- TitleCofounder and CEO
Some tech entrepreneurs regard dropping out of school as a badge of honor. For Cindy Mi, the distinction is more complicated. She left high school in 2000, at the age of 17, to establish a company devoted—ironically—to education. Along with her uncle, she grew ABCEnglish, a language-teaching startup, into a business that went on to bring in tens of millions of dollars in revenue. (She also, eventually, completed her own education, receiving a bachelor’s degree in English literature and, later, an MBA.) For Mi, no classroom was big enough—so she decided to build a global one. Her next act, Beijing-based VIPKid, is an online education startup that’s privately valued at more than $4 billion. It boasts around 100,000 teachers and 800,000 students. Backers include Chinese tech giant Tencent, storied venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, and even the late NBA star Kobe Bryant. Though VIPKid reportedly had some trouble raising its most recent round of funding last year, the company has grown to become one of the industry’s indisputable heavyweights. Mi describes her goal as encouraging empathy across borders; “I hope that through VIPKid more children will grow up with a greater understanding of the world not just outside their door, but across continents,” Mi tells Fortune. With relations between the U.S. and China lately fraying, the world could certainly use a little more of that.