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The Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ Hustle (theinformation.com)
166 points by Jhsto 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 155 comments



I know two people on the “30 under 30” list. Both of them are incredibly charismatic and charming in person. Their Instagram and Twitter accounts churn out constant brand building material. They both have pseudo-startups with noble causes and vibrant websites. Their startups have a list of impressive advisers, including B-list senators and industry executives.

However, neither of them have made any progress on building an actual business. One of them has supposedly been developing the same simple product for almost 7 years now, but they’ve never been able to produce even a proof of concept prototype.

I thought I was missing something for the longest time, until I let go of the idea that they were really trying to build a company. They’re not. They’re building their personal brand, and succeeding wildly thanks to publications like the “30 under 30” list that have an insatiable appetite for underdog success stories.

Surely some of these companies are legitimately successful with great business models, but they’re mixed into these lists with the brand builders who know how to game the system. I’d be interested in reading an honest “Where are they now” follow up series that checks in with these founders at the 5-year mark after they make this list to see who the real successes are.



She's currently a very big meme in Greece, because she made some laughable claims like that she's done a trachea transplant which she didn't really, and that she's worked in NASA, which is also false.

I have no idea how she's in Forbes.


In today’s world it doesn’t matter what you do, just what you can convince enough people is true. The disbelievers are just jealous.

Social media has truly altered reality in a weird way.


Yes, that's exactly it.


Forbes has managed to sell out its brand.


Except the videogame review department. Surprisingly objective and critical material there in a genre renown for quid-pro-quo.


I feel totally sorry for her. She stands in the pillory and the internet won't forget. I cannot imagine a recover from there, because this is a trust issue.


[flagged]


What does her gender have to do with anything?



Thats probably the worst (best?) example. She hasn't done hardly anything she said shes done.


Theranos was a good one, too. There was pretty much nothing there, for years, but people so wanted to believe the story. At a time when high tech was seen as producing an endless stream of silly apps that solved problems for hipsters, and mired in very real sexism problems, here comes this young, attractive woman who claimed to be using technology to solve some serious medical problem. Narrative Jackpot! Like the X-files poster, everyone in the press and industry Wanted To Believe! Money poured in, fame, adoration, comparisons with Steve Jobs. Full page photo spreads, lots of smiling, lots of shaking hands. Happy words and excitement. Hype lead to a presumption of success, which lead to more happy talking, which created more hype, leading to more presumption of success, which lead to more happy talking... Finally someone looked behind the curtain and saw there was nothing there. And everyone was disappointed and pretended to be so surprised. There are no UFOs.

Everyone involved are millionaires now and are permanently set for life. They're just going to spend their time now looking for the next narrative to fit and the next thing to take credit for, knowing nobody is going to fact check until they've done the cycle again.


That artificial trachea transplant is well known in Sweden since the lead of the project who carries the bulk of the blame for the research fraud, Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, used the Karolinska Institute as his base and the scandal resulted in KI replacing the board and the president because of how they supported him in spite of evidence. Since KI is involved in awarding the Nobel Prize in medicine we were very worried in Sweden if this was evidence of a culture that would compromise that process as well.

If she would've had that on her resume over here, sheesh, that would not have looked good. Especially if she claimed that her work saved a patient's life.


This is why I hate group work.


Forbes does not meaningfully fact check this list. An acquaintance of mine got on it by taking credit for the work of others she worked with. If they called even a single person to corroborate her story it would have fallen apart.

I don't doubt that some genuinely notable people are mixed into this list, but it's impossible to take Forbes' word for any of them.


How do you "cash out" on brand building if your company isn't doing anything? Motivational speaking?


Jumping into a high paying bullshit job, being on advisory boards, networking yourself into circles where your Rolodex becomes valuable that intro's from you can get you 70% into raising VC...

I've seen quite a few of these people in my area and they disgust me every time, coming from a "work is only valuable if it's hard" work-ethic family.


It's an epidemic in my industry (marketing) so much so that I feel like I'm doing something wrong if I'm not out there building a personal brand.

I just feel that the work I do should be all the "brand" I need to build. Yet everything around me points to the contrary.


You feel that actual value should be all that someone or something should need to be successful and that focusing on building a brand should be no substitute? And you work on what again?


I meant I see no point in building a personal brand.

My corporate brand is doing fine


They should disgust everyone...but in our current culture of instagram model worship it's all about how you sell yourself with little or not much to back it up.


There is no "cashing out", prestige seeking is just the result of a primitive drive. It's like asking how I'm going to "cash out" all the french fries I'm eating. I don't have any plan to, it just feels good to eat them.


Having an excellent and large network is extremely valuable. Epstein is the ultimate example of charisma+network being a career choice.

It's sort of too bad, because these people don't provide the type of value that we respect. But they do ultimately provide value by connecting people, and for that they are rewarded.


Incidentally, a Forbes writer was exposed a few months ago for publishing a puff piece from Epstein's PR team under his own name:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/21/business/media/jeffrey-ep...

> The article on the Forbes website was attributed to Drew Hendricks, a contributing writer. As The Times revealed in an article last week, he was not the author of the piece. Instead, it was delivered to him by a public relations firm, and he said he was paid $600 to attach his byline and post it at Forbes.com.

> Mr. Hendricks said he had not been aware of Mr. Epstein’s history. “All I knew was, this is a guy doing a science thing,” he said. “If I had known otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it.”


