The 25 hottest startup CEOs in America

Payal Kadakia ClassPassClassPassClassPass CEO Payal Kadakia

There’s no shortage of hot startups.

To stand out, startup CEOs are getting creative by launching innovative products and raising tons of money — and they have got the world talking.

We’ve found the CEOs of some of the hottest startups in the US. We picked the CEOs by buzz, accounting for things like how much money their company raised and how much they have been in the news.

For the purpose of this list, we defined a startup as a private tech company. We included only US-based startups that have taken venture-capital funding and have not yet IPO’d or been acquired.

Did we miss a buzzy startup CEO? Let us know in the comments.

Lauren Browning contributed to an earlier version of this story.

Payal Kadakia


Company: ClassPass

ClassPass CEO Payal Kadakia was working on her startup Classtivity, a precursor to ClassPass, in a Starbucks in Astor Place when she was maced and mugged. She says the incident made her want to be better at protecting herself, and in turn, the incident 'motivated me to perfect my business.'

Gym rats love ClassPass, a service that lets users take unlimited classes (up to three per location) at boutique fitness studios for a flat fee every month. Not only does the ClassPass give users a steep discount on pricey classes like Pure Barre, but it allows them to try a multitude of things, from spin to hot yoga to Pilates.

Investors are pretty keen on ClassPass as well. The startup is valued at about $400 million, and raised $40 million in January in a series B round of funding led by General Catalyst Partners and Thrive Capital.

Matt Salzberg

Matt Salzberg/Twitter

Company: Blue Apron

Blue Apron, a company that makes cooking easy by delivering perfectly proportioned ingredients and recipes straight to your door, isn't just a godsend for lazy cooks -- it's also worth $2 billion. Following a series D round of funding to the tune of $135 million in June, the startup announced its $2 billion valuation, making it one of tech's growing number of unicorns: privately held companies with valuations of $1 billion or more.

Though it's only been around since 2012, Blue Apron is already selling more than 3 million meals each month, CEO Matt Salzberg told Business Insider earlier this year. The startup has more than tripled in size since January, and reports hundreds of thousands of customers. Blue Apron's potential is vast: The service appeals to millennials who want to expand their repertoire in the kitchen as much as busy mums straining for creativity and simplicity in their weeknight meals.

Marc Lore


E-commerce startup Jet wants to be the next Amazon. The company raised $220 million through three rounds of funding before it even launched, giving it a $600 valuation. It also hit over $1 million in sales on its first day when it launched in July, setting the tone for a successful year. It was the No. 4 marketplace in terms of sales just a month after launching, beating out Sears and Best Buy.

The company promises to offer prices up to 15% lower than anywhere else on the web, and developed an exclusive technology that adjusts prices in real time based on what users put in their carts.

In October, Jet changed its business model and dropped its $50 membrship fee it once proposed would be its sole source of profit.
Lore previously said Jet doesn't plan to reach scale or profitability until 2020, when the company projects to have 15 million paying customers and $20 billion in sales.

Alan Tisch

Alan Tisch/Twitter

Company: Spring

Tisch is the CEO of Spring, the mobile app for shopping on your phone. Tisch can use his app to feed his sneaker addiction.

The app shows lifestyle photos of styled outfits. If you want to purchase one of the items pictured, all you have to do is swipe your finger across the screen to buy. Upon installing the app you put in your credit-card information, address, and clothing size, so that you have to enter it only once.

In April, Spring raised a $25 million Series B round from investors including Spring cofounder and tech investor David Tisch. In total the startup has raised $32 million in VC funding.

Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin

Company: theSkimm

Weisberg and Zakin quit their jobs at NBC to start theSkimm, a daily newsletter that is sent to your inbox every morning with an aggregated, bite-size list of the top stories that day. TheSkimm has 500,000 subscribers. Even Oprah is a fan.

TheSkimm has raised $7.8 million in funding from investors including AFSquare, Five Island Ventures, Richard Greenfield, Gordon Crawford, Troy Carter, RRE Ventures, Homebrew, and Bob Pittman.

Philip Krim


Company: Casper

Along with the three other cofounders, Krim thought millennials weren't getting enough sleep. Krim wants to revolutionise the mattress industry by selling solely from the web and offering a no-hassle consumer experience.

Founded on the notion that not getting enough sleep is unhealthy, Casper makes firm yet bouncy mattresses that can fit into a box the size of a golf bag. The mattresses start at $500 and, depending on where you live, can be delivered to your door within two hours.

In June, mattress-delivery startup Casper raised another $55 million in a series B funding round led by Institutional Venture Partners, with other investors including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Adam Levine. In total, the mattress delivery startup has raised $70 million in venture-capital funding, and has plans to expand. The plan seems to be working too -- Casper generated $1 million in sales in its first month after the site launched in 2014.

