Boy wonders dominate whiz-kid CEO list as wonder women go missing

A forensic examination of a new generation of American CEOs – the most promising under 35, as determined by Forbes magazine – reveals some fascinating common traits among this select group of 23.

Forbes‘ selection is a subgroup of its recent list of 25 most promising companies, and has generated some heated debate: none of the promising CEOs under 35 are women.

It defends this outcome in an editorial, saying few women made the original list of promising companies today’s list is derived from.

LeadingCompany takes a look at the other common characteristic of this group of young leaders, and makes some comparisons with Australia’s up and coming leaders as determined by our sister site, SmartCompany‘s annual ranking, The Smart50.


They are all lads, as we have mentioned.

Although not specified, all appear American. Possible (but unknown) exceptions are Vijay Proddhutur, 30, who, even if he was born in India, was university educated in Michigan, according to LinkedIn. He and Kiran Yarlagadda, 27, are co-CEOs of a technology consulting and outsourcing firm CodeForce 360.

Co-CEOs Liam Don and Sam Chaudhary migrated from England in 2011, starting ClassDojo, a software company that helps teachers track classroom behaviour.

LeadingCompany analysis of the ASX100 CEOs found that three-quarters had worked or studied overseas on the way to their current role, 12 of those in Asia. Our research also found that 39 of the 100 have studied overseas.

We found that only two CEOs on the S&P/ASX100 are women.

Twenty-one of the founders of the Smart50 companies are under 35. The Smart50 is list of the fastest-growing small and medium companies compiled by SmartCompany. Just one CEO of this subgroup is a woman: Vanessa Garrard of E3 Style.

Technology dominates: two-thirds of the CEOs on the Forbes list lead tech companies. Only seven aren’t selling an online service, software or an app:

  • Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt self-serve shops
  • Swipely, which processes credit card payments and then uses the data to create customer loyalty programs
  • 24hr HomeCare, which provides in-home assistants for seniors and children with disabilities
  • CardCash, which resells unwanted giftcards
  • Human Healthy Vending: healthy snacks in vending machines
  • The Fresh Diet, delivering daily healthy meals to subscribers

In the Smart 50, information technology and internet businesses dominate (nine of each), with property and business services coming in second with six.

Venture capital

Just three of the companies run by the promising CEOs have raised venture capital, but those that did raised a lot.

Ben Kaufman, 26, who started an online community that votes on inventive ideas, Quirky, raised more than $90 million in venture funding.

David Gorodyansky, 30, raised $52 million from Goldman Sachs to start AnchorFree, a virtual private network that hides web-surfing data from hackers.

A veritable veteran, Ryan Smith, 34, found $70 million for his online survey software company, Qualtrics.

The exception? Anthony Casalena, 30, started website making company, Squarespace, with a $20,000 loan from his father in 2004.

Only three of the Smart50 had start-up costs of between $1 million and $5 million – very efficient – and 11 export to global markets.


Just two of the 23 companies run by the promising ones had more than one CEO/founder: ClassDojo is run by 26-year-old Englishmen, Don and Chaudhary; Proddhutur, 30, and Yarlagadda, 27, are founders and co-CEOs of CodeForce 360.

Of the Smart50, 18 had two founders and five had three, proving that we are a more collaborative lot.

This article first appeared on LeadingCompany.


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