It only costs $600 to plant a piece in the NYT?!?!


Forbes, not NYT


And a reminder that the vast majority of articles on "Forbes" are written by an army of contributors, who until recently weren't even guaranteed to be paid. Forbes online is basically the Huffington Post, but riding the coattails of its supposedly prestigious namesake magazine. https://guestpost.com/blog/2018/08/how-much-paid-forbes/


Oh, whoops, the article describing the bribe was in the NYT. Sorry about that.


> Epstein is the ultimate example of charisma+network being a career choice

pretty sure a good bit of his 'brand' was in profits from his 'side business' here as well..


Something needs to keep the network together.


Selling stuff, doing deals. Some people gravitate to the award-winning trope.

If you need to get something difficult done, awards (other than academic) in my experience are a warning signal. People who are thinking about awards are always a problem.


One great thing about globalization is that there will never be a shortage of suckers who aren't wise to your con


1) Getting funding easily from VC's (and sneaking in a clause that says you will cash out $1M so you can focus on the "long term")

2) Having access to highly coveted angel deals like Uber, or Twitter when they were just startups.

3) Getting paid for giving high-level fluffy advice in conferences.

4) Book deals.


That's easy - train other people how to build their personal brands. Think about it like a pyramid.


Talent acquisition.


I'm surprised that “30 under 30” is still understood as anything other than they email you and ask if you want to be on the list.

That's it.


Nobody fact checks anymore. All you have to do is claim to do something, or claim to know something, and smile and look good while doing it, and people will believe you. Why go through the effort of actually learning or doing anything if you can just talk and be a "thought leader?" Even better, find someone else who actually does things but isn't as slick and polished a personality, wait for them to do it, then take credit. Do that over and over, and now you have a "track record" of success, and you'll start getting invited to speaking gigs, offered membership on company boards, sought out as a mentor, all for doing nothing but sounding really good. This is the foundation of leadership and career mobility in lots of companies.


> “The two most coveted symbols online are an Instagram verification and being on Forbes 30 Under 30,” said Taylor Offer, founder of an apparel startup called Feat Socks, who mentions his Forbes win (class of 2018) in his Instagram bio. “It’s a mark of validation.”

A little digging reveals that Feat Socks sells socks and hoodies. (https://featsocks.com/)

>“Hell yeah, it’s better than going to Harvard or Stanford,” said entrepreneur Katelyn O’Shaughnessy, who didn’t attend either school.

For what, the social validation? O'Shaughnessy's business (https://doctours.com) appears to be a get-healthcare-in-another-country-and-have-a-vacation travel agency.

>“I wanted to throw up at the entire thing,” said Andy Sparks, an entrepreneur who was on this year’s list, describing his reaction to the Summit, a Forbes event that celebrates the Under 30 community. “I had an existential crisis coming back from it. I wondered why I wanted to get on the list and be a part of this community in the first place.”

Ah! A critical thinker.

> Corporate sponsors such as The Macallan whiskey and Courtyard by Marriott pay big fees to get their brands in front of the young professionals who flock to the events. In 2016, Ocean Spray created a cranberry bog in a wading pool in Boston during the event, partly to highlight the fruit as an ingredient in cocktails.

Sign. Me. UP.


> O'Shaughnessy's business (https://doctours.com) appears to be a get-healthcare-in-another-country-and-have-a-vacation travel agency

To be fair, that's not a bad idea or business. Medical tourism is a big industry[1] and finding trusted healthcare providers in a foreign country is a tough task.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_tourism


> In 2016, Ocean Spray created a cranberry bog in a wading pool in Boston during the event, partly to highlight the fruit as an ingredient in cocktails.

I'll admit that part was kinda fun and silly to wade in the pool


I was on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list this year, and five alums from the org I run have also made the list over the years, as well as two friends of mine. They are all are pretty reasonable people who have done cool things.

I'm not surprised they were able to find a few that were crazier, though. It's not substantially different from an obsession with getting into YC or raising VC money. I've done both of these things as well, and I met many of the same people. They will always find something to be obsessed by.

And for what it's worth, all the recognition I've gotten over the years has never really translated to much of a business advantage, but it's still pretty neat to be recognized for something you've been putting a lot of work into.


Interesting. As an informal evaluations of the premise of the top comment in this thread I read your bio. I am posting the comment and your bio here for other interested individuals:

The comment:

>I know two people on the “30 under 30” list. Both of them are incredibly charismatic and charming in person. Their Instagram and Twitter accounts churn out constant brand building material. They both have pseudo-startups with noble causes and vibrant websites. Their startups have a list of impressive advisers, including B-list senators and industry executives. However, neither of them have made any progress on building an actual business. One of them has supposedly been developing the same simple product for almost 7 years now, but they’ve never been able to produce even a proof of concept prototype. I thought I was missing something for the longest time, until I let go of the idea that they were really trying to build a company. They’re not. They’re building their personal brand, and succeeding wildly thanks to publications like the “30 under 30” list that have an insatiable appetite for underdog success stories. Surely some of these companies are legitimately successful with great business models, but they’re mixed into these lists with the brand builders who know how to game the system. I’d be interested in reading an honest “Where are they now” follow up series that checks in with these founders at the 5-year mark after they make this list to see who the real successes are.

