We were delighted and proud to see four key figures from our portfolio companies celebrated as part of this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Each year Forbes selects an all-star panel of young adults who are on their way to having huge impact in key areas of business and life from among thousands of entrants.
Our investment approach centers strongly on finding the best talent at the earliest stage. So, it was particularly satisfying for us to receive this outside validation that others see the same unique gifts in these individuals we did.
Our Forbes 30 Under 30 recipients this year were:
JOHN MEYER, FRESCO NEWS. Still only 21, John founded this company--which allows anyone with a smart phone to become a photo/video journalist on paid assignment for major media and brands—at 19. A Thiel Fellow, John has had a clear-eyed view from day one about how to transform journalism for the modern era as a powerful business, not just as a good works project. As of now, John is in more than 70 major markets, and has Fox as his biggest customer already. We joined his very first raise and have been proud to continue supporting John through his soon-to-close Series A round.
JARED FELDMAN, CANVS. At first we made a mistake on Canvs. Thank God we righted it quickly! When we first met Jared, now 28, we felt that he was so young and his aims so audacious, that it was hard to imagine he could pull it off. Jared merely wanted to open the world of media up to a level of deep emotional insights never before available—real time. His platform could tell if a particular ad or character or line of dialogue provoked rage, indifference, or love. So, we passed on Jared’s first fund raise. Then, he nailed down all the essential data sources for his platform, landed Viacom and then everybody else in media as customers, and began laying pipe toward success at a stunning rate. We quickly begged our way in as investors and have been delighted we did. Heaven knows what he’s going to accomplish by 30.
SAMANTHA RADOCCHIA, CHRONICLED. We have been on the hunt for companies using the blockchain to secure ownership and rights outside of crypto currencies. Chronicled—founded by Sam (who runs product) along with Ryan Orr and Dave Aho—was one of the first and most novel we have seen. Chronicled secures physical goods to blockchain so that their provenance is, literally, woven into the product. Their first market is the not widely known but hugely active world of designer shoe collecting and trading. The shoes are collected and valued like art. Chronicled makes knock-offs and phony histories essentially impossible, and replaces a clunky, inefficient traditional process. Next target: fine art.
LELE PONS, SHOTS MOBILE. Lele isn’t an entrepreneur. Rather, she is a symbol both of the new world of media and of how strong entrepreneurs maneuver their companies for success by staying focused on the market. A short time back, Lele was the Queen of Viners. Her quick vids had generated billions of views and drawn an audience of millions to this vivacious Venezuealan-American then-teen (she’s now 20) . Separately, Social Starts invested in Shots Mobile, a safe selfie platform backed by Justin Bieber, among others, with exclusive access to Bieber’s enormous young following. Vine wore down. And Shots CEO John Shahidi, an experienced and successful games entrepreneur, found that he could build huge audience through the Bieber approach, but perhaps not a sustainable business. Voila! Today, Shots has pivoted toward producing bright, funny topical digital content for its young millennial audience and LeLe is their biggest star. In fact, her career is now being overseen by Shots, another sign of how the relationship between media, talent and audience is changing today.
We adore the vigor, truth-telling and courage of the rising young adult generation. We feel privileged to get to know them and work with them. And we can’t wait to find out who we’ll meet soon who will make Forbes's list next year.