Justin McLeod


Company: Hinge

McLeod made the bold move to spend the last $25,000 in Hinge's bank account on a 2,000-person launch party as a Hail Mary pass to save the tanking dating service. The party created buzz and saved the mobile dating app, which takes the randomness out of online dating by connecting friends of friends.

Last December, the dating app based on third-degree Facebook connections raised a $12 million series A round, led by Shasta Ventures, bringing the company up to a total $20.6 million raised since it launched in 2012.

Christina Mercando


Company: Ringly

Mercando's startup Ringly makes wearable tech that you'll actually want to show off. Ringly's stylish 18-karat-gold cocktail ring connects to your phone: It lights up and vibrates whenever the wearer gets a notification.

Mercando studied fine art and human computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon, so delving into the world of wearable technology made sense for the CEO.

Ringly has raised 6.1$1 million in funding from a variety of funders, including Andreessen Horowitz and Social Capital.

Tyler Droll

Business Insider/Alyson Shontell
Yik Yak co-founder and CEO Tyler Droll.

Company: Yik Yak

Perhaps best known in high schools and on college campuses, Yik Yak is an app that lets users post anything they want without a username. Yik Yak works geographically, so you see only what other people within a mile and a half radius of you post. Using GPS technology, some schools have blocked the app.

Yik Yak was cofounded by Droll and
Brooks Buffington, Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers who went to school together at Furman University. To get Yik Yak off the ground after they graduated in 2013, the two moved back to their hometown of Atlanta, started working at Panera, and bootstrapped their anonymous-gossip startup.

Yik Yak raised $62 million in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital last year, bringing its valuation into the 'low hundred millions of dollars.' In total, Yik Yak has raised $73.5 million.

Alexandra Wilkis Wilson

Getty Images/Katy Winn

Company: Glamsquad

Glamsquad is a New York City-based startup that brings salon-quality blowouts and makeovers to your home. It's a game changer for busy New York women who don't have time to get to the salon.

Wilkis Wilson -- the cofounder of Gilt Groupe -- became Glamsquad's CEO and president last year. She took over from Glamsquad cofounder Victoria Eisner. 'Beauty is an industry that is sensitive to discounting,' Wilkis Wilson told The Wall Street Journal last year.

Glamsquad completed a $15 million round of Series B funding in October from Grace Beauty Capital , BBG Ventures , Montage Ventures , Lerer Hippeau Ventures, SoftBank Capital, New Enterprise Associates. To date, Glamsquad has raised $24 million in venture capital.

Peter Szulczewski


Company: Wish

Former Yahoo, Google, and Facebook engineers, led by Szulczewski, created Wish, the leading mobile commerce platform in North America and Europe. Alibaba and Amazon have reportedly had acquisition talks with Wish in the past year.

'We want to be Google AdWords for the retailer,' Szulczewski said. Wish has been described as the e-commerce company Fab was supposed to be. It sells cheap but stylish products by optimising social channels like Facebook. Its layout resembles Pinterest, but on Wish everything is for sale, and you'll be hard-pressed to find an item that costs more than $25.

The company has reportedly raised close to $600 million and been valued at $3 billion or more by investors. But it hasn't gotten much press because CEO Peter Szulczewski doesn't want or need any. When we first reached out to Szulczewski, in December 2014, he wrote that he was 'humbled and a bit surprised' to find himself on Business Insider's radar, since he and the company 'try to keep a very low profile.'

Jeff Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield


Company: Harry's

In under two years, Harry's cofounders Jeff Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield launched their online shaving service, raised more than $200 million in funding, and
purchased German razor factory Feintechnik, where their products are produced, vertically integrating the company. Harry's raised $75 million in venture funding in November 2014 and another $75.6 million in a Series C round in July, not to mention the $122.5 million they received back in January 2014. As of this summer, the startup was valued at $750 million post-money.

Raider and Katz-Mayfield first came up with the idea after a trip to the drugstore where Katz-Mayfield found himself overpaying for a poorly branded product and frustrated by the lack of customer service. They knew there had to be a more efficient way to purchase razors -- and Harry's was born.

Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa

Courtesy Warby Parker

Company: Warby Parker

Warby Parker has done a lot in five years. Since its founding in 2010, the eyeglass retailer has raised $115.5 million in venture-capital funding (most recently taking in $100 million in a round of funding led by T. Rowe Price in April), opened 16 storefronts in nine cities and become a 'unicorn' with a valuation of $1.2 billion. The startup also operates on a platform of social good, mirroring every pair of glasses purchased with a pair donated to someone in need.

The brand plans to continue expanding their brick-and-mortar operations, and has also considered developing technology that will let them issue prescriptions in-house.

Logan Green


Company: Lyft

Green's Lyft is a laid-back, fist-bumping, pink-mustachioed alternative to Uber. Lyft launched three years ago in San Francisco and had expanded to more than 60 cities across the US. Before there was Lyft, Green was the cofounder and CEO of the ride-sharing community Zimride.