And your bio:

>Tyler Menezes is the Executive Director at SRND, where he works to increase diverse Computer Science enrollment across North America by inspiring underrepresented students to give coding a try. Born in Canada but raised in the Pacific Northwest, he briefly attended the University of Washington before dropping out to start a Y Combinator and venture-backed social video startup in 2011. This, combined with stints working in machine learning at Microsoft Research and as a programmer at several Seattle startups, led to his work finding data-driven solutions to increasing CS diversity and enrollment since 2014. In his free time, Tyler helps run the Projects in CS class at Garfield High School, and organizes the public speaking event Ignite Seattle.


I don't really understand what you're trying to suggest from my bio??...

>Their Instagram and Twitter accounts churn out constant brand building material. >They’re building their personal brand

I don't even have an Instagram? And literally I made two business-related tweets in the last month, one of which was a RT of someone commenting on how the org I run is valuable. Which brings me to...

>They both have pseudo-startups

I run a nonprofit that's had about 42,000 students attend mostly physical, in-person events in 53 cities, over the last 10ish years. We are profitable and have employees. Our programs have a NPS of 70-80 and we get grants from a bunch of big companies on the basis of our outcomes. This has been my full-time job and only livelihood for the last 5 years.

>I’d be interested in reading an honest “Where are they now” follow up series that checks in with these founders at the 5-year mark

We've been around for 10 years, and I've been the ED for 5. We have continued to grow and improve our key metrics although we're not a startup and I'm not going for meteoric growth.


You may have been confused, yet you've elaborated GPs point for us very nicely. Two rather different impressions of people on the list in question.


Hi, Tyler is one of the kindest, humblest, and most thoughtful people I've ever met. CodeDay, one of the programs he runs, was also one of the most formative experiences I had as a teenager.

Please don't confuse the need to storytell to funders when running a nonprofit with vapid self-promotion.


I enjoyed reading your articles below:

https://tyler.vc/dropping-out

https://tyler.vc/education

https://tyler.vc/dropping-out-revisited

Is there anything you would have done differently in your career trajectory / educational path if you started over?


Thanks! :) It's been a while since I've written anything so I'm glad to hear you thought they were interesting!

More than anything I wish I'd explored more "unrelated" fields like bio, finance, medicine, cooking, (...) when I had the free time of a student. There are a lot of very interesting problems that don't fit neatly into a single career path. But it's much harder to make time for learning for the hell of it at 28 than it was at 18.


That's a depressing comment to read at nearer-28-than-18. I'd hate to be older than 28 and read it!


I'm 38. It only gets harder. I'm glad that I read/learned/experienced a whole lot in my early 20s, so that at least I have that broad background of history, economics, finance, culture, etc. to draw on now that most of my attention is split between my kid, marriage, and startup and reading ~5 books/year is much more likely than reading ~5 books/week.

(It does remain possible, though, and I'd like to think that I haven't totally stagnated in my learning.)


>28 year old here.

There is actually quite a bit of reassurance in that comment. I'm a full time developer and part-time student. I read through the articles linked above because I'm trying to decide on continuing my studies in the fall after receiving a promotion at work. The return I get from my work projects far outweighs what I've learned in school and I'm getting paid for it!

That comment shares a feeling I _don't_ want to have. If I have any motivation to learn something, why waste it on forced material that may not be relevant to me. I'm leaning towards not taking classes. Instead I can focus on learning technologies to integrate into systems I've built. I can read more for fun (which I was able to do this summer). I can finish that game I've been working minutes at a time for the last few years. I can build that bookshelf that I desperately need, to replace the particle board one that's falling apart in my room.

No hate here. If you're younger than 28 (or not) and you have regrets after reading it, you can still change that path. It might just take a bit more work or motivation that you were putting elsewhere.


I quit my full-time job at 28 to embark on a rigorous self-education plan, precisely because I felt the same way as you. Sure, you will lose out on optimizing your salary if you jump off the career path train. But is that really a good strategy for living an interesting life? Even then, you may find that broadening your educational base leads to deeper and more lucrative opportunities in the future.

If you make something a priority, it’s possible.


I'm 28 and at the height of my career, but I've just started making education a priority again. Still working full, but also taking 3h of intensive classes every day in something completely unrelated to my work (learning Chinese). Learning again feels good!


Nice! Good luck with Chinese.


Unfortunately, this list is a total joke.

I know someone who made the list last year, and it's literally their only accomplishment. They spent so much time trying to look good on paper that they've yet to accomplish anything real in life.

Their resume _looks_ great though...


This is so funny. At my work we actually had to implement more strict hiring standards because we would tend to hire people that were very impressionable but couldn't really perform on the job. Resume, interview etc was amazing but in terms of actual doing the job..nope, not at all. To say the least, we now use a comprehensive exam to pre-screen candidates before we interview them which pretty much solved the problem. The people we hire now have at least a baseline level of knowledge we can build from as we train them.

I guess the younger generation is getting better at faking it until you make it, I guess? lol


The slick ones go straight into management and have others do the work.


>I guess the younger generation is getting better at faking it until you make it, I guess? lol

Have enough HR bullshit thrown at you before getting an actual technical interview and you sooner or later learn to cope with a nonsensical system. I would see it similar to figuring out how you can bypass a useless automated support hotline and get in contact with an actual human with enough power to fix your problem.


How can you be worth $30m but not have accomplished anything?

