StyleCaster’s Top 25 IT Kids of 2011

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StyleCaster’s Top 25 IT Kids of 2011
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They inspired us with their innovation, dazzled us with their social media prowess and managed to woo us into buying and trying some of the coolest products on the market. In a nutshell, this year’s inaugural list of IT (internet technology) kids cuts a wide swath across the entertainment, fashion, beauty, lifestyle, media and the digital fields.

The team at Stylecaster came together and hand-picked 25 of this year’s most influential people within our favorite online brands and companies that truly changed the way we view the world. From a cable network that drove us to immerse ourselves in the lives of our favorite TV characters (via social media) to online shopping destinations that made us rethink ever going to the mall again, ultimately 2011 stands out at a major turning point for both digital commerce and technological advancements in the areas of social applications and the art of curation.

Read on to see who made our list and what sets them apart from the competition.

Photographer: Spencer Wohlrab

Producer: Marni Golden

Makeup: Achelle Dunaway for e.l.f Makeup & Cosmetics

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Jeff Ragovin/Chief Strategy Officer & Co-Founder, Buddy Media

In a digital world where you often feel pressured to click here and “like” that, Buddy Media has established itself as a friend and a confidant to both big brands and the people that follow them. Founded in 2007, the social enterprise software company continues to build major buzz and gain accolades, thanks in part to successful social media campaigns for the likes of Sony, NBC Universal, Gilt Groupe and many other major players in the consumer marketplace. Co-helmed by Ragovin, Buddy isn’t just a company we admire; it’s a place we aspire to visit. After all, when your mantra includes “Belly laugh. Loudly. Every single day,” employee field trips and foosball, it’s easy to see why Ragovin and his team exemplify the perfect mix of start-up savvy and highly creative execution.

What specialized skills or insights do you bring to your role? 

I'm a relationship guy. I'm approachable, I make friends easily, I'll talk to a stranger on a train or on a plane. I'll probably even make dinner plans with them the next day. I believe relationships are the fabric of what makes the world happen and it's a critical and important part of our business.

What would your competition most likely say about you?

What competition? Kidding. I know they say that we work hard, constantly innovate and are leading the way.

What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn during your tenure?

I've learned that you've got to always stay positive even during the lows. The lows will pass. In a start-up mode you've got to put in blood, sweat and tears to make it big. I've learned that you've got to take care of people and lead people by example. You're people are your most valuable asset.

What can you laugh about now?

Actually, we laugh all the time! That's our culture. Creating a workplace where people know it's OK to laugh makes life better.

Jason Kincaid/Writer, TechCrunch

Geek chic never looked so cute (or caustic) then when it comes packaged in the form of TechCrunch's resident opinionator. While Kincaid has easily adapted to NYC's snarky take on tech life (following his departure from Silicon Valley this year), we can't help but appreciate the finer nuances he paints of start-up environments and all the wheelers, dealers and the dreamers who are eager to make their mark.

What makes your brand unique in a widely varied digital landscape?

The 'digital landscape' really isn't that varied. Just have a personality, keep the self-promotional bullsh%t to a minimum, and you're already ahead of 90% of the pack. Also, nobody really wants to see a photo of your breakfast.

Many times, people say don't "overthink it" -- what does that mean to you?

I tend to be wary of listening when people say this, as a lot of the time what they mean is, "I don't care about this nearly as much as you do, so let's move on talking about something else."

Any secret obsessions, guilty pleasures, etc.?

I have a special voicemail message set up in Google Voice that plays when people who I find especially annoying call me. It consists of ducks quacking. If you hear this, it means you probably shouldn't call me anymore.

Aslaug Magnusdottir/Founder and CEO, Moda Operandi

Prior to launching Moda Operandi with co-founder Lauren Santo Domingo in February 2011, Áslaug was formerly the VP of Premium Products and Services at Gilt Groupe and President of House of Waris Fine Jewelry.  With a Masters from Harvard Business School, an LLM from Duke University School of Law and a degree in Law from the University of Iceland, it’s no surprise that whatever this Fulbright Scholar touches turns to retail gold. Allowing consumers to pre-order designer clothes straight from the runway months before the clothes actually hit the floors at the likes of Barneys, Neimans and Bergdorfs, Moda Operandi is the perfect fix for the couture fashion junkie who wants to shop the front row from her front porch.

