragon’s stock has climbed more than 50% this year. The company is now looking to cash in on its office towers and community malls, package these as a REIT and raise as much as 15 billion pesos via an IPO.
“Most of the baby steps and growing pains happened in the past five years,” says Sia, whose aim is for DoubleDragon to build about 1.2 million square meters of leasable commercial space by the end of 2020. “In just about a year more, the company will already become a strong adult.”
Sia’s own entrepreneurial upbringing began early. While studying architecture in university at the age of 19, he dropped out to lead a group of classmates build a 5-story hotel for budget business travelers, borrowing 40 million pesos from parents and a government pension fund to buy the land and pay for construction. “I was talking to the landowner who didn’t take me seriously,” he recalls. “So I grew a mustache to make me look older.” Sia shaved his mustache. He still owns the hotel.
In 2003 one of the country’s largest shopping mall chains, Robinson’s, opened a new wing in Iloilo offering discounted rents for restaurants. Sia seized the opportunity to launch Mang Inasal, a fast-food chicken restaurant that means “Mr. Barbecue” in the Iloilo dialect. “It was a Filipino comfort food that had not yet been turned into a fast-food fare,” Sia says. “So we created the concept, and then rapidly grew to fill and dominate the gap.”
By 2010, he had grown his barbecue-chicken chain into the country’s second-biggest fast food group, with more than 312 branches, making it bigger than McDonald’s. He sold 70% to rival Jollibee Foods for 3 billion pesos and earned a spot as the youngest member of Forbes Asia’s 2011 list of the Philippines’ 50 richest with a fortune of $85 million when he was just 34 (Sia sold his remaining 30% of Mang Inasal in 2016.) He was No. 24 on last year’s list with a net worth of $475 million.
Edgar Sia II hopes to open 1,200 MerryMarts, a chain of grocery stores owned by his family, by 2030.
In 2013, he partnered with Jollibee founder Tony Tan Caktiong (No. 6 on the rich list) to found DoubleDragon, which went public the following year. Sia and Tan still own 35% each; Tan still sits on the board as co-chairman. Each owner’s stake is now worth about 21 billion pesos ($402 million). While its Manila Bay investment has proved unexpectedly profitable, most of DoubleDragon’s developments aren’t in Manila at all, but in small towns and cities across the country. It’s there that the company is building 60% of the commercial space it plans to build by 2020.
Sia’s wager is that rising household incomes and improving transport are about to trigger a sea change in the way consumers shop in these second- and third-tier cities. Small, family-owned supermarkets and shopping centers, he predicts, will give way to nationwide chains whose size gives them leverage over suppliers and lower costs. “Five years ago,” he says, “the top three retail chains accounted for less than 10% of the sales of manufacturers such as Unilever or Nestle. That’s gone up to a third today. In five years, it could rise to 70% to 80%.”
In preparation, Sia is building 100 shopping centers under his CityMalls brand in cities with an average population of only 160,000, each about a tenth the size of malls in bigger cities. The aim, Sia says, is to introduce big-name retail brands such as SM Savemore groceries or Watsons drugstores into these small, but increasingly affluent communities.
By the end of last year, Sia had achieved half his goal by opening 51 CityMalls. The average occupancy rate is already 96%, according to DoubleDragon, helping it more than double rental income last year from commercial and office buildings, to 2.5 billion pesos. International property consultancy Savills projects that CityMalls will account for about 40% of the community mall stock in newly urbanizing areas by next year. Sia says he’s already locked up the best locations in many emerging towns and cities: “Maybe [a competitor] can do it in one or two cities. But can you do it 100 times?”
Sia is also ramping up in the hotel sector where he got his start. DoubleDragon operates the Hotel 101 and Jinjiang Inns budget brands in the Philippines aimed at business travelers and tourists, particularly from China. As of the end of 2018, Sia had two Jinjiang Inns and one Hotel 101, contributing a combined 534 million pesos to DoubleDragon’s revenue. Two more are under construction and DoubleDragon plans to build four more this year and next. Sia is also looking for foreign partners to expand the Hotel 101 abroad.
Building community malls in small towns, Sia says, made him realize there’s also still room for another major grocery chain in the country. So in April, he launched the first branch of MerryMart, a chain of grocery stores owned directly by his family, on the ground floor of DoubleDragon’s Meridian Park complex. His aim is to open 1,200 MerryMarts by 2030. “If we properly prepare and execute,” he says, “MerryMart can still catch up with the large retail players in the Philippines.”
But the Manila Bay investment may be DoubleDragon’s biggest money-spinner. It broke ground on the Meridian Park complex in 2015 and, by the time four of its six towers were completed last year, the company had emerged as the area’s biggest owner of new office space, according to David Leechiu of Leechiu Property Consultants, which helped find tenants for the complex.