Edit: I'm dumb, this isn't what 30 under 30 means.


Have rich deceased parents.


Any advice on how to do that? I mean, my parents are alive so I'll need to wait (or something) but they don't have any money to speak of. I could try to make that much and then give it to them, but it seems needlessly complex given the end goal. How does one go about getting rich parents? Asking for a friend.


I would hope journalists do a bit more research than "you were born with $29,999,995 to your name and you have since earned $5 in your time alive. Welcome to the club!"


One would hope so. But they often don't, especially when the goal is clicks.


No this is great. Forbes should change their benchmark


> Edit: I'm dumb, this isn't what 30 under 30 means.

This made me laugh out loud, thanks :)


It's all about networking within the industry. Like you said, tell a compelling story, and make sure to have references to back it up.

My co-founder ended up on the list a few years back. We did things that were cool, but I think my co-founder ended up on the list because they had a hard time filling 30 slots for our niche.


> because they had a hard time filling 30 slots for our niche

That's my impression as well. I know someone who made the list, from what I've heard Forbes basically approached the people running the program we were in together and asked "which one of them would fit the slot the best", and that's how they were chosen. At that point they didn't really have anything notable to show for other than a few weeks old company.


You must be cool to know people on that list and yet be so caj about it.


How does one looks great without real accomplishments?


Found a startup that's going to cure cancer/fix climate change/... based on dubious but plausible research, then promote the hell out of it.


> Fast Company has compiled a list of the most innovative companies, charging applicants fees between $495 and $1,000 to be considered.

I find this pretty distasteful, at least in the startup context. They’ve repeatedly approached me (after covering my startups) to apply. I’ve asked them if we can have the fee waived since they’ve essentially pre-vetted us, but no dice.

It might make sense to suck it up and pay them since we probably have a decent shot of getting selected, but I’ll never do it.


Is there a tangible value to being on that list?


I would guess there are two possible benefits:

1: publicity from being on the list, which FastCo presumably promotes at least once during the year (and probably leave up during the year)

2: being able to say you were selected for FastCo's list, which presumably gives you cred among certain groups. I do wonder if you might be held in lower regard by people who are aware that the competition costs so much just to enter.


I for one will never forget what it means now that I know they paid a bribe to be on it.


I would actually be interested to know what percent of companies that pay to enter are included on one of the lists. If a large percentage of companies are honored, then it seems like a pretty transparent pay-to-play. This means the list is pretty worthless.

OTOH, if a small percentage of companies are honored, then that means lots of companies are paying non-trivial fees and getting nothing in return. I believe the money is used to pay the people who review the applications, but unless those people have to be paid hundreds of dollars per application, or unless they have a high degree of redundancy in application review, the application fees wouldn't make sense. Basically, it would mean the list is a money-maker for them because they're accepting fees from so many unqualified companies.

Either way (pay-to-play or revenue source), it definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Frankly, it'd be cool if they offered a way to crowdsource the selection process, where each company that applied was given 10 companies to rank. As long as the 10 given to each person were randomly selected, it would be difficult/impossible to game the system and upvote friends. Also, companies could be given applications from other lists (I think there's a social-impact list and a general-purpose innovation list) to make sure there are no conflicts.


It is bribery, yes.

It doesn't seem too expensive as far as marketing costs go.


Ego stroking for those people that desire it?


There is a bunch of free programs for startups too, global competitions that fly some startups to a nice destination to pitch. I get the feeling the main goal of these competitions is to hoover data on early stage companies and on-sell to VCs and others.


Interesting hypothesis, and quite possibly true. As long as they're not charging startups, actually giving exposure to the finalists, and not misrepresenting the program or odds of being selected, I don't really have a problem with it. Is there a conflict of interest or something else I'm missing?


For some perspective, think of all the notable people you can name. Not just the huge names, but people from your particular field / sub-field, etc. How many made this list and similarly useless ones? Like the Academy Awards, sometimes the out-group is better company.

Even though he's an ass, I find Taleb's approach amusing. Copied from his webpage:

> (Please refrain from offering honorary degrees, awards, listings in "100 most...",& similar debasements of knowledge that turn it into spectator sport).


He's an ass for sure, but his commentary is spot on. Refreshing to hear in this fake-ass world we now all live in.


I think his main issue is being a little narcissistic and boastful, plus likes to be provocative and even insult.

But I'd take all those from someone with actual substance and talent as Taleb, than the barrage of fake-ass (as you call it) PR content and pleasantries, on this fake-ass world we now all live in.

In fact, I actively dislike the non-flaws (or just "admitted flaws" they're now "overcoming") "wholesome" all-too-decent people and writers, who never want to dirt their hands and have it good with everybody, and mostly produce trite of the TedX variety...


Eh. I admit I have a complex with Taleb. It's not just his narcissism per se, although there's that too: he's just wrong about a lot of stuff, and other times fails to recognize how old his ideas are. He gets over his head sometimes, assuming because it sprung forth in his head there haven't been 100s of other people working on it over the years who addressed whatever idea he had decades ago.

Other times he's spot on. Usually it's not anything actually new, but he deserves some credit for being such a bulldog about it.


Curious to hear which of his points you think are wrong?


I don't follow him regularly unless something he's saying comes up somehow, at which point I kinda look into him again.

