This Baby-Faced Crop of Creative Thinkers Are Birthing New Models

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Twitter, Uber, Instagram, Slack, Airbnb: How many of these products were you using 10 years ago? None of them, unless you were an early adopter of Twitter, the only one of these founded prior to 2008. They now generate billions of dollars in revenue from billions of customers—astounding value creation in under a decade. And they were founded by entrepreneurs under the age of 40, part of a new wave of creative makers who spotted market opportunities, applied their understanding of human behavior and anchored their services in mobile to create products that people now use on a daily basis.

I've spent most of my career immersed in startups, and surrounded by creative thinkers, curious inventors and innovative technologists passionate about changing the world. The rise of advanced manufacturing, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and blockchain has given birth to a new wave of business models. "New makers" are demonstrating savvy ways to leverage these technologies to create new markets and disrupt existing ones. Here are some of the new makers who inspire me.

The Scientist: Rana el Kaliouby, CEO, Affectiva

We're all familiar with software that personalizes experiences based on what we click on and what we buy. Imagine being able to use human emotion to inform the personalization of digital experiences. El Kaliouby and her company, Affectiva, are on a mission to humanize how people and technology interact. Its Emotion AI technology senses and adapts to facial and vocal expressions in real time. El Kaliouby earned a PhD in computer science from the University of Cambridge and later spun her company out of the MIT Media Lab, where she was a research scientist focused on human computer interaction.

The Pioneer: Andy Miller, CEO, NRG Esports

Esports is the fastest-growing form of entertainment globally. Miller was a first mover in the U.S. with the formation of NRG Esports, and was the first to purchase a franchise in the Overwatch League along with co-investors including Shaquille O'Neal, Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez. Miller, also a co-owner of the Sacramento Kings, is focused on building a younger audience through his NRG Esports organization. Last month, NRG logged 8 million viewable hours of fans watching players practice and entertain on Twitch. NRG's audience will soon eclipse those of most basic cable networks.

Miller's sharp instincts also made him a first mover in the mobile advertising industry. He co-founded Quattro Wireless, one of the first mobile advertising networks, and led the company through its acquisition by Apple. At Apple, he reported directly to the late Steve Jobs.

The Disruptor: Ric Fulop, CEO, Desktop Metal

Fulop is a serial entrepreneur and innovator. He's the founder and CEO of Desktop Metal, a company that's reinventing the way design and manufacturing teams 3D-print with metal. Desktop Metal's breakthrough metal 3D-printing technology is 100 times faster and 10 times cheaper than laser-based systems, creating new opportunities for rapid prototyping and mass production of metal parts.

Prior to Desktop Metal, Fulop founded five other technology companies including A123 Systems, a creator of automotive lithium-ion battery systems, which he saw through to an IPO on Nasdaq. At his departure, the company had a public market capitalization of $1.5 billion.

The Visionary: Vitalik Buterin, co-founder, Ethereum

In 2013 at the age of 19, Buterin authored the Ethereum white paper "A Next-Generation Smart Contract and Decentralized Application Platform." Four years later, Ethereum's cryptocurrency token Ether has a market capitalization valued at over $80 billion. Ethereum's blockchain-based decentralized platform is powerful because its design prevents application downtime, censorship, fraud and third-party interference.

Here's to the new makers who are making our lives and work more connected, intelligent and delightful. 

Jennifer Lum is cofounder and COO of Forge.AI. Follow her on Twitter @lum

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