What specialized skills or insights do you bring to your role?

I always loved fashion, but I initially resisted a career in it. I thought I needed to be practical so I studied law and got my MBA from Harvard. But I always felt most fulfilled when I was interacting with creative people.

What makes your brand unique in widely varied digital landscape?

Moda Operandi is a luxury, web-based "pretailer," which allows customers to pre-order tomorrow's fashions today. This concept filled a void in the digital retail landscape.  I wanted to find a way to connect designers directly with the women who appreciate them and to allow designers' special pieces to find a life beyond the runway. This is what Moda Operandi remains focused on.

What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn during the tenure?

That finding the right talent can be a challenge, but that securing top talent is paramount to success.

Any secret obsessions, guilty pleasures etc.? 

Shoes are my big obsession although that really isn't a secret. I have a full wall of shelves at home filled with my favorite shoes. Some of them are actually better suited for the shelf than for my feet.

Seth Porges/Senior Editor, Maxim

From CES to Silicon Alley, Seth Porges has tested every new tech toy and isn't afraid to tell you what he thinks about it. A former editor at Popular Mechanics, Seth recently made a move to Maxim and is now the gadget guru for guys worldwide.  And while we admire his tenacity for telling us what's hot now, it's his own creativity that makes him a must for our IT Kids List. Not satisfied to just report tech news, Porges is now making it, thanks to his new fashion app, Cloth. Designed to help you shop your closet, you gotta admire a guy who wants to help you dress to impress.

How do you define success?

To create something out of nothing. Or to transform something old into something new.

What acheivements are you most proud of?

Popping up on Cash Cab. I want that disco light ceiling in my room. It was definitely a highlight of my life. Oh, and I got the CEO of Chipotle to change all of their menus to reflect the presence of bacon in the pinto beans. I got death threats and hate mail over that from people who told me I needed to stop whining. If you ask me, they should be thanking me for letting them know where they can get free bacon!

What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn during your tenure?

Take. A. Deep. Breath. Every. Once. In. Awhile. And I learn to say no -- if you don't have the time. You can't put a price on living your life.

What TV show or movie sums up your office environment?

The Maxim office is basically a mix of Mad Men and Big. We like to have fun. And we seem to have a never-ending supply of Nerf guns.

Do you have any professional New Year's Resolution for 2012?

To use all my vacation days.

Erica Cerulo & Claire Mazur/Co-Founders, Of A Kind

Both alums of the University of Chicago, pals Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur teamed up just over a year ago to launch Of a Kind, an online shopping destination which showcases emerging  independent designers alongside curated editorials.  Each week the duo releases one limited-edition item from a designer (ranging anywhere from five to fifty pieces), sold exclusively on their site.  With Cerulo’s previous resume as a magazine editor and Mazur’s extensive experience in arts management, we’d say mixing and matching has never looked better.

What achievements are you most proud of?

C: I'm really proud of my and Erica's relationship. Early on, a lot of people asked if we were worried about the idea of going into business with a close friend. But I think the fact that we've been friends for 10 years helps more often than it hurts. We've managed to build a really strong working relationship while still maintaining our friendship, and I think that comes across pretty clearly in all aspects of our business.

What specialized skills or insights do you bring to your role?

E: I think I've been able to carve out a strong editorial voice for the site that people respond to, and I think that one of the biggest challenges will be evolving as our audience grows and changes.

C: I'm a pretty direct person and not afraid to ask for what I want. It's proven particularly useful within the context of collaborating with designers -- I have to negotiate with them on a creative level  ("can you change this to blue and use a snap instead of a button?") and business level ("can we pay you half now and half later?"), all while making clear that it's a partnership and I'm there to support them.

What would your competition most likely say about you?

E: We're scrappy -- or at least that's what we hope they'd say.

Who would you love to collaborate with?

C: Target. They've done a lot to heighten the "cool factor" of emerging designers, and they've taken a different approach towards it than we have. I'd love for us to collaborate on a capsule collection with them and bring our sensibility and editorial approach to what they do.

