Andrew Wilkinson

Founder, MetaLab Age: 26

Meeting Steve Jobs would be a highlight in anyone's life, but it marked the beginning of Andrew Wilkinson's career when he was just 15 years old.

"I was at a Macworld conference and was one of the reporters there. Meeting Steve Jobs and interviewing him was a surreal experience."

After graduation, a stint at an unsatisfying job became the catalyst that launched MetaLab, an interface design agency that creates and builds applications and user interfaces.

"I started working for a company and saw opportunities to do things better but there was no opportunity to voice my ideas."

Dissatisfied, Wilkinson left after six months to start his own consulting company. MetaLab started as a one-man operation but grew through word-of-mouth advertising and becoming aligned with large clients.

Today, Metalab has three companies under its umbrella and is a multimillion-dollar business. Clients include Fortune 500 companies like Google, Apple, Disney, TED, NBC, CBS, Tumblr and MTV. Revenues grew from $19,000 to $3 million between 2006 and 2012.

MetaLab may be a major player but employees enjoy the freedom to control their schedules and work direction.

"I don't go to sleep until four a.m. and get up at noon, so I can't expect my staff to follow the same hours. The culture here is like working for yourself, but with the support and benefits of working for a company."

MetaLab's designs are made to be easy to use so Wilkinson's test market is simple. "I make something that I know my mom or dad could use." •