Its timing couldn’t have been better. Offshore gaming operators’ share of office space in Metro Manila rose sevenfold in 2018 from 2016, according to Leechiu Property, faster than any other industry. By the end of last year, they accounted for almost 30% of office rentals, tripling from two years earlier.
Most online casino operators favor Manila Bay because of its proximity to Entertainment City, which caters largely to Chinese visitors who become potential customers once they return home. Property values in the district jumped 81% between 2016 and 2018, according to Leechiu, outpacing the 58% rise in Makati, Manila’s financial district.
Sia leased 100,000 square meters in his first four office towers before they were even completed, 60% to online China gaming companies. For now at least, he can virtually name his price, says Leechiu. “The deal that we did [at 1,250 pesos a square meter] is for the last vacant space in the entire Bay area for the next 12 months. The tenants know that, so they grabbed it,” he says.
Not everyone is a believer. Before its recent rise, DoubleDragon’s stock spent three years in a tailspin. One nagging investor concern: Sia is building brick-and-mortar malls in an age of online shopping. Luis Limlingan, managing director at brokerage Regina Capital Market Development in Manila, says retail shops now take up just half of Philippine malls’ leasable space, down from 80% over the past 20 years. That has made DoubleDragon a no-go for some investors. “None of the large institutional local funds invest in it,” he says.
Sia says his malls are well-positioned to absorb the impact of e-commerce in the Philippines. Online buying and delivery of groceries has yet to take off in the Philippines, he says, and “CityMalls are already 75% food and services, and more than 80% of things sold in CityMall retail shops are basic non-discretionary items.” As e-commerce spreads to the smaller cities where CityMall dominates, Sia says, they’ll double as pickup points and fulfilment centers for online stores.
DoubleDragon’s rising rental income is proof enough to other investors. “DoubleDragon’s stock started to recover this year because the assets that were completed so far have started to generate good recurring income,” says Henry Ong, an independent personal financial advisor who follows the stock. And as Sia’s expansion converts into steady cash flow, it may give him a war chest for greater diversification, says Leechiu. “Once he has a scalable recurring income base, it’s so easy for him to use it as a springboard to go to other places. It’s so easy for him to go to other sectors.” Sia’s partner Tan agrees: “[He’s] the type of entrepreneur with unlimited potential. His ability to create new compelling ventures and execute with speed is unparalleled.”
It sounds like an impossible dream…an ordinary couple launches a blog that become so successful that they’re able to quit their jobs and live lives of freedom and adventure after just three short years.
Kelan and Brittany Kline are such a couple, and they think you can do just what they did: Get out of the rat race, create a successful online business, work from home, have complete control of your time, and live lives of greater freedom and adventure.
Who Are Kelan and Brittany Kline?
In most respects, Kelan and Brittany Kline fit neatly within the definition of an ordinary couple. Not quite 30, they reside in upstate New York with their daughter Kallie and their dog, Charlie.
Brittany is a teacher by trade, the fulfillment of a lifelong career dream. She holds an M.S. degree in education, and began teaching after graduation.
Kelan’s career path has been less settled. After receiving his B.B.A with a concentration in finance, he bounced between several different occupations within a few years including insurance sales, UPS driver, ecommerce, jail deputy, and most recent office manager.
How did their occupations lead them into blogging?
While Brittany was comfortable as a teacher, Kelan was not. With each job change he hoped to find a position that would bring him that elusive combination of happiness and more freedom.
None of it was leading in that direction.
To remedy the situation, he was beginning a home inspection business. That’s when he discovered blogging. It held the prospect of making money online, which is hardly an uncommon desire these days.
And apart from Kelan’s career conundrum, there were other factors in the couple’s lives providing additional motivation. With Brittany working days as a teacher, Kelan worked nights as a jail deputy. They also had more than $40,000 in student loan debts that they couldn’t seem to crack, even with Kelan working overtime shifts.
The combination of all the above – along with the missing sense of control – was what turned them to blogging. The original strategy was to start a blog focusing on personal finance. Specifically living a happy life on a frugal budget. That was something they had experience in and knew they could help others with.
They reckoned if their blog could be a good side hustle and earn them an extra $500 per month it would help them find that better future.
It did that, and more. A whole lot more!
The Road from Start-up Blog to a Six Figure Income
The Klines began their blog, The Savvy Couple, in July of 2016. That means they went from zero to $100,000-plus in barely three years! That’s what makes their story compelling, in addition to the fact that they used blogging as their path out of the rat race.
As you might imagine, the trek toward six figures started off inconspicuously. They made no money at all for the first eight months.
If you’re considering taking the plunge into blogging, this is an outcome you should fully expect. It can be shorter or longer, but going several months – or even a year or more – without earning any income is a big part of what causes so many blogs to fail, and would-be bloggers to quit.
But the Klines didn’t quit. In Month #9, they finally hit paid dirt – $50!
And that’s when Kelan did quit – his job that is. He made the decision to become a full-time blogger.