Dave Gilboa & Neil Blumenthal/Co-Founders, Warby Parker

Revolting against the notion that prescription eyewear should cost $300 or more, the gang at Warby Parker has found a way to create lust-worthy eye accessories for under $100. With their vintage aesthetic, custom fit and practice of contributing a pair of glasses to those in need, founders Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa's "pay-it-forward" business acumen has become a hit with both the charitable and chic set.

What achievements are you most proud of?

We have an intense focus on providing an amazing customer experience to each and every customer. One metric we track really closely and is a huge source of pride for our team is our Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is a measure of customer satisfaction. Our NPS is 88 and beats that of Zappos, Apple, Amazon and every other published benchmark we've seen.

We are also incredibly proud that we have distributed well over 100,000 pairs of glasses to those in need all over the world in just over 1.5 years since we launched. Giving someone access to a pair of glasses has a profound impact on their life -- it allows them to learn, to work and simply to function.

What can you laugh about now?

We launched the company while we were full-time students and working out of our apartments. We were featured in GQ and Vogue the week we launched and massively underestimated how much traffic and how many orders would pour in. Our customer service line went straight to our cell phones and were ringing off the hook -- we [literally] stayed up all night answering customer emails.

Any secret obsessions, guily pleasures etc.?

ABBA. Lots of ABBA.

Scott Belsky/CEO, Behance

Creativity isn't often awarded, but in the case of Behance, Belsky has created a platform where the quirky and creatively-minded can share their work, job opportunities and organizational tools. Since graduating from Harvard Business School, Belsky has continued to carve out a career for himself as both a business leader and an entrepreneur. His "Focus Zone" tenant cuts through the disorganized chaos most creatives like ourselves face and gets to the heart of the matter: "Choose the five most important actions of the day and make sure that no matter what they get done."

What makes your brand unique in a widely varied digital landscape?

Behance is not a "social network," it's not about "friends," nor is it intended to "boost creativity." On the contrary, we are focused on execution and empowering creative careers. Every product and service we build helps people get more exposure for their work, more efficiency and more opportunity. Over the years, Behance has embarked on a variety of projects but all with the same mission: organize and empower the creative world to make ideas happen.

What would your competition most likely say about you?

That we're fast and extremely determined. We're serious. And they may admit that, more often than not, they take our lead...

Who would you love to collaborate with?

We'd love to collaborate more with companies that develop the tools creative people use to create. Apple, Adobe, Autodesk, etc. As we envision the future of the creative industry, we imagine more integration between the process of creating and then showcasing your work to everyone you know.

David Tisch/Managing Director, TechStars

Everyone has an idea. Some ideas can even make money. David Tisch is the guy who determines which ideas are business-worthy and which entrepreneurs have the energy to develop them. As the Managing Director of TechStars NYC, Tisch helps start-ups, well, start up. With a similarly supportive vibe, David is an angel investor for The Box Group, a venture capital firm that has kick-started the likes of Skillshare, Boxee, GroupMe, and Art.sy. We love him for supporting tech dreams, but even more so for scouting talent in a pub during a football game. (Now that's a guy we can totally get behind).

How do you define success?

As an investor, you obviously focus on the returns, but in the start-up world, that takes years to determine. So initially, focusing on the quality of the entrepreneurs you back and the early progress they make with their companies. And how much you enjoy working with them.

Any secret obsessions, guilty pleasures etc.?

Kid Robot dolls, fountain soda and the ability to dress casually to work everyday... and ellipses...

What makes your brand unique in a widely varied digital landscape?

I really am myself and I don't try to have a public persona so the person  people meet publicly is totally me. Our brand is incredibly open, and I try to emulate that. People know me as a really honest guy in a TechStars hat and hoodie.

Ara Katz/Head of Creative and Celebrity Partnerships, BeachMint  

Celebrity endorsements are nothing new to the fashion or beauty world.  In fact, it often feels like it’s easier to point out a brand that exists outside the realm of Hollywood’s elite than one that doesn’t. So when BeachMint officially hit the scene last year with the launch of Kate Bosworth’s JewelMint line, people started to take notice, particularly those (like us) that recognized the winning idea of creating content around curated goods.  With Katz heading up the celebrity front (a natural fit considering her past as a producer and filmmaker) successful partnerships with the likes of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Jessica Simpson and Rachel Bilson soon followed. Accessible stars, viral videos and products that we can’t help but crave – talk about minty fresh.

What specialized skills or insights do you bring to your role?