He's famous for lambasting psychology, some of which is deserved, but some of which is just ignorant. Earlier this year he started complaining about psychologists ignoring long-tailed/skewed distributions, which is so absurd and widely written about I don't even know where to start, as it's a basic corollary of a lot of modern models. He also selectively miscites literature; god forbid he should do a systematic meta-analysis.

More of my concern is reinventing the wheel. I think he deserves a lot of credit for drawing attention to wrong models and assumptions in economics but model misspecification has been a topic that's been written about for decades in the statistics literature (e.g., "all models are wrong but some are useful", sandwich error estimators, pseudolikelihood ratio, model averaging, the work of Dawes, etc.). I agree with the general point he's making with these types of things, but his discussions would be a lot more interesting if he gave credit where it's due, expanding on others' past work rather than burying it.

Mostly I wish he'd tone himself down a bit, to get his signal:noise ratio in a better place. But then maybe he wouldn't draw attention to some of these issues.


I agree with your criticisms. But currently the world would be better if there were more people like him, not less.


what is he wrong about from blank swan or antifragile (just curious)?


I have a lot of respect for taleb even though I think he lost his marbles after a certain point. His book dynamic hedging was like the Bible/textbook for my first job (structured products trading). The guy really knows his stuff. I think his mass-market type books like black swan and antifragile really diluted his reputation if anything, and now he acts like some crazy philosopher rather than someone who really knows his craft


I hope everyone understands that this list and Forbes in general are a complete joke. I know people who have been on the list, and while they're nice people, they didn't really do anything besides either having connections to the people who make the list or being in the right place at the right time/lucky.

As for the publication, almost anyone can write for it. Calling yourself a "Forbes writer" is one step above a "Medium writer".


Someone from my local community runs a non-profit that, on paper, sounds great, and he gets a ton of these types of awards for the work he does. Except he doesn't actually do much work. I don't mean he, personally, isn't responsible for all the success his org has, I mean his org does very little of the work they purport to do. They focus on getting a few very high-profile placements per year that they can tout as successes, but overall, not many successes that are coming strictly out of this program.

Dude's also one of the types who acts like doing "so much good in the world" gives him the right to put down literally everyone else in the community.


I know a few people who were put on the list of 30 under 30 a few years ago. Nothing particularly interesting has come from then since they won the award.

It's one of those things, where the more personal brand building you do (speaking, posting on LinkedIn to a degree, tweeting), the more of a negative signal it probably is, with a few notable exceptions (Keith Rabois for example stands out as a VC with a good track record, yet posts a fair bit).

I do sales recruiting. It's never the strongest startups, that are doing the best that have executives and VPs all posting content 24/7.

To that degree, I have a friend who is a personal trainer at Equinox, who essentially said the same thing in the health and fitness world - the people who are posting the most impressive work on social media, actually tend to have fairly lagging results in the real world.

Also, final point, it's not really 30 under 30, it's 600 under 30, and it's a bit ridiculous. You can't really compare someone like Kylie Jenner or Lil Uzi Vert or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with someone who runs a startup that sells socks online.


What's wrong with Lil Socks Online?


There's absolutely nothing wrong with selling socks online, and I'm happy that someone is doing it, but you can't convince me that that is innovation worth celebrating.


I worked at one of the social platforms for many years. We had someone on one of the teams nominated (by us) and make it to the 30U30 list. We had a focused PR push to get this person on the list because it was good for the company. This person was in fact relatively junior and had no specific history that you could point to for excellence. They were a great person, but top 30 would be hard to argue.

There was no explicit quid pro quo that I was witness to, but I know that we gave the magazine an exclusive interview with our CEO not long after and I heard they were related. My point is that so many of these rewards are just more of who do you know, and have little value in fact when you dig in a bit.


This seems like the smart way to go about it to be honest. I think anyone who really knows their worth wouldn't really be too fussed about making it on the list except purely for marketing reasons and those who really need it are by reasoning probably startups that are struggling on some front. Making it on the list if anything could draw ridicule from people in the same industry who don't need cheap marketing. Thus crafting up some "fake" guy to be in the list for some pr seems like a good way to get the best of both worlds


I was selected for the 2018 Forbes 30 under 30, together with my co-founder. It has brought me absolutely nothing, besides scoring some points with the in-laws. Well, it did get me spam, offering discounts for private jets. For some reason, these companies paying for ads think that Forbes 30 under 30 people have "made it". Completely untrue, running and growing my startup has been just as hard after as before getting the award.


Did they offer you to buy a private island as well? I received that once :D


I used to work with a guy who made the Forbes "30 Under 30". He had a friend who worked at Forbes. He was a low-level lawyer in a congressional office and completely exaggerated his role in the article. When we all saw it, we laughed. The guy was almost fired on the spot and had his role significantly diminished -- he was gone soon after. It's a joke.


I like to think of this kind of game like dark matter. In some theories of dark matter, there are entire "dark sectors", families of particles that only interact with each other, that harmlessly pass through you all the time. Similarly, you have to care about prestige to get prestige -- but if you don't care, the loss doesn't hurt at all. It just passes by harmlessly, like so much noise.


It's been relatively agreed upon that dark matter can't interact with itself very much either, since it forms a spherical cloud around galaxies instead of the more expected disk shape, and dark matter clouds passing by each other don't seem to slow down or be affected in ways other than gravitation. More info: https://www.space.com/40219-dark-matter-feels-only-gravity-m...