Risk Reduction and Taking the Dreaded “Leap of Faith”
Now that isn’t advice he’d give to other would-be bloggers, but he made the decision because the couple had “removed most of the risk involved with that decision”. That risk removal included the following:
They had close to a year’s worth of salary saved up.
They cut their living expenses in their budget to a minimum.
Kelan had a back-up plan to revive the home inspection idea in case the blog didn’t work.
He also took freelance work after quitting his job.
That freelance work included a remote digital marketing position that also helped him learn online marketing. He also taught English online every morning. The basic idea was to make sure there was at least some income coming in at all times.
Kelan took that step that all entrepreneurs will eventually face – the leap of faith to make the new venture a full-time occupation. By doing what was necessary to make it work, he replaced the income from his full-time job in just a few short months.
The next goal: to spring Brittany out of her job and into the blogging venture.
That meant the income from the blog would need to be enough to support the entire family. By their reckoning, they needed to hit $10,000 per month – six months in a row – before making the full transition into blogging for Brittany as well.
They hit the $10,000 income mark on the blog for the first time in June, 2018. But as is typical of blogging, that income level didn’t prove consistent.
The Savvy Couple’s Income Pattern
The graph prepared by the Klines below tracks the progress of The Savvy Couple’s income since the blog began, through this past May when it earned more than $43,000:
The Savvy Couple blogging income
The Savvy Couple
The up-and-down nature of the income is a situation nearly all successful bloggers are very familiar with. But notice on the graph the general trend line is moving consistently higher. Though the blog may not earn at least $10,000 each and every month, the higher earning months easily offset the lower ones.
And as you can see from the graph, the couple have clearly made well in excess of $100,000 from their blog in the past 12 months. That income level has enabled them to pay off their remaining student loan debt of $25,000 in just five months, as well is to grow their net worth to over $100,000 before turning 30!
What Blogging Has Done for The Klines, Apart from Money
If you’re at all curious about blogging, the income it can produce is a natural attraction. But like many other successful bloggers, the Klines have discovered the incredible satisfaction that goes beyond income.
“Being a teacher was my dream, but also God put me on this Earth to be a mother,” says Brittany. “I want to be able to teach my daughter and spend as much time as possible together with my family. We only get one life to live. I want to spend mine making unforgettable memories with my family. I did not want to look back on my life and think I gave more to my students than to my own children.”
Kelan adds: “We now have complete control over our lives. We have no one else telling us when to come to work, how long we are going to stay, and how much we are going to make. We get to decide all of that on our own. If we want to take a vacation, we just take it. We get to travel so much more than we used to.”
The couple makes an effort to finish working each day by 3 pm or 4 pm, giving them more family time. This is especially important now they have their daughter, Kallie. They wake up around 5 am to get in a few hours of uninterrupted work, then head to the gym as a family at mid-morning.
They also embrace the idea of being able to use their blog to help families take complete control over their time and money, so they too will find freedom to do more of the things they love in life.
Blogging has been so good for the Klines that they openly share their success and strategies with others.
What Does it Take to Be a Successful Blogger?
By now, you’re probably wondering if you can do what Brittany and Kelan have done by starting your own blog. They believe you can, and in fact they dedicate much of their blog to help you do just that.
We’ve already discussed how the Klines pre-positioned Kelan to transition into blogging full-time by removing risks. That included saving money for living expenses, doing freelance work to generate a steady income, and having a Plan B in case the blog failed.
If you hope to make blogging a full-time venture, you should use a similar strategy.
The Klines also warn that building a successful blog will take a lot of hard work. This is a critical realization going into the venture, since your effort can be short-circuited early if you think it will be easy. It will take months before you begin seeing your first revenue, and several years before it becomes a full-time income.
Choosing the right blogging niche is also mission-critical. There are hundreds of different blogging niches, but it’s important to choose those that will be easiest to monetize.
Kelan recommends the following niches:
How to make money
Health and fitness
Beauty and fashion
The Savvy Couple focuses on how to make money online and personal finance, but adds a solid mix of lifestyle and personal development.
They also recommend reinvesting a significant percentage of your blogging income – as much as 50% early on – back into the blog. Blogging is like any other type of business, where you will need to spend a certain amount of money to make more money.
Specific Strategies Kelan and Brittany Recommend for Would-be Bloggers
The Klines recommend doing plenty of research before launching your blog. Learn the ins and outs of popular blogging tools, like WordPress – a very common blogging dashboard, and learn all you can about social media marketing. Follow other blogs regularly, and carefully study how they create content, what social media platforms they focus on, and how they monetize their blogs.
“A good exercise we have anyone do that is considering starting a blog is have them sit down for 10 minutes and write down as many article ideas as possible,” advises Kelan. “You should be able to come up with at least 100. If you struggle to come up with that many, you might adjust your niche.”