I’ve always been a storyteller and have always tried to be ahead of how technology is transforming storytelling, especially now with social media. With member-only social commerce subscription sites like our BeachMint brands, you have to live and breathe story. Every touch point is an opportunity to evolve and deepen our customer relationships.  Good storytelling with an authentic voice is what builds trust and incentivizes engagement so that our customers want to come back and shop each month.

What makes your brand unique in a widely varied digital landscape?

The BeachMint brands (StyleMint, JewelMint, ShoeMint, BeautyMint) are unique across the board -- you really feel like you're a client of our style and beauty experts.

What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn during your tenure?

I tend to be a perfectionist, so learning to let go of the little things is something I'm still working on. The online world moves too fast to worry about making everything perfect.

What can you laugh about now?

Signing a one-year lease on our first (much smaller) office.

Any secret obsessions, guilty pleasures, etc.?

X Factor (I have a secret crush on the stylist, June Ambrose), Revenge, Megan&Liz (YouTube), BoingBoing, The Atlantic, Because I'm Addicted, and of course, StyleCaster.

Ben Lerer/Co-Founder and CEO of Thrillist.com

Not too long ago, the word “metrosexual” was deemed a dirty word. The very idea that men would aspire to live beyond the confines of football, beer and fast cars was inexcusable to some, but an eye-opener to those who immediately saw the potential to fill a void in the men’s lifestyle space. As Lerer and his crack team of writers at Thrillist.com have come to teach us (via a newsletter that reaches 3 million in 19 local markets), a good man may be hard to find in your city, but outfitting him in the latest fashions (just have 'em shop partner site, JackThreads) or introducing him to new dining or travel options has never been easier or more fun.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I once ate three cheeseburgers in a single sitting. Also, my relationships with friends and family. Plus the awesomeness that is Thrillist.

What would your competition most likely say about you?

"I wish I worked at Thrillist."

What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn during your tenure?

I think the biggest thing I've learned was how emotionally taxing it can be to truly love what you do. For a while, we were riding the highs and lows like a roller coaster -- we'd cry hysterically when things went poorly and dance naked in the streets when things fell our way. We spent a lot of time and energy in the first few years dealing with emotions that didn't really drive the business forward.

What can you laugh about now?

We've actually been getting pretty nostalgic recently, remembering the early days. One of our favorite stories was hiring our first editor - whom we met in the back of a bar and submitted his writing samples on a cocktail napkin. His name is David Blend and he's still with us, serving as our executive editor. Love that guy. And his beard.

Brandon Holley/Editor-in-Chief, Lucky Magazine

During fall 2010, Brandon Holley returned to 4 Times Square as the new Editor-in-Chief at Lucky.  Holley, hardly a stranger to Condé Nast, was Editor-in-Chief of Jane from 2005 to 2007, launched ELLEgirl from 2001 to 2005 and was senior editor at GQ from 1998 to 2000. However, prior to joining Lucky, Holley traded in the Condé Nast cafeteria for a stab at the cyberspace.  As Editor-in-Chief and business lead for Yahoo! Shine, Holley helped attract 25 million visitors per month.  Currently, Holley is one of the few magazine editors out there to enthusiastically buck tradition, instead embracing a multi-platform approach that fuses content via print, web, social media, apps and more.  A pioneer in a new age publishing, Holley has unofficially become our poster girl for the changing face of magazines in the online space.

How do you define success?

No drama at work, leave the office by 6pm and go home to family.

What makes your brand unique in a widely varied digital landscape?

It's a very focused brand. We do one thing (shopping for fashion and beauty) and we do it really well across different platforms.

Who would you love to collaborate with?

Folks like the ones at Bergdorf's who want to play a bit.

Whats your personal rules of engagement with your audience?

I read comments and respond with content that readers tell us they want.

Delegate or dive in head-first? What's your personal working style?

Delegating is not a dirty word!

Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp/Founders, BirchBox  

A fear of commitment is nothing new – especially when it comes to the innumerable beauty products on the market. Seeing a need to bridge the gap between editorial recommendations and a real tactile beauty experience, former Harvard Business School alums, Barna and Beauchamp have managed to kick the traditional makeup counter to the curb with BirchBox, their monthly offerings of top-tier product samples delivered right to your door.  Obviously we’re fans of the concept, but it’s their determination to take the mystique out of makeup buying (through product testing, a digital mag and helpful online tutorials) that endears them to us in a way we haven’t felt since the first time our mothers taught us the correct way to apply lipstick.

