2012 is going to be a huge year in tech.
We already had a number of big surprises in 2011 and there’s an enormous amount of talent in Silicon Valley poised to break out next year.
We’ve assembled a list of more than 20 entrepreneurs that are carrying a ton of momentum into the new year. These entrepreneurs have either just launched something new that looks like it will see huge growth in the next year or are ready to launch something big in 2012.
Company: Solve Media
Ari Jacoby is CEO of Solve Media, which turns CAPTCHAs into advertisements. The company was serving 625,000 CAPTCHA interviews per day back in July.
It's a brand new form of advertising, which has increased brand awareness by 111%, according to the company. Any time you have a company finding a brand new way of advertising, there's a huge opportunity.
Box.net is an online file storage provider that's raised more than $100 million since it started in 2005. Earlier this year, 25-year-old CEO Aaron Levie turned down a buyout offer worth more than $500 million.
Levie and his investors want to take the company as far as possible, which means it's a good candidate for going public. Maybe even as early as next year -- it already has a valuation of $625 million.
Either way, it's an enterprise company, but it's one to watch.
You could argue that Gina Bianchini already hit it big time when she started Ning. We'll see if lightning will strike twice heading into next year, now that she's launched experience-sharing site MightyBell.
MightyBell is a site and iPhone application that's supposed to walk you through a new experience -- such as going rock climbing in Alaska. It gives you a blow-by-blow list of things to do, like how to prepare for the trip and where to set up camp, in manageable chunks. Each experience is created by MightyBell's users.
Bianchini knows a little bit about social, so you can bet she has something with her new app.
Justin.tv founder and president Justin Kan made a decision earlier this year to build a new site exclusively for live-streaming video game matches called TwitchTV. It launched at E3 in June, and since then it has more than 8 million unique monthly visitors and is growing around 10 to 15 per cent each month.
It was a gamble but proved to be ridiculously successful, and most of Justin.tv's resources are now directed toward TwitchTV. It's poised for insane growth with a new partner program and a freshly-launched mobile app.
Simple, formerly BankSimple, is one of the hottest and most talked about startups right now -- and it hasn't even launched. It raised $10 million in August and has raised around $13 million to date.
Simple merges all of your checking and credit card accounts into a single account that doesn't have any fees. It splits the net interest on that unified checking account between all of the banks involved.
Turntable.fm is one of the hottest music apps on the market right now. It's raised $7 million at a $37.5 million valuation and has more than 300,000 users. Turntable.fm also launched a mobile app for the iPhone just a short while ago.
Turntable.fm had its pick of venture capitalists for its most recent funding round. There's so much buzz around Turntable.fm and investors are drooling all over the music-sharing startup. It will have to work out licensing deals with the major labels and publishers, though.
Company: General Assembly
General Assembly started as a group-working space based out of New York, where you'll be hard pressed to find a space as sexy as the one Brad Hargreaves and his team have set up.
Now General Assembly is launching a series of classes and accreditation programs designed to teach founders what they will need to know to run their startups that they can't learn in college. That includes ones in physical classrooms and virtual classes as online videos.
General Assembly is now essentially a school for entrepreneurs -- and its founders are ones you need to watch.
Company: Khan Academy
Khan Academy started as a huge repository of videos online that explain everything -- from complex financial topics to how gravity works and how to learn coding languages like Python.
Now Salman Khan is launching pilot programs at schools where students will learn at their own pace with online videos and in-person troubleshooting with teachers.
Khan just finished raising $5 million for his online education site -- and he's using it to hire new faculty and build a physical school based on the Khan Academy model.
It's a far cry from your typical school.
Company: The Verge
The Verge is already a hugely popular tech news site populated by former Engadget staff and new writers and led by Joshua Topolsky. It quickly climbed the leaderboards of Techmeme, a tech news aggregator site, and is the third-most popular site according to those metrics.
It's a gorgeous site with in-depth reviews and breaking news that's now part of Vox Media, which formed when The Verge emerged from Topolsky's personal project This Is My Next.
You could have written Path off until about a week ago, when the company launched a completely revamped version of its social networking app.
It's one of the best-looking social networking apps out there, and it's way better at keeping track of a smaller group of friends than Facebook's mobile app. It fills a niche that falls somewhere between Foursquare, Instagram and Facebook all at once and it's a joy to use.
It's already one of the highest-rated apps on the Apple App Store and has skyrocketed Path back into relevancy in the tech world. Keep your eye on Dave Morin and his team in 2012.
Company: To Be Determined
You can bet Sarah Lacy, MG Siegler and Mike Arrington, the former core of tech news site TechCrunch, are planning something big. Between the three of them, there's enough tech writing and reporting talent to take down nearly every news site in Silicon Valley.
Lacy has said her next gig will involve reporting and Siegler and Arrington, while both venture capitalists with the CrunchFund, are prolific writers and reporters among their own blogs. You can bet that the three of them will converge on a new project that will push the boundaries on what we commonly understand as journalism, but will certainly be breaking news.
Shawn Fanning already hit it big time when he founded Napster, and he started Airtime with Sean Parker this year. Airtime is a social video startup that's supposed to be kind of like Chatroulette -- users are randomly paired together in a video chat.
And... that's about all we know. But with the amount of talent behind Airtime, you can bet it will be something worth following. Keep your eye on Fanning.
Design sale site Fab.com launched on June 9 and it already has more than 1 million users. It added 250,000 new users in the past month.
That's some insane growth. By comparison, Facebook took 10 months to grow to a million users and One Kings Lane, another deals site for designer furniture and others, 26 months to reach the 1 million mark.
Photo sharing app Instagram is another insane growth story. Even without an Android app, Instagram has grown to more than 13 million users in less than a year. The company only has 7 employees and it's growing like wildfire.
There are a ton of ways Instagram could expand, and if it's already growing this quickly while it's only on the iPhone, we can only imagine where it will be next year. But keep your eye on Path, which is including Instagram-like lenses in its sharing app. Instagram could finally have its first real competitor.
Adam D'Angelo and Charlie Cheever are probably the only entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley that can out-awkward Mark Zuckerberg on stage. But Quora is a sensation and is receiving a ton of buzz in the valley.
We heard Quora is in the process of raising a huge round of funding at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco in October. Those details will probably emerge when the new year comes around.
Company: AOL Ventures
Mike Brown Jr. started AOL Ventures in 2010, and it's probably the most successful thing AOL has done in recent years. He used to work with Richard Branson, investing his capital in early stage companies.
AOL Ventures invested in Bitly, gdgt, Solve Media and About.me -- all of which have been hugely successful.
Did we mention he's only 27 years old?
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