It’s ok it’s likely the 30 under 30 don’t affect each other either.


Indeed, it's possible that dark matter has no interactions with itself. But also, a little bit of interaction makes the detailed galaxy stuff come out a bit better, so the jury's out on it.


I know a kid who aspires to be this, he is 27. Used to be in charge of a fraternity and now has a podcast about 'hustling'. He doesn't write code, design interfaces, write copy, or have a track record of building anything. He is literally a hype man for his podcast and the startup he works for. He tells everyone 'his CEO is like a modern day Tesla' but that is FAR from the truth. He is smart sure but I've met smarter people on HN and no one here would ever claim to be 'a modern day Tesla'. I don't even think Elon is that bold. They have a 'streaming platform with lower latency'.


30 Under 30 is a lot like Mensa--the only benefit of getting in is so you can tell others you got in.


Sounds very similar to ivy league schools :)


I stopped reading the 30 under 30 thing when Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t on the list when he was 29. Back then, before all the scandals when he had a great image, if he wasn’t on the list then the list just didn’t make sense.


>How a 102-year-old magazine publisher created a frenzy among millennials eager to make its annual list.

Do people under 30 even read Forbes? Or magazines?

The MIT Tech Review seems more focused and also does a "Innovators under 35" list


I'm 26 and the only thing I read are HN comments. I don't even read the articles. :)


Ditto. Nowadays, I found that it's easier to just go straight to HN comments and determine if I should spend time reading the articles posted here. :) Of course sometimes, I end up spending more time reading comments, but at least, I feel like I am better informed to judge the articles if I decide to read them after reading the comments here.


It’s not a new feeling.

I think “RTFA” was invented on Slashdot, but that’s probably because I’m too young to realize it’s from newsgroups.


I sometimes submit articles because I want to read the comments.


Well, yes, I often find the discussion much better than the original content. Also, I know what I think of an article, but you often get very different, and fairly well reasoned, opinions here.


I often do the same thing. Which really says something about HN. I can't think of any other forum where I regularly read the comments, much less read them first.


I feel like it keeps me very well-educated on modern day topics because it provides usually balanced argument points for both opposing parties.

I wish there was something like a LeftVsRight.com that had the user base of HackerNews where citizens uneducated on politics could go to see viewpoints from both of the two major opposing political parties.


I dunno, even on HN when something vaguely political comes up the discussion can go pretty wrong. Not, like, Reddit wrong, but still wrong.


I love HN, but this sounds incredibly limiting and a sure fire way of making sure you have an incredibly narrow view of things.


Well done for admitting it, but SHAME ON YOU! ;)


> The MIT Tech Review seems more focused and also does a "Innovators under 35" list

The “MIT” Tech Review list is equally manipulated. Ask your company’s PR company to get you on the list.

I put “MIT” in quotes because the only connection this magazine has with MIT is that it licensed the name from the alumni association in exchange for sending a copy of each issue, bundled with alumni note,s out to each alum.


Forbes is less magazine (though it's still published) and more media publisher these days. They've done a pretty good job of positioning themselves amongst the younger crowd, especially those more interested in business.


Forbes is mostly the world's most prolific and successful SEO spammer right now. Can't escape a single query without seeing their ad filled pages


> Do people under 30 even read Forbes?

From my personal bubble, I wouldn't say so. Regardless of that I think quite a few people know the 30 under 30 lists, I would say.

At one point in my life making it on that list was also a goal of mine, until I saw firsthand how they were picked which completely devalued it.


Forbes is not a credible publication, and their 30 under 30 list is a joke - I have two acquaintances who socially engineered their way onto the list with the right narratives. One went as so far to use that status to (presumably) swindle investors as I'm told. It's a platform that appeals to people building a personal brand/narrative, and I would be extremely wary of anyone using Forbes as some sort of validation. Let's not forget how they put Elizabeth Holmes on their pedestal.


HM isn't much better. The first time I was banned here was for calling her a fraud who is getting away with what she's doing because of all the useful idiots who put identity ahead of substance.


I know some really great people on 30 under 30 who do deserve to be there. For example my friend Susan Ho[1] who is not only a formidable founder, but also worked to expose some rampant sexual misconduct in venture capital in spite of the risks. Unfortunately I suspect folks like Susan are in the minority.

[1]: https://www.forbes.com/profile/susan-ho/#4e9e74c9578b


> who do deserve to be there. ..... but also worked to expose some rampant sexual misconduct in venture capital in spite of the risks

I am not seeing how that is even relevant to getting on this list and that in no way means I think the list isn't fluff.

The list claims to do the following:

'annual list chronicling the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada'


You don't think it takes brashness, as an entrepreneur, to speak out against VC sexual misconduct when it could put your business's lifeblood funding in jeopardy?


Much like most other lists of this nature, it's recognizing the 30 best networkers and self-marketers (not that there's anything wrong with that).


I was a Forbes 30 under 30 back in 2013 for working on a startup that was building a platform to help poor farmers in India obtain more favorable financing from private citizens in first world nations.

The list is mostly bullshit, I’d go as far as to say you should be very skeptical of anyone on it or that bothers to mention it, as they are almost surely just brand builders.

By the way, I lied about actually being on the list, but I bet if I never said that most people wouldn’t even think twice to fact check me. Funny how that works. Try throwing in a “Forbes 30 under 30” bullet point in your next resume and see what happens.