How do you define success?

Success isn't something we're working toward like it is an end goal. Instead, it's a daily pursuit for us and for our team. We celebrate the little things along the way and make setting goals and achieving them part of our company DNA.

Many times, people say don't "overthink it" -- what does that mean to you?

You can't stay academic about a product update or idea. Instead, test it in the real world. We believe wholeheartedly in a gut instinct and big ideas, but we always pair it with concrete metrics and data. Surveys are helpful, but there's nothing that can replace having a product out in the market with real users providing feedback.

How do you see your company or brand growing and changing in 2012?

Ever since we came up with the idea of Birchbox, we knew that the concept could extend beyond beauty. Be on the look out next year for new additions to our service.

What TV show or movie sums up your office environment?

Kids Incorporated (does anyone remember what that is?!?). Everyone is so upbeat and talented; there's often singing and dancing in the later hours.

Billy Chasen/Founder, Turntable.FM

When you’re a start-up veteran the mission is clear: engagement is everything. For Chasen, this is the very premise he’s based around his latest endeavor, Turntable.FM. The virtual dance-party-meets-chatroom platform launched earlier this year and has already garnered high marks from techies and music lovers alike.  No “spin” doctor needed -- Chasen has the tunes we love to groove to and trust us when we say this is one site that’s totally music to our ears.

How do you define success?

Creating something where people can't figure out what they did before it existed.

What makes your brand unique in a widely varied digital landscape?

We were the first to offer the ability to listen to music at the same time with other people online. It makes for a fantastic way to discover new music and meet new people.

What TV show or movie sums up your office environment?

Definitely Office Space. We require daily TPS reports.

Sabrina Caluori/Vice President, Social Media & Performance Marketing, HBO  

It’s one thing to love a TV show – it’s another to live it and embody it through calculated character development and deep immersion across multiple digital platforms. Thanks to the hard work of Caluori and her team, HBO is now a major player on both Facebook and Twitter, offering up everything from live commentary and character blogs to massively successful charitable tie-ins (the relationship between True Blood and the American Red Cross has become a fan favorite). It’s no wonder then that we find ourselves heavily invested in the programs we love – this VP has made it her job to go the distance and ensure that viewers not only follow HBO’s roster of shows online, but also feel like they’re secondary characters enshrouded within a rich tapestry of vampires, dragons, gangsters and the like.

What's been you biggest challenge this year?

Keeping up! With new social media platforms, tools and trends emerging every day it's an ongoing mission to chart what's hot and what's not.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I work with the most amazing team at HBO. I am constantly wowed by their creativity, passion and dedication. I'm really proud of what we've been able to accomplish since bringing social media in-house three years ago, including the launch of HBO Connect (hbo.com/connect) in May.

What would your competition most likely say about you?

I hope they're saying "Why didn't we think of that?"

What can you laugh about now?

My Friendster profile and MySpace blog.

Any secret obsessions, guilty pleasures, etc.?

Every Pixar movie ever made.

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson/Co-Founder, Digital Brand Architects

Once upon a time, fashion and beauty bloggers weren’t the rock stars we know and love. In fact, it wasn’t until DBA emerged onto the scene that their value as style influencers became evident via their many paid appearances and brand collaborations. Bracken-Ferguson (along with her partner, PR maven Karen Robinovitz) continue to build buzz, thanks in part to their successful marrying of online personalities with major advertisers. Part manager, digital strategist and social media guru all rolled into one, Bracken-Ferguson has proven she’s a force to be reckoned with following recent shout-outs that include Essence Magazine’s list of Most influential African American Women in 2011 and Mobile Marketer's "Mobile Women to Watch in 2010."

What achievements are you most proud of?

Creating an agency that is doing transformative things.

How do you see your company or brand growing and changing in 2012?

We continue to grow and have expanded to LA and Hong Kong. We will always push the envelope for our clients and will continue to grow across different verticals.

What can you laugh about now?

Moving from Karen's apartment, to The Standard Lounge, to a temp shared workspace, to an office in Chelsea.