They also recommend the most basic first step of getting started. “Don’t over analyze things,” says Kelan. “Take massive action and make things happen in your life.”
Kelan also recommends surrounding yourself with other bloggers. Follow other successful bloggers on a regular basis. Comment on their websites, swap emails, and join blogger networking groups, especially on Facebook.
Other resources they offer include their step-by-step tutorial on how to start a successful money-making blog and their free Profitable Blog Bootcamp and Workbook.
The bootcamp and workbook will show you how to:
Create a successful mindset
Design an ideal avatar
Develop a workable monetization strategy
Create purposeful content
Drive traffic to your blog
Implement email marketing
Create systems to save time and scale
The Klines are so dedicated to helping others follow their path into income earning blogging that they make all these resources available to their readers for free.
What Not to Do If You Want to Become a Successful Blogger
Kelan warns that you should not think of blogging as a get rich quick scheme. “It’s the most challenging job I’ve ever had in my life,” he warns. “And I used to babysit 53 violent inmates by myself when I was a jail deputy.”
He stresses being ready for a learning curve. If you’ve never had a blog in the past, especially one that generates income, you’ll be learning the business from the ground up. You’ll need to be open and teachable.
The time factor is another hurdle many new bloggers may not be ready for. Kelan stresses it will take a good 6 to 12 months before you even begin to make money, and get a grasp of how to run a successful money-making blog.
Most of all, he stresses the need to treat your blog as a business, not a hobby. That means having a good work ethic, and working on your blog on a daily basis.
Can Anyone Really Create a Money-Making Blog?
If “anyone” includes those who are willing to put in the time and effort to learn the business of blogging, then the answer is a resounding yes! But don’t think it will happen without those important first ingredients of time and effort.
The Klines had very ordinary jobs before going into blogging, and had to learn the whole process from scratch. But now that they’ve been working at for three years, they’ve hit pay dirt with a six-figure income.
They, and many other bloggers, are willing to share their blogging secrets with others. It’s a matter of being ready to commit to a journey that will be difficult at first, but will lead to a life of higher income, more freedom, and options most only dream of.
Each year for the past five, Forbes has searched the country for the 25 fast-growing, venture-backed startups most likely to reach $1 billion in value. Graduates include: food delivery service DoorDash, home seller Opendoor, luggage brand Away and synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks.
This year, with the help of TrueBridge Capital Partners, we scoured the country again for budding unicorns. TrueBridge analyzed the finances of more than 150 startups, then our reporters dug deeper. That research caught problems at San Francisco-based Cleo, a parenting app with a troubled workplace and a CEO who lied about her age and background. The company was removed from consideration after our investigation, and its CEO resigned in mid-June. (The full story is here.)
FOUNDERS: Michael Gronager (CEO), Jonathan Levin, Jan Moller
EQUITY RAISED: $53 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $8 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Accel, Benchmark
New York-based Chainalysis makes cryptocurrency investigation software that can shine light on how people use bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and more. Financial institutions use the technology to screen customers and comply with regulations designed to prevent money laundering, while government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation can identify illicit transactions and investigate alleged criminals. Before teaming up to found Chainalysis, CEO Michael Gronager, 49, cofounded cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, while CTO Jan Moller, 47, built the Mycelium cryptocurrency wallet.
FOUNDERS: Arshan Dabirsiaghi, Jeff Williams; CEO: Alan Naumann
EQUITY RAISED: $122 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $25 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Acero Capital, Battery Ventures, General Catalyst, Warburg Pincus
In 2010, software security analyst Jeff Williams, 52, started dedicating resources at his consultancy, Aspect, to developing a program that would automate software security analysis. In 2014, he and former Aspect analyst Arshan Dabirsiaghi, 36, founded Los Altos, California-based Contrast Security to monitor the code within running apps and directly notify developers of potential vulnerabilities. “The work that previously had to go through security experts now goes directly to developers,” says Dabirsiaghi, now the company’s chief scientist. In 2016, the company brought in an outside chief executive, Alan Naumann, formerly CEO of online fraud detection startup 41st Parameter, to expand the business.
FOUNDERS: Lior Div (CEO), Yossi Naar, Yonatan Striem-Amit
EQUITY RAISED: $189 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $50 million
LEAD INVESTORS: CRV, Lockheed Martin, Softbank, Spark Capital
Cofounders Lior Div, Yossi Naar, and Yonatan Striem-Amit met during their service in the Israel Defense Forces’ elite intelligence unit, Unit 8200, fertile ground for many high-tech startups. While working on cybersecurity in the military, they came up with the idea for Cybereason, a cloud-based cybersecurity platform specializing in continuous monitoring and response to advanced cybersecurity threats. The company launched in 2012, and relocated from Israel to Boston the next year. “You provide value by helping a big organization not to be in the news as someone that gets hacked,” says Div, 41.