Lyft has raised an eye-popping $1.01 billion in funding from Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Floodgate, AFSquare, and more, at a valuation of $2.5 billion. To expand its footprint globally, the company has a number of strategic partnerships with ride-hailing companies like China's Didi Kuaidi, Singapore's GrabTaxi, and India's Ola.

Diishan Imira

Diishan Imira, CEO and co-founder of Mayvenn

Company: Mayvenn

Hair is a $5 billion market in the United States. Market research from Mintel estimates six out of 10 black women wear a weave or a wig. But the supply chain process of how stylists get that hair is a mess.

Diishan Imira's startup, Mayvenn, which is a play on the Yiddish word for trusted expert, lets hair stylists set up their own ecommerce sites and sell hair directly instead of referring customers to other beauty supply stores or distributors. The stylist doesn't have to keep any of the hair on hand because Mayvenn ships it to them in two to three days, then offers a 30-day return window if the stylist or the client doesn't like it.

Rony Abovitz

Company: Magic Leap

Magic Leap is an intentionally vague, incredible-sounding startup that describes itself as a 'developer of novel human computing interfaces and software.' Abovitz's startup could provide a more-realistic kind of augmented reality. Abovitz says Magic Leap is 'a new way for humans to interact with computers.' Its technology projects holograms into your field of vision.

Last October, Magic Leap raised $542 million in a Series B round from Legendary Entertainment, Qualcomm Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, KPCB Holdings, and Google. Sundar Pichai joined the board of Magic Leap after the fundraising news. To date, Magic Leap has raised $592 million.

Whitney Wolfe

Whitney Wolfe
Whitney Wolfe, co-founder of Tinder and founder of Bumble

Company: Bumble

Whitney Wolfe, a Tinder co-founder, created Bumble not long after she left the company. Bumble flips traditional dating rules upside down by only allowing women to make the first move.

Bumble, which launched about a year ago, now boasts over 5 million conversations started by women, over 1 billion swipes, and an insane 15 per cent week-over-week growth.

Mario Schlosser


Company: Oscar Health

In April, health-insurance company Oscar raised $145 million, giving it a $1.5 billion valuation. Then in September, Oscar closed another $32.5 million round of venture funding led by Google Capital, pushing its valuation up to $1.75 billion. With these investments, Oscar joins the ranks of buzzy startups known as unicorns, with valuations over $1 billion.

Oscar wants to transform the healthcare industry by creating a better user experience when it comes to health insurance. It launched publicly in 2013 and had more than 40,000 customers across New York and New Jersey as of April, with plans to launch in Texas and California.

Kathryn Minshew

Kathryn Minshew

Company: The Muse

Kathryn Minshew and Alex Cavoulacos are the cofounders of the job-search and career-advice site The Muse. This year, it raised a $10 million series A round of funding from investors including Aspect Ventures, DBL Partners, Great Oaks Venture Capital Partner, and QED Investors. In total, the Y Combinator startup has raised $12.8 millionfrom investors.

The Muse receives 3 million active users every month and is competing with other career-advice and job-search sites like LinkedIn and By the end of 2015, The Muse expects to hire 25 people. The startup also wants to expand to skills development. Compared to the average age of users on LinkedIn -- 47 -- The Muse's is much lower at 29.

Brian Chesky

Getty Images/Bloomberg

Company: Airbnb

With at least $1.5 billion each, Airbnb founders Nathan Blecharczyk, Joe Gebbia, and Brian Chesky are some of the world's youngest billionaires.

The home-sharing startup has raised $2.39 billion in VC funding

at a $25.5 billion valuation. It's available in 34,000 cities and 190 countries, and it's been used by more than 30 million guests.

Adam Neumann


Company: WeWork

After raising $433.9 million in a round of series E funding in August, WeWork's valuation jumped to a huge $10 billion. The startup's previous round of series D funding in December 2014 valued it at $5 billion, still making it one of the most value private tech companies in the world at the time.

Founded in 2010 by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, WeWork leases office and coworking spaces to startups, providing flexible contracts and plenty of amenities. The company also recently announced plans to foray into 'co-living' apartments as well.

Jack Groetzinger


Company: SeatGeek

SeatGeek is a website and mobile app that helps users find out what's going on and buy tickets all in one place. SeatGeek has poured six years of work into its interactive maps, which pull data from a ton of sources.

This year, SeatGeek raised a $62 million Series C round of funding from Technology Crossover Ventures, Accel, Causeway Media Partners, Fabrice Grinda, Jason Finger, Jose Marin, Mousse Partners, and Sean Black. To date, SeatGeek has raised $103 million, and its new round of funding reportedly values the company at $200 million.

As of April, SeatGeek had 64 employees, with plans to increase the size of its team to 110 employees by the end of the year. According to the company, its app has been downloaded more than 3 million times. Sixty per cent of SeatGeek's users access SeatGeek on mobile devices.

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