I know two people who made the list. I was pretty impressed at the time. But life goes on. Staying successful is harder. That's why some people say NFL stands for "Not For Long". Invest yourself wisely.


I know at least 3 people on this list. Pretty much everyone I know considers it to be quid pro quo. One of my friends suggested that it cost their company ~$100K in extra marketing spend to secure a spot. The other two were backed by powerful people and didn't know how much it costs but it was considered a big favor. A VC offered me a spot on the list as part of their investment in a proposed company. I presume this was also part of their marketing spend.

I still think it can be valuable to be on the list. The US loves its secret and the not-so-secret societies and being in them can afford a rather nice fun life. I would generally recommend them if you can.

The age requirement is more than a youth fetish, it is a way of discerning privilege and privileged people are more likely to succeed and not make you look bad.

You probably shouldn't believe most of what you read in the news. For the people making investment decisions based on this list I'm sure the same people would have found some other way to waste their money.


This. If you know the right people and are doing something semi prestigious then you can basically buy your way in, so to speak.


I'm the CEO of a tech-for-good startup. We employed a young woman as our new 'Head of Partnerships' last year, and she took credit for all our work to get into Forbes 30 Under 30. They wrote about her being the developer and founder of our product - in fact, she had only been hired for a few months and her previous job was as a data analyst at a large consulting firm. Forbes Asia ignored my emails and just changed the title! Incredibly incompetent and unprofessional

It’s kind of mind-boggling that people keep themselves up at night over this. Seems like it requires some level of egomania.


It absolutely does. An ex-boss of mine who tried for years got himself on one of these lists and it took a lot of effort and resources just so he could bring it up in every introduction call/meeting he made to clients.


there's no question people on this list have accomplished cool things. but it's lame that people are gaming their way into it, degrades the award imo


Alternative title: The 30 most insufferable douchebags to avoid.


I feel like based on my own life accomplishments i should be on the 30 for under 30. Married, child, successfully living as an adult for a few years now. THAT is a real accomplishment.


In India its worse. People have to apply themselves. How ridiculous is that -- imagine Einstein applying, hey I should get noble prize for this, this and this.


It's the same with the US awards.


From: https://www.forbes.com/30-under-30/2019

> annual list chronicling the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada

Implied of course that the list is arbitrary but even more ironic given it's limited to a number that makes a good headline that is counter arbitrary (if there is such a think..)


> “There are many franchises and temples of products and services that we offer,” said Matthew Hutchison, a Forbes spokesperson. “It is one of many in our constellation.”

Those are some interesting word choices. I wonder what "temples" means in this context.


so much whitespace... https://imgur.com/a/6c4FPeL


After reading comments on this thread I realize there’s some young potential founders following this. So I thought I’d offer my experience from 2018:

My background:

I spent 4 years building mailmyprescriptions.com into the lowest priced online pharmacy before half a dozen clones. In 2018 we were the highest ranked (trustpilot) and lowest priced. Read the reviews... literally saving lives and increasing quality of life. Do you know what $1-2k a year in savings is to a family with an income of $50-60k? We saved Americans over $10m last year. That’s more than what congress has done on drug prices in years.

I bootstrapped the company, and eventually raised $m’s on my own from FO’s and strategics - without a network (an achievement by itself) and this is when healthtech wasn’t sexy.

I also did this while starting a family and eventually got massive burn out. I left the company a few months ago.

Prior to that I bootstrapped in the ad space instead of going through college and taking on the debt.

So to conclude: no network, no degree, bootstrapped disruptive health startup while starting a family.

The nomination:

I got an email from them asking to fill out a survey and so I went through the process. (You can also self nominate - see end of comment)

If they consider you then you fill out a 10-min survey and they exchange some emails thereafter if you make the cut. There’s 3-4 rounds of cuts from what I recall. There are an equal number of questions about what you actually do as the “how popular are you” questions: who invested in you, how much, notable board members, press coverage, etc.

I knew based on those questions it was unlikely I would get on the list going into it.

I also gave pretty short answers ( I was more worried about >60 min hold times because we had just gotten product market fit) and probably shot myself in the foot.

Either way they emailed me and told me I didn’t make the last cut. I never looked at the list, and this thread just prompted me:

Most of the people on the list are doing some really incredible stuff, specifically actual scientists. Founders in under-serviced markets like Africa. Etc.

But there is a webmd clone that somehow raised $9m.

And one person on the list is an investment associate at a notable VC. With no notable investments.

If you look at each of these lists you’ll see the trend that if you have a notable VC Investment, and/or work for a notable company, and/or people from the same company keep getting on, then it becomes obvious that while there are some serious outliers on these lists: Forbes still has to serve the corporate interests and make sure some of their people are “on the list”.

I’ve been trying to mentor some young founders during my sabbatical and a few of them are convinced these lists will get them more business. They are spending more time on self nominating through their network than just asking for a check for the friends and family round!

They want to brag. It’s a problem with millennials and subsequent generations on social media. It’s FOMO. It’s social media envy.

Let me tell you something: You WONT.

You will get one linkedin bump with a few hundred views.

The next day you will wake up and be the same person you were the day before.

If you think it will help you raise money... the VCs know the list is rigged, they get 20-something associates on it every year, so what do they care?

They produce these lists every year with more and more categories - the value of the list has been diluted to oblivion.