FOUNDERS: Paras Chitrakar, Jason Wilk (CEO), John Wolanin
EQUITY RAISED: $13 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $19 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Mark Cuban, Section 32
As a college student at Loyola Marymount University, Jason Wilk, now 34, blew through his budget, collecting overdraft fees. Wilk, an avid “Redditor,” saw that overdraft fees are a common complaint among users. So in 2016, he founded Dave, short for David, who beat Goliath, which Wilk sees as the big banks. The app tracks expenses and warns when a user’s account is in danger of being overdrawn. It hit a nerve: Dave was Apple’s “app of the day” in April 2017, and has been downloaded nearly 10 million times in two years. “Entrepreneurs can keep their ear to the ground for the next idea,” Wilk says. “Any idea that can be Reddit tested is a good place to start.”
FOUNDERS: Blake Murray (CEO), Alex Bean
EQUITY RAISED: $257 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $8 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Insight Partners, New Enterprise Associates, Pelion Venture Partners
Expense tracking service Divvy is taking on Concur and Expensify by offering its budgeting, fraud detection, and spend management tools for free. Instead of charging per user, Lehi, Utah-based Divvy gives businesses custom Mastercards and takes a cut of merchants’ fees to the bank when people make purchases. Founders (and high school buddies) Alex Bean and Blake Murray, both 35, have won over more than 3,000 corporate customers so far, including WordPress, Evernote and Qualtrics.
FOUNDERS: Luis von Ahn (CEO), Severin Hacker
EQUITY RAISED: $108 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $36 million
LEAD INVESTORS: CapitalG, Kleiner Perkins, Union Square Ventures
The world’s most popular digital language-learning tool, seven-year-old Duolingo has 28 million monthly active users. Most use the free version of its gamified courses. Revenue, largely from subscription fees from ad-free Duolingo Plus, is expected to double this year. CEO Luis von Ahn, 39, is a 2006 winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant and a former Carnegie Mellon computer science professor. Before founding Pittsburgh-based Duolingo, he sold two inventions to Google, including reCAPTCHA, the software that spits out the squiggly lines you type to alert a website that you are not a bot. An immigrant from Guatemala City who says learning English transformed his life, he’s driven to offer free language education to the masses. For our feature on Duolingo, click here.
FOUNDERS: Marcelo Cortes, Daniele Perito, Max Rhodes (CEO)
EQUITY RAISED: $116 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $100 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Forerunner Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Y Combinator
In a bid to help mom-and-pop stores survive in the age of Amazon, Faire wants to take the risk and hassle out of wholesale purchasing. The San Francisco-based company helps retailers discover and buy new products online, and will accept free returns from them within 60 days for items that don’t sell. Today, it offers 5,000 brands to 35,000 stores. CEO Max Rhodes, a 32-year-old former Square employee, came up with the idea after he started working with a New Zealand-based umbrella brand and spent thousands of dollars to sit at a tradeshow booth to convince U.S. store owners to stock the high-end umbrellas.
FOUNDERS: Dylan Field (CEO), Evan Wallace
EQUITY RAISED: $83 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $3 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Greylock, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia
Figma wants to move design online, casting aside the old model of software downloads and siloed creation in favor of a browser-based tool where designers can work and collaborate together. Founders Evan Wallace, 29, and Dylan Field, 27, met at Brown University—Wallace graduated, Field dropped out with a Thiel Fellowship—and launched the San Francisco-based company in 2012. Five years later, Figma started charging professionals to use its product. (Individuals are still free.) Today, professionals pay $12 per editor per month and businesses $45 per editor month to use Figma. More than 5,000 teams, at companies like Microsoft, Volvo, Uber and Square, are users. “Design is like this viral infectant because once your competitor is well-designed, you have to be well-designed, otherwise you’ll be disrupted,” says Field.
FOUNDERS: Arun Chandrasekaran, Matt Elenjickal (CEO)
EQUITY RAISED: $101 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $16 million
LEAD INVESTORS: August Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, Hyde Park Venture Partners
Matt Elenjickal, 37, a logistics geek with an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, founded FourKites in 2014 to help companies know where their deliveries are, when they’ll arrive and what’s going on along the way. Its predictive supply-chain management software is now used by more than 260 of the world’s top shippers — and upwards of 500,000 loads per day — including Best Buy, Kraft Heinz, Nestlé and Smithfield Foods. “If you are a shipper, once the truck leaves your facility you have no idea what is happening,” Elenjickal says. “That is how supply chains are run even now without a solution like FourKites. You cannot compete against Amazon.”
FOUNDERS: Mathilde Collin (CEO), Laurent Perrin
EQUITY RAISED: $79 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $16 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Sequoia, Uncork Capital
Mathilde Collin, an alumna of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, got the idea for Front while at her first job after graduate school. “I saw how much time was wasted with people sorting through their emails,” she says. So in 2013, she launched the San Francisco-based startup to help companies become more productive with a shared email inbox that incorporates Facebook, Twitter and SMS, and encourages team collaboration. Today, Front has 5,000 customers including Shopify, MailChimp and Stripe.