Jonathan Zabusky/CEO, Seamless

If you order take-out all the time and live in one of ten major U.S. cities, there’s no reason not to use Seamless.  The reasons are simple: no more lengthy telephone holds (which almost always result in a disconnection), no more scrounging through a heaping pile of outdated menus and no more fumbling through your wallet for singles.  Zabusky, who was appointed his current title in 2009, has been on the executive management team since 2008 and was the driving force behind the company’s makeover.  After going through many cosmetic and internal changes, Seamless re-launched this past summer and has left little room for hungry competition.

What's been you biggest challenge this year?

The biggest challenge of the past year has been holding the team to a sharp focus on a select set of priorities. Seamless has never had more opportunities to expand geographically, to build out our suite of products and services and to serve new customer segments.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I'm very proud of the rapid growth Seamless has experienced in the last year, which we've achieved while maintaining our high level of customer care. In 2011, we significantly expanded our consumer offering, processing more than $400 million orders.

What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn during your tenure?

There is no cutting corners in managing people and managing an organization -- especially during periods of rapid growth and expansion. It's crucial to hear people's concerns and to really listen to what they are saying.

Delegate or dive in head first? What's your personal working style?

I'll delegate when others are better suited to handle something. [But] I'll always dive in and give it all I've got. I expect the same of my team members and we know we can count on each other to drive growth and innovation, and to provide the best experience for our customers, restaurant partners and clients.

Andrea Linett/Creative Director, eBay Fashion

In early 2011, fashion publishing expert and style star Andrea Linett joined eBay Fashion as their first-ever creative director.  Working with eBay’s fashion business, marketing and technology team, Linett drives the creative vision for the company’s multi-billion dollar fashion business and is responsible for advancing the image, voice and editorial style for this fashion marketplace. As the former founding creative director of Lucky and fashion and beauty editor at the iconoclastic Sassy, Linett brings over 20 years of experience to the table, helping eBay Fashion transition into a glossy, curated shopping experience from something that originally resembled an online yard sale.  (She also recently founded I Want to be Her!, a website dedicated to celebrating personal style.)

What's been your biggest challenge this year?

Learning about the online world (which is waaay different from the magazine world) and getting eBay Fashion to look and feel as cool as it is.

Many times, people say don't "overthink it"-- what does that mean to you?

I agree with that when it comes to certain things -- for instance, the best ideas are the simplest that come from the gut. eBay is a platform that connects buyers and sellers. What could be simpler than that?

Any secret obsession, guilty pleasures, etc.?

I'm obsessed with the NY Times crossword but I can only get up to Thursday if I'm lucky. I actually look forward to Mondays! I'm also obsessed with blazers, boots and bags. My guilty pleasure is TV. I watch everything from Will & Grace to the Golden Girls when I'm working out.

What TV show or movie sums up your office environment?

Back to School. The eBay offices are on a big campus. I'm like Rodney Dangerfield!

Noah Weiss/Product Manager, foursquare

Checking out may be a personal choice for some, but checking in has become a de facto trigger move for the masses thanks to the impact of foursquare on our daily lives. As product manager for the ever-growing location-based social networking website, Weiss embodies the typical urban explorer in many ways; charting unknown territories to ensure that the rest of us have a cool place to hang on Saturday night...and then then giving us the tools to share it with the rest of the world.

How do you define success?

Building something that changes the way millions of users and merchants experience the real world.

What's been your biggest challenge this year?

Foursquare is about making the real world more fun and easier to use, and 2011 has been about building out the features to support that vision. Getting people to perceive foursquare as an amazing tool for discovery and exploration instead of just a "check-in app" has been challenging, but the launches of features like Explore, Lists and Radar are helping us tell that story.

What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn during your tenure?

No matter how great of a feature you build, if users can't figure out what it does within 5 seconds they'll probably never try is again. Changing user behavior, especially on mobile devices, is very difficult.

Do you have any professional New Year's Resolution for 2012?

Order dinner at the office more, instead of cobbling together my usual mini bagel with cream cheese and hot sauce. That's just not sustainable.