Who’s made the list? Theranos CEO. WeWork CEO.

Time is money. If you (italic)get(/italic) nominated, cool go for it. If not: don’t waste your time.

Go get product market fit! Generate EBITA! Build something awesome!


How can i reach you?

My email is hnusername@gmail


After reading comments on this thread I realize there’s some young potential founders following this. So I thought I’d offer my experience from 2018:

My background:

I spent 4 years building mailmyprescriptions.com into the lowest priced online pharmacy before half a dozen clones. In 2018 we were the highest ranked (trustpilot) and lowest priced. Read the reviews... literally saving lives and increasing quality of life. Do you know what $1-2k a year in savings is to a family with an income of $50-60k? We saved Americans over $10m last year. That’s more than what congress has done on drug prices in years.

I bootstrapped the company, and eventually raised $m’s on my own from FO’s and strategics - without a network (an achievement by itself) and this is when healthtech wasn’t sexy.

I also did this while starting a family and eventually got massive burn out. I left the company a few months ago.

Prior to that I bootstrapped in the ad space instead of going through college and taking on the debt.

So to conclude: no network, no degree, bootstrapped disruptive health startup while starting a family.

The nomination:

I got an email from them asking to fill out a survey and so I went through the process. (You can also self nominate - see end of comment)

If they consider you then you fill out a 10-min survey and they exchange some emails thereafter if you make the cut. There’s 3-4 rounds of cuts from what I recall. There are an equal number of questions about what you actually do as the “how popular are you” questions: who invested in you, how much, notable board members, press coverage, etc.

I knew based on those questions it was unlikely I would get on the list going into it.

I also gave pretty short answers ( I was more worried about >60 min hold times because we had just gotten product market fit) and probably shot myself in the foot.

Either way they emailed me and told me I didn’t make the last cut. I never looked at the list, and this thread just prompted me:

Most of the people on the list are doing some really incredible stuff, specifically actual scientists. Founders in under-serviced markets like Africa. Etc.

But there is a webmd clone that somehow raised $9m.

And one person on the list is an investment associate at a notable VC. With no notable investments.

If you look at each of these lists you’ll see the trend that if you have a notable VC Investment, and/or work for a notable company, and/or people from the same company keep getting on, then it becomes obvious that while there are some serious outliers on these lists: Forbes still has to serve the corporate interests and make sure some of their people are “on the list”.

I’ve been trying to mentor some young founders during my sabbatical and a few of them are convinced these lists will get them more business. They are spending more time on self nominating through their network than just asking for a check for the friends and family round!

They want to brag. It’s a problem with millennials and subsequent generations on social media. It’s FOMO. It’s social media envy.

Let me tell you something: You WONT.

You will get one linkedin bump with a few hundred views.

The next day you will wake up and be the same person you were the day before.

If you think it will help you raise money... the VCs know the list is rigged, they get 20-something associates on it every year, so what do they care?

They produce these lists every year with more and more categories - the value of the list has been diluted to oblivion.

Who’s made the list? Theranos CEO. WeWork CEO.

Time is money. If you (italic)get(/italic) nominated, cool go for it. If not: don’t waste your time.


Non paywalled version anyone?


They've unlocked the article for HN readers, and we've swapped in that URL above, so it should work now.


You can enter a fake email to get access, it's not a real paywall!


working for someone on this list, they’re pretty cool. while i’ve been trying to find my own footing, i can’t help but feel envious. i think the hustle is warranted, but maybe it isn’t. is it all just publicity?


IMO the insidious part is that it's both ageist and a relative (vs absolute) competition.

Ageist because someone 31, 41, or 51 could achieve great things for humanity, yet doesnt deserve our accolade?

And strange because if 200 find a way to revolutionize the lives of billions. We still have to pick 30? Why not celebrate everyone who markedly improves the lives of 10% of the planet or some other absolute measure?


I mean... it’s a magazine, not a global authority.


> And strange because if 200 find a way to revolutionize the lives of billions. We still have to pick 30? Why not celebrate everyone who markedly improves the lives of 10% of the planet or some other absolute measure?

I mean, you could say this about anything. The Nobel Prize has limited slots. Nobody's saying those are the only people on earth worth honoring.

I'd say the real problem is putting too great an emphasis on youth and hustle. Who makes their magnum opus in their 20s? Why would you even want to? Most people's greatest accomplishments happen in their 30s and 40s, even 50s. Setting up early burnout as something to aspire to feels pathological.


You make a good point. Because most people don't do interesting things until they're out of their 20s, it makes those who do unusual and therefore newsworthy.

But being newsworthy has (monetary) value so this list, which used to be a metric, has become a target, and per Goodhart's Law is therefore no longer a good metric.

I predict another such list will arise, make those chasing 30<30 look foolish, and the cycle will begin anew.


> Because most people don't do interesting things until they're out of their 20s, it makes those who do unusual and therefore newsworthy.

But I'd say that the peak accomplishment of someone who peaks later is probably better than the peak accomplishment of someone who peaks early. So in that sense we're celebrating the wrong thing.


If you happen to know any outstanding individuals who were born on February 29th, please let me know. I am compiling a list of 10 under 10.

Let's just be honest with ourselves about how lucky we are to be born into our station, both as technocrats and as narcissist snowflakes.


Read the article, it is 30 from 20 categories, so 600.




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