FOUNDERS: Sung Ho Choi, David Gandler (CEO), Alberto Horihuela
EQUITY RAISED: $145 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $74 million
LEAD INVESTORS: 21st Century Fox, Northzone, Sky
David Gandler, 44, a longtime network sales exec, launched FuboTV in 2015 to tap into pent-up demand in the United States for overseas soccer leagues. FuboTV offered live streams of soccer channels such as GolTV and Benfica TV to start, then expanded programming through deals with beIN Sports and Univision. Today, New York-based FuboTV is generally a cheaper alternative to cable (starting at $54.99 a month) that offers more than 90 channels.
FOUNDERS: Chris Clark, Stuart Landesberg (CEO), Jordan Savage
EQUITY RAISED: $213 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $104 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Bullpen Capital, General Atlantic, Lone Pine Ventures, Mayfield Fund, Norwest Venture Partners, Serious Change
Ask Grove Collaborative CEO Stuart Landesberg, 34, who his typical customer is, and he’ll give you a specific answer: “A 29-year-old mother of two working as a substitute teacher in Lawrence, Kansas.” Even in the age of Amazon, Grove has carved out a $104 million niche in e-commerce by selling natural products, from laundry detergent to sponges, in easy-to-order shipments. Around 60% of its revenue comes from products not sold on Amazon, says Landesberg. But he wants to do more than sell Seventh Generation or Method soaps online. In 2016, Grove started to manufacture its own all-natural products that now make up nearly 50% of its sales. The key? Designing products that are easier to ship. Its glass cleaner, for example, is highly-concentrated and smaller than a tube of toothpaste.
FOUNDERS: Augusto Marietti (CEO), Marco Palladino
EQUITY RAISED: $71 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $5 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Andreessen Horowitz, CRV, Index Ventures, New Enterprise Associates
Kong acts as a gatekeeper to companies’ APIs (code developers use to build apps) and monitors how often they’re used. Augusto Marietti, 31, and Marco Palladino, 30, launched the company out of a garage in Milan, where they both attended university, and were constantly flying back and forth to Silicon Valley to fundraise. “At this stage, we barely had enough money to eat,” Marietti says. “We definitely lost a few pounds when we were first starting up.” Now based in San Francisco, Kong has successfully penetrated the enterprise market with 130 customers that include SoulCycle, Yahoo Japan and WeWork.
FOUNDERS: Jack Altman (CEO), Eric Koslow
EQUITY RAISED: $27 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $7 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Shasta Ventures, Thrive Capital
Lattice founders Jack Altman, 30, and Eric Koslow, 28, learned first-hand the impact of work culture while working at startup Teespring, which sells custom t-shirts. In 2015, they decided to do something about it, starting Lattice. The San Francisco-based company’s human resources software uses surveys to shift the focus of performance management from employee evaluation to career development. Today, Lattice works with 1,300 customers, including Coinbase, Instacart, Slack and WeWork. “Employees are looking for more meaning from work than ever before, and have more visibility into and access to other jobs than ever before,” Altman says. Lattice helps their employers step up.
FOUNDERS: Elton Chung, Lidia Yan (CEO)
EQUITY RAISED: $125 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $46 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Brookfield Ventures, China Energy Group, Sequoia
Cofounded by husband and wife team Elton Chung and Lidia Yan in 2015, Los Angeles-based Next Trucking is moving freight brokerage online. While other startups like Convoy and Uber Freight move cargo from point A to point B, Next Trucking focuses on drayage, or the “first-mile” of transferring goods from port to warehouse. “Drayage is a lot more complicated because it involves terminals and ports,” says Yan, 38. As a result, Next Trucking has doubled revenue every year since 2016, reaching $46 million in 2018. Yan forecasts revenue will hit $120 million this year, helped by large contracts with retailers Dollar General, Rite Aid and Steve Madden. For our feature on Next Trucking, click here.
FOUNDERS: Jack Conte (CEO), Sam Yam
EQUITY RAISED: $166 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $35 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Freestyle Capital, Glade Brook Capital Partners, Index Ventures, Thrive Capital
Musician turned entrepreneur, Jack Conte, 35, wants to break the “starving artist” archetype by helping creators earn a regular income. “Deciding to be an artist shouldn’t have to be a difficult conversation,” says Conte. “It should feel like a viable career choice.” Using Patreon, artists offer exclusive experiences in return for contributions from their subscribers or “patrons.” HBO’s Issa Rae, Humans of New York founder Brandon Stanton and comedian Heather McDonald are some of the creators currently using Patreon and by 2019, the company expects to pay out more than $1 billion to its users.
