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The Game Changers

Meet the new generation of innovators.


The URBAN NOMAD // Couch surfing the digital planet

Airbnb’s Brian Chesky is using crowdsourcing to turn tourists into locals.

Brian Chesky, 31, may be the successful co-founder of Airbnb, one of San Francisco’s most buzzed-about start-ups, but for the past few years, he’s been homeless. Chesky spends his nights hopping among strangers’ bedrooms, random couches, and unfamiliar apartments (helping himself to cable and Wi-Fi), all in an effort to test and improve the quality of the online travel-booking engine that he helped to create.

His mission was simple: to apply the concept of “crowd sourcing” (think Zipcar or Lift) to the travel experience. Why stay in a sterile, soulless hotel when you can immerse yourself in the local culture and save money by renting from a host?

Chesky and cofounder Joe Gebbia started Airbnb on a lark in 2007, renting out rooms in their San Francisco loft when hotel rooms sold out ahead of a nearby design conference. This one-time venture was so successful that the pair realized there was an opportunity to align travelers with locals who had rooms to spare. Together, along with programmer Nathan Blecharczyk, they founded Airbnb and set out to change the way people travel.

Six years later, with Airbnb listing properties in 33,000 cities and 192 countries around the globe, Chesky’s concept is revolutionizing the way we encounter and experience a destination when we’re far from home. —Amanda Pressner

Fit Fact: Before founding Airbnb, Chesky was a competitive bodybuilder, and the healthy habits he adopted—eating right and working out—are still very much a part of his lifestyle.

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THE REDEEMER // Daring not to dope

The first Tour de France winner since Lance Armstrong’s confession, Chris Froome is pro cycling’s last bastion of hope.

In professional cycling, you don’t just decide to win, even if you think you can. Last year, it was not Chris Froome’s job to win the Tour de France; his mission was to support Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins. Indeed, Wiggins finished with the yellow jersey, becoming the first-ever Brit to do so; but you couldn’t ignore Froome, 28, who by all accounts could’ve taken it. This year, Team Sky made Froome their man. Free to go allot, the Kenya-born, South Africa-raised cyclist with a British passport ripped through the peloton and defended his lead with an air of dominance eerily reminiscent of Lance Armstrong. Predictably, suspicions of doping abounded throughout the Tour—Froome’s winning margin of four minutes, 20 seconds was the biggest since self-confessed doper Jan Ullrich’s nine minutes, nine seconds in 2007—but he’s confident he won’t let the sport down the way Armstrong did. Talking to the Associated Press immediately following the race, Froome said, “This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time. —Dean Stattmann  

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THE MOBILIZER // Activating social media

Ben Rattray is returning the power to the people.

In 2007, Ben Rattray founded the website as a social networking destination where activists could unite in their desire to fight the good fight.

“I saw the rise of MySpace and Facebook in 2005 and realized the impact of social media,” says Rattray, 33. “It allows people to come together around a common interest and organize with one voice that’s far more powerful than individually.”

Today, the site has morphed into an Internet hub for thousands of petitions for various causes around the world. Users have the opportunity to be heard on everything from workers’ rights to environmental issues. The San Francisco-based company currently has more than 40 million users and receives up to 1,000 new petitions daily.

A few examples: Via, a 22-year-old nanny stopped a $5 fee Bank of America wanted to impose on its debit card holders; a recent college grad collected 110,000 signatures that forced Sallie Mae to rethink its forbearance fee policy; and in February 2013, more than a million Spanish citizens signed a petition asking for the resignation of their entire government.

“The site allows people not only to take action,” Rattray says,“but also to create real change on the issues they’re passionate about. —Matt Caputo

Fit Fact: “I do short, intense bursts of exercise: room sprints, pushups—usually 30 minutes in all,” says Rattray. “It’s about efficiency—getting into the best shape possible in the time I have available.”

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