Judges including Russell Wilson, Sheryl Sandberg, Alex Rodriguez, Mellody Hobson, Ciara and Reid Hoffman (pictured from left to right) will help sort through nominations and select the super-achievers on their way to huge success. Forbes launches our next big franchise to spotlight and accelerate self-funded, self-driven overachievers, providing a platform for under-represented communities.
By Randall LaneForbes Staff
I am chief content officer and editor of Forbes, and post on business, philanthropy--and food!
From pandemic curves to unemployment spikes to protest march estimates, the spring and summer of 2020 has introduced us to all sorts of mind-bending statistics. The one that surprised me most, though, came last month via America’s most successful Black entrepreneur, Robert F. Smith of Vista Equity Partners: More than 90% of Black-owned businesses, he explained, are sole proprietorships. In many ways, these business owners are the most entrepreneurial entrepreneurs: completely self-funded, self-driven and self-reliant. Tired of waiting for others to help deliver prosperity, they have to take it and make it themselves.
For Forbes, which has helped define what success looks like in America for over a century, this cohort and others like it offer us an opportunity to expand the continuum of who we cover, laud and learn from. Today, we’re introducing our next big franchise, the Next 1000, a platform that will scour the country to find those entrepreneurs working harder and thinking smarter as they blaze new trails to success.
Different than our “counting” lists, such as Billionaires or Self-Made Women, which numerically chronicle those at the very top, or achievement lists like the Midas List or 30 Under 30, which reward immediate past results, the Next 1000 will seek and highlight doers on their way, overcoming any and all obstacles to get there. These types of journeys tend to prove the most inspiring and, in finding them, we hope to elevate a new class of super-achievers.
We’ve tried to democratize the process of making this list. Any entrepreneur in America can apply, or be nominated, as long as you’ve been in business at least a year (whether full-time, part-time or side hustle), and have less than $10 million in revenue and have raised no more than Series A funding (with extra points for the do-it-yourself heroes extolled by Robert F. Smith). We’re looking for people with compelling personal stories and business models, as well those having an impact on their community, industry and the world. The application process will run through October.
This criteria will produce a list that looks like America, providing a platform for under-represented communities. Besides the racial, ethnic and gender diversity that will naturally occur by focusing on bootstrappers, we’ve designed the Next 1000 for geographic representation, carving up the country into eight zones, each with their own nomination pools, since amazing nascent entrepreneurs exist in every state, not just the coasts.
It’s a big task. Luckily, we have an incredible team helping us sort through the nominations. The Next 1000 judging panel includes billionaire tech pioneers like LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; investment ceiling-breakers like Ariel Investments co-CEO Mellody Hobson and Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee; sports superstars turned entrepreneurial heavyweights like Alex Rodriguez and Russell Wilson; world-class mentors like National Geographic Society Chairman Jean Case and Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman Carla Harris; and self-starters like restaurateur Ayesha Curry, comedian Lilly Singh and Grammy Award-winning singer Ciara, who all understand how to translate influence into business — middlemen not required. Overseeing it all, we have one of own superstars, Maneet Ahuja, our senior editor for Small Business.
The past few months have underscored the hurdles faced by so many in America. With the Next 1000, we look forward to celebrating and accelerating those who haven’t let anything stop them from creating their own American Dream.
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