FOUNDERS: Denis Mars (CEO), Simon Ratner
EQUITY RAISED: $14 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $1 million
LEAD INVESTOR: Kleiner Perkins
The Proxy app is like having a set of keys on your smartphone: Your profile’s signal gives you access to any building where you’re registered, eliminating the need for traditional ID cards and keys. It’s a straightforward idea, but Australian-expat founders Denis Mars, 42, and Simon Ratner, 39, are confident that they’ve just scratched the surface of its potential. So far, San Francisco-based Proxy has proven popular with commercial real estate clients like WeWork. Mars and Ratner now hope to expand their technology (which includes the app, management platform and signal-reading hardware) to identity verification for ride-sharing and event check-in.
FOUNDERS: Ofer Bengal (CEO), Yiftach Shoolman
EQUITY RAISED: $147 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $50 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Bain Capital Ventures, Francisco Partners, Goldman Sachs, Viola Ventures
Israeli tech veterans Ofer Bengal and Yiftach Shoolman set up a fast-database service, in 2011, to help businesses looking to speed up responses on their apps. Redis Labs relies on what’s known as NoSQL, an alternative form of compiling data that is faster than traditional models. That lightening-fast processing speed has helped it sign on FedEx, Mastercard and other corporate behemoths. To scale up quickly, the Mountain View, California-based company offered a free, open-source version to hook developers. In 2013, it rolled out a paid version with costs starting at $5 per month per gigabyte. “You can’t do without open source if you want rapid adoption,” says Bengal.
FOUNDERS: Shivaas Gulati, Josh Hug, Matt Oppenheimer (CEO)
EQUITY RAISED: $312 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $80 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Bezos Expeditions, DFJ Venture Capital (now Threshold Ventures), Generation Investment Management, Naspers’ PayU, QED Investors, Stripes Group
Remitly is taking on Western Union with lower fees — estimated 1.5% on average vs. the money-transfer giant’s 5%. Matt Oppenheimer, who had worked for Barclays in Kenya, and his cofounders launched the business in 2011 to help people in developed nations like the U.S. and Australia send money cheaply to relatives in developing countries like Mexico and the Philippines. Today, Remitly serves 60 countries and processes $6 billion a year in money transfers, about 1% of the nearly $700 billion remittance market. Already one of the largest fintech firms targeting immigrants, the Seattle startup’s long-term goal is to branch out into other financial services, potentially including credit cards, personal loans and auto loans.
FOUNDERS: Xuan Yong (CEO), Mike Witte
EQUITY RAISED: $94 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $21 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Bedrock Capital, Founders Fund, Quantum Energy Partners
There are nearly 1,000 rigs drilling for oil and gas in the U.S. Each well requires the input of dozens of service companies and workers — everything from high-horsepower compressors for fracking, to miles of steel pipe, and millions of gallons of water and truckloads of sand. Cofounder Xuan Yong, formerly of Citadel and D.E. Shaw, believes RigUp can improve on the good ol’ boy network by more efficiently connecting the “hyperfragmented” market of roughnecks, engineers and business owners with the big oil companies that call the shots. RigUp pre-vets workers and vendors, and creams an estimated 4% off every contract made via its online platform. Yong isn’t worried about machines invading the oilpatch. “Even with A.I. there will be demand growth for labor,” he says. “Field tickets are still signed on paper and stamped.” For now.
FOUNDERS: Stephen Hawthornthwaite, Roth Martin (interim CEO)
EQUITY RAISED: $42 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $140 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Goldman Sachs, Lightspeed Venture Partners
Founders Roth Martin, a former art gallery owner, and Stephen Hawthornthwaite (aka “Hawthy”), a former investment banker, launched the footwear brand after listening to their wives complain about the lack of stylish, comfortable shoes. Rothy’s 3D-knitted round-toe and point-toe flats, made from recycled plastic water bottles, have gained cult status. In just three years, it expanded rapidly with direct-to-consumer sales online, reaching revenue of $140 million last year. For our feature on Rothy’s, click here.
FOUNDERS: Phillip Liu, Karthik Rau (CEO)
EQUITY RAISED: $179 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $25 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Andreessen Horowitz, CRV, General Catalyst, Tiger Global Management
SignalFx monitors cloud infrastructure in real time for companies like Yelp, Shutterfly and HubSpot. In 2013, Karthik Rau, 41, who previously worked at tech startups LoudCloud and VMware, founded the company with ex-Facebook software architect Phillip Liu, 51. While competitors collect and query data in batches every two to three minutes, SignalFx evaluates and alerts users to anomalies in two to five seconds. “The difference between getting reliable alerts within seconds and getting them in minutes is the difference of seamlessly dealing with an issue,” says Rau. “Or having all of your users on Twitter complaining.”
