Here's the scoop on this year's list—and what it takes to make it.
What does disruption even look like anymore? The 22-year-old coder who comes up with an idea that upends incumbents and mints billions may be the image that captures the popular imagination. But in reality, you’ll see disruption is everywhere—seeping into all corners of business. We have plenty of founder types: the people behind startups Cruise Automation, Blue Apron, Stitch Fix, and more. But there’s also the new CIO of SAP, a mild-mannered 31-year-old who’s ushering in not just a digital transformation of the $106 billion company’s business but a rejuvenation of its workforce, or the analytics whiz who’s turning Caterpillar cat into a data-driven company.
Disruption is working its way through popular culture too, whether it’s Marie Kondo sparking a global decluttering movement, Lin-Manuel Miranda reigniting Broadway, or James Corden blasting onto the scene with a 21st-century comedy franchise that rests on a 19th-century invention: the (nonautonomous) car. These are the names taking us into the future, once again a list that is 100 percent brand-new. Disruption has never been this creative.
To see the full list of the Fortune 40 Under 40, visit fortune.com/40-under-40
What exactly is the 40 Under 40?
The 40 Under 40 is a measure of power, influence and success in business. Many moons ago—from 1999 until 2003—we ran a different version of the 40 Under 40 list: a ranking purely based on wealth. It was during the first dot-com boom, and the list was a way to showcase the striking fortunes accumulated by the era’s hotshots: Michael Dell, Jeff Bezos, Pierre Omidyar, Marc Andreessen (“Really Young, Really Rich,” read our cover in 2000). We retired that list soon after the bubble burst and much of that wealth vanished.
But in 2008, in the midst of the financial crisis, we started noticing that young people were once again rising in the business world, whether in the financial world (Meredith Whitney had just made her bold call against Citigroup), in the tech world (Facebook was beginning to crank into high gear), or in other industries (Kevin Plank’s apparel upstart Under Armour was giving Nike a real run for its money). There seemed to be a movement afoot, and we decided to chronicle it with a new list–one that, rather than being about money alone, was about achievements, ambition, and influence.
This is the eighth year of that list in its current form. (In 2013, we compiled a book, Zoom: Surprising Ways to Supercharge Your Career, that told the inside stories of some of the list’s most inspiring alums.) And for the second year in a row, this year’s class of the 40 under 40 features only those never-before-named to the list.
Who creates the 40 Under 40?
Each year, the 40 Under 40 draws a large team of Fortune reporters, writers and editors. Each person picks an industry or area of focus, then they go hunting: talking to experts, digging up documents, interviewing key sources, and otherwise shaking the trees to come up with a long list of suggested candidates. From there, it’s a long, intense process whittling the ideas down to a mere 40 names. The last final decisions are always the hardest.
Which Fortune staffers and contributors compiled the list this year?
This year’s 40 Under 40 team includes: Leena Rao, Scott Cendrowski, Heather Clancy, Lauren Covello, Barb Darrow, Katie Fehrenbacher, Stephen Gandel, Erin Griffith, Robert Hackett, Kia Kokalitcheva, Michal Lev-Ram, Sy Mukherjee, Tory Newmyer, Anne Vandermey, Jonathan Vanian, Vivienne Walt, Jen Wieczner and Valentina Zarya.
But wait, there’s more.
Along with the list, we’ve got a wide array of digital extras: we’ve quizzed this year’s listers for their best productivity tips, insight and the advice that’s most helped them over the years; what they wish they had known at age 20; the lowest moments in their careers (yes, they have them, just like all of us); and the hardest decisions they’ve had to make. We ask Marie Kondo how she manages her email inbox, and test “Four-Hour” and podcast guru Tim Ferriss with some of our most vexing productivity questions. We have a full array of video interviews with our listers, including a sit-down with Energy Recovery CEO Joel Gay; a chat with Katherine Power on turning one of the first fashion blogs into a media company; and we talk about the future of fintech with Betterment’s Jon Stein; and more. Then there are our feature stories, on the founders of self-driving car startup Cruise, Ryan Smith of enterprise software unicorn Qualtrics, and Diane McKeever, the hardcore Ms. Pac-Man player who heads the only woman-led activist hedge fund shaking up U.S. companies. Plus, we had a spirited conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda.
So check out the list, and then set aside some time to make your way through all of the extras. It’s well worth it. Reading about this incredible group, you just might get a breakthrough idea yourself.