5 CEOs Whose Companies are Smokin’ Hot, Despite the Recession

This is a guest post by Julia Weingrad of Wall St. Cheat Sheet

Wall Street and Silicon Valley always need something hot.
Although unemployment is high and optimism resembles the scenes at the start of an anti-depressant commercial, we have found 5 CEOs who are building companies which haven’t stopped to notice the recession …

1) Dennis Crowley — CEO Foursquare

Foursquare is a location-based social networking website, involving an application for mobile devices and a game intended for registered users. Through mobile websites, text messaging, or device-specific applications, people are able to update their location and connect with friends, while earning rewards for their online activity. The company is “so hot right now” because it is in the process of adding on a new promotion. Barbie, the iconic fashion doll manufactured by Mattel (NYSE: MAT), will be used by Foursquare to advertise location-based scavenger hunts. Text, photo and video clues for the hunts will be provided by Barbie through the use of Twitter. This promotion, officially happening on July 20th, 2010 is an example of how Mattel has been able to expand into the digital and social media world of the 21st century.

An American Internet entrepreneur, Dennis Crowley graduated in 1998 with a B.A. from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and also in 2004 with a Master’s degree from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. While attending NYU, he co-founded Dodgeball, a location-based social networking service used by mobile devices. Four years after Dodgeball was acquired by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) in 2005, Crowley developed Foursquare as a second version of the original Dodgeball service. In 2005, MIT’s Technology Review magazine named him one of the “Top 35 Innovators Under 35.” His work has been followed by major news organizations, such as MTV (NYSE: VIA-B), NBC (NYSE: GE), Newsweek, The New York Times (NYSE: NYT), Slashdot, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal (NYSE: NWSA) and Wired. Currently, Crowley is an Adjunct Professor for NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

2) Andrew Mason — CEO Groupon

Groupon is an electronic commerce website, offering a single type of product for sale at a discounted rate every 24 hours. These daily deals, made possible through collective buying power, feature what is best to buy, do, eat, and see in over 50 cities throughout the United States and Canada. The company is “so hot right now” because of its May 2010 acquisition of MyCityDeal, a European website offering similar services. The collaboration has made the newly formed Groupon MyCityDeal the largest group buying site in the world, active in 18 countries and 140 cities, reaching the US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Poland, The Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, and Turkey. Currently, its staff consists of over 900 employees, working around the globe.

Growing up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Andrew Mason showed a talent for creative organizing. At 15 years old, he started Bagel Express, a delivery service done on Saturday mornings. After graduating in 2003 from Northwestern University with a degree in music, he worked in web design under Chicago serial entrepreneur Eric Lefkofsky. In September 2006, Mason left his employment to accept a scholarship to the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. In pursuit of a business idea, he began to work on creating a web-based platform, organizing collective action based on a tipping point. Learning of the project, Lefkofsky offered to supply $1 million in funding. Mason accepted his offer, and dropped out of school to develop The Point, a web platform launched in November 2007. With some modification, he followed the basic premise of The Point to create Groupon, which debuted in November 2008.

3) Tony Hsieh — CEO Zappos

Zappos is an online retailer, selling shoes, handbags and purses, eyewear, watches and accessories, apparel, and electronic devices and media, such as DVDs. Through RSS feeds, Zappos publishes information about the latest products and styles, with each product having an image of the latest styles, a description of what is advertised, and a link leading to the product webpage. The company is “so hot right now” because it was acquired in November 2009 by Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) for a reported $1.2 billion. In an all-stock deal, Zappos investors and other shareholders exchanged their shares for approximately 10 million Amazon shares. This acquisition will allow Amazon to aggressively expand into the sale of apparel, and benefit from a fiercely loyal customer base.

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The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Tony Hsieh graduated in 1995 from Harvard University with a B.A. in Computer Science. During the first year after graduation, he worked as a Software Engineer at Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL), a provider of business software and hardware systems. In 1996, Hsieh co-founded Link Exchange (Internet advertising network), for which he served on the Board of Directors, was responsible for some of the company’s major technologies, and sold to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) in 1999 for $265 million. After the sale of Link Exchange, he got originally involved with Zappos, working as an advisor and investor. In 2000, he joined the company as CEO.

4) Mark Pincus — CEO Zynga

Zynga is an online network of gaming applications, offering a variety of games that are found on many social networks and websites. Users are able to invite friends to play with them, and chat while playing. The company is “so hot right now” because of its developing partnership with Google, which is due to launch its new brand Google Games later this year. Google has recently invested $100-$200 million of venture capital in Zynga, after having raised $500 million. With the upcoming partnership, Zynga will become the cornerstone of Google Games, giving it a solid base to build on, made up of social games and users. The joining of these two powerful companies could change the future of online gaming.

Before his career as an entrepreneur, Mark Pincus worked in venture capital and financial services. He graduated with a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and with an MBA from Harvard Business School. After graduation from Harvard, he worked from 1993-1994 as a manager of corporate development at Tele-Communications, Inc., now AT&T Cable (NYSE: T). From 1994-1995, Pincus served as Vice President of Columbia Capital, leading investments in new media and software startups. In 1995, he launched his first company, a web-based push technology service named Freeloader, Inc. His second company, a provider for service and support automation software known as Support.com, was started in August 1997, and went public in July 2000. In 2003, Pincus founded his third company, Tribe.net, a social network partnering with major local newspapers, backed by The Washington Post (NYSE: WPO), Knight Ridder Digital, and Mayfield Fund. Pincus founded Zynga in 2007, and currently serves as its CEO and Chief Product Officer.

5) Jeremy Stoppelman — CEO Yelp

Yelp is a web site that advertises listings, ratings, and reviews of local businesses through an online community, giving consumers the opportunity to share their opinions, and business owners the chance to give contact information. Through Yelp, people find help in choosing where to eat, drink, shop, relax and play, at no cost to use (other than certain advertising features on the site). The company is “so hot right now” because of its June 2010 integration with OpenTable, a feature that allows any logged-in Yelp user to make a restaurant reservation directly from a review page. In the form of a pop-up, this option is linked to many business listings already on Yelp. Currently offering Dining Reward Points, OpenTable accepts reservations for almost 11,000 restaurants, all located within the United States.

Interested in entrepreneurship, Jeremy Stoppelman graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.S. in computer engineering, and attended Harvard Business School. From 1999-2000, he worked as a Software Engineer for Excite@Home (provider of broadband Internet access), designing and implementing various website features. Stoppelman was with Paypal (Internet alternative for payment and money transfer) from 2000-2003, holding various positions in engineering and engineering management, ultimately making Vice President. After joining an incubator for a summer internship, he was reunited with colleague Russel Simmons, and teamed up with him to create a community around local information. Yelp was co-founded in 2004, with Stoppelman as CEO.

Written by Drea Knufken

Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.