FOUNDERS: Paul Dabrowski (CEO), Michael Dabrowski
EQUITY RAISED: $157 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $20 million
LEAD INVESTORS: Founders Fund, 8VC
Gene-editing tool Crispr has unleashed a gold rush for new products made possible by cheaply and easily editing DNA. Synthego is cashing in by selling the genomic equivalent of pickaxes, shovels, maps and other tools. Its ready-made and custom kits allow researchers in academia and the private sector to rapidly develop gene-edited products, including new medical treatments. Its founders, brothers Paul and Michael Dabrowski, 34 and 38, previously worked at SpaceX as engineers and drew on that experience to bring a new way of thinking to biotech.
FOUNDERS: Umar Afridi (CEO), Sid Viswanathan
EQUITY RAISED: $13 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $48 million
LEAD INVESTOR: Initialized Capital
If you buy birth control from Nurx or hair-loss products from Hims, behind-the-scenes pharmacy Truepill will actually fill and deliver your prescription. The three-year-old startup’s founders Umar Afridi, 37, a former retail pharmacist, and Sid Viswanathan, 35, who previously worked at Johnson & Johnson and LinkedIn, see a growing market in bringing technology and efficiency to pharmacy. Although Truepill started with direct-to-consumer brands, it’s now making a bigger play to bring on corporate customers with pricey, specialty medications.
FOUNDERS: Benjamin Bercovitz, Filip Kaliszan (CEO), James Ren, Hans Robertson
EQUITY RAISED: $59 million
ESTIMATED 2018 REVENUE: $20 million
LEAD INVESTORS: First Round, Meritech, Next47, Sequoia
While many startups have tackled the “smart home” with varying degrees of success, Verkada has exploded in shy of two years on the market by offering big businesses, municipalities and schools a cloud-based system that combines hardware and software to detect movement and easily store and share surveillance streams. In 2019, the company founded by three Stanford graduates and the former cofounder of Meraki (a cloud startup since acquired by Cisco) signed on the city of Memphis — a nearly 1,000-camera contract — Juul Labs and Newtown Public School District, the district of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy.
Additional reporting by Susan Adams, Elisabeth Brier, Dawn Chmielewski, Lauren Debter, Michael del Castillo, Jillian D’Onfro, Christopher Helman, Jeff Kauflin, Alex Knapp, Alex Konrad, Christian Kreznar and Monica Melton
Cover Photographs by Tim Pannell for Forbes | Illustrations by David Wilson
I am scared way more often than I am brave. I am uncomfortable much more frequently than I am comfortable. I am unsure about so much more than I am certain of. I have dropped many more balls than I have ever caught, and I have failed at more initiatives than I have succeeded. And it is because of this, not in spite of it, that I thrive. We know that successful people, like everyone else, make mistakes, feel pain, quit, cry, lose and have all the same insecurities and self doubts that all human beings experience. We know success is not synonymous with perfection………………
A secret about success is that it is just as much about what you give up as what you gain.Are you willing to give up late nights out for late nights in working? Are you willing to turn a deaf ear to blind criticisms? Are you willing to listen to helpful ones? Are you going to be able to give up the doubt, the resistance, the uncertainty, the avoidance mechanisms? As Mastin Kipp says: Are you willing to live as other people won’t, so maybe you can live as other people can’t…………….
With Europe’s tech scene on the rise, a select group of venture capital investors are proving that you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley to build a golden startup portfolio. The 25 investors of the second-ever Midas Europe List have produced returns that stand up worldwide. They’ve backed public-company success stories like payments company Adyen and music streaming site Spotify. They’re based everywhere from London to Switzerland and Israel, from large firms and smaller new ones. The one things they have in common: track records of success in backing the next big thing in Europe – and doing it again and again……..
Here’s a question I hear a lot from young women: “How do I leave my job that comes with benefits and direct deposit paychecks and become an entrepreneur?” There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. So I share stories of what I did and what other women are doing to give them perspective, context and color to help them find their answers. A month ago Shinjini Das (24 years old) and I were talking about what she was doing. She was a digital strategist at Iron Horse Interactive in the San Francisco Bay Area………
Shaping your life is a process that follows many principles, but ultimately, it is about taking the time to discover what you believe at your core and what you really want to achieve in life, then designing a plan to help you reach all your dreams. Life design strategy enables you to recognize your weaknesses and build from your strengths to form a foundation for a well-designed life that is purposefully crafted. When you start down this journey of shaping your life into the form of your greatest contentment, you’ll enjoy personal fulfillment and joy along with immeasurable accomplishments…….
Call it the tale of two stereotypes. In one, Millennials are job-hopping crypto-crazed maniacs who would rather buy bitcoin than bonds. In the other, they’re a generation so scarred by the Great Recession that they cling to any chance for job security and keep their money (what little they have left after student loan payments) in cash. Of course, with so many Millennials around (they’ll displace the Baby Boomers next year as America’s largest living adult generation), you can find examples to fit any stereotype……