Alex Tryon & Scott Carleton/Founders, Artsicle

While we've spent plenty of afternoons scoping out some great works of art at the Met, we've yet to make a major investment in our walls beyond some basic IKEA prints. Enter Artsicle, the website determined to bring art to those of us on a budget. The brainchild of Alex Tryon and Scott Carleton, members of the site can rent original artwork for only $50 a month or purchase their own for  $500 to $1,500. Take a quiz, get a personal curation and pick what inspires you. If a picture tells a thousand words, then Tryon and Carleton have succeeded in impressing us in a million and a half ways.

How do you define success?

Success for us means everyone has access to living with great, original artwork -- and today's artists are able to make a living off their work.

What makes your brand unique in a widely varied digital landscape?

Our focus is bringing people online to fill their homes with artwork. It's not about the number of followers you have, it's about the joy of living with original art.

Who would you love to collaborate with?

The Whitney Museum. I'm really excited about their move downtown by the Highline and I love their appreciation of today's living talent.

What's your personal rule of engagement with your audience? 

Be accessible. We've had live chats AND our phone number (which rings both of our cells phones) listed since Day 1. It has been an incredible tool for both customer and product development over the past year.

Lauren Appelwick/Brand Director, Shelby TV

There are those of us who try to keep up with all the latest viral videos online... and then there's those fanatical few (Shelby TV, we're talking about you) that don't want to miss a single moment of cats battling it out with babies or the latest and greatest Lady Gaga parody. As brand director for the video-sharing start-up, Applewick is the lone woman on the team who's job it is to evangelize the beauty of Shelby's video-sharing platform (that allows you to take all the videos your friends share across Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr and pulls it into one place). Hours and hours of "Things White Girls Say" AND no surfing required? (Yes, please).

How do you define success?

It's easy to define it in terms of winning and losing, but I think success is actually doing something you love, and doing it the best you can. Success is taking a huge risk and believing in yourself; you'll never look back and think, "I'm really upset that I did my best."

What's been your biggest challenge this year?

Trying to find someone to teach me how to dougie. Everybody just thinks I'm joking!

What makes your brand unique in a widely varied digital landscape?

Our brand has a real personality. Shelby is "Shelby." We didn't name her Super Awesome Fantastic Social Video Thingy. She has a way of talking, she has a way of thinking. We believe that if your product has a strong personality, that makes it more interesting, and when it's interesting, a conversation and community grows up around it. That community is what matters. Those are the people whose lives we're changing.

What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn during your tenure?

It might sound silly, but I'm learning to be humble and ask for help. I used to be the most tech savvy person in my department, and that's definitely not true now that I'm at Shelby. These guys make me look like a Windows '95 user. You know what it means when you have brilliant engineers at your disposal? Anything is possible! They can write me a hack to fix any code problem I have, ever. It's like magic. Sweet, geeky, magic.

Do you have any professional New Year's Resolution for 2012?

Make it rain.

Alexandra Wilkis/Co-Founder, Gilt Groupe

If you’re addicted to online shopping (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) then you're probably familiar with Gilt Groupe. Helmed by Wilkis and former Harvard Business School classmate, Alexis Maybank, Gilt continues to set the standard for the best in what luxury retail has to offer online. The daily flash sales are addictive, the anticipation is intense and the stylish goodies run the gamut from a pair of Dior pumps to an airplane named in your honor.  With previous expertise at companies like Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, eBay and Merill Lynch, Wilkis is a beauty that had the brains and the know-how to turn the shopping world on its head and then some.

What would your competition most likely say about you?

That we are not only innovative and keep setting the bar higher, but we're truly relentless. Competition is good. It makes everyone step up their game!

What's the hardest lesson you've had to learn during your tenure?

There are a lot of lessons that come with hyper growth and evolving from a team of 5 people to over 900 in 4 years. We have worked hard to maintain our company's culture, but as a company grows, not all elements of culture can remain as they were.

How do you see your company or brand growing and changing in 2012?

We will continue to be innovative and will keep striving to surprise and delight our members. (Did you see we sold a flight on Virgin America for 145 people to fly anywhere in the US that Virgin flies for $60K? That was quite cool.)

What TV show or movie sums up your office environment?

Our office has a diverse employee base with a range of skill sets so I think our environment would be a cross of Sex and the City meets The Social Network.

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Get Your Chips, Beans On Toast And Bangers & Mash Wet

Get Your Chips, Beans On Toast
And Bangers & Mash Wet

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