Ruzwana Bashir, 31, cofounder and CEO, peek.com
As a frequent traveler, Bashir often found that researching fun activities was time-consuming and frustrating. "I couldn't understand why something like OpenTable for activities didn't exist," she says, so she decided to start something herself. Peek.com helps travelers find and book excursions—like a Segway cheesesteak tour in Philly or kitesurfing lessons in Maui—online. It's a concept others in the tech industry believe in too. The company has a group of A-list investors including Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Twitter's Jack Dorsey, and Apple selected the app to be on all in-store iPhones nationwide.
What makes her proud: Bashir, who grew up in a British Pakistani community in the U.K., recently went public about being sexually abused as a child. "As a successful entrepreneur, I felt I owed it to my community to speak out about these issues," she says, and her abuser was ultimately convicted of criminal charges.
Ayah Bdeir, 32, founder and CEO, LittleBits Electronics
"I imagine a world where, just as you go online and design your own window shades, you will be able to design your own electronic products; everyone becomes an inventor," says Bdeir. Her company, LittleBits, makes electronic building blocks that allow customers to build the technology that would, say, make a teddy bear light up or control an air conditioner with an iPhone. Her market: everyone from kids to engineers who are prototyping new products.
Her big vision: "Electronics are controlling our lives," she says. "Yet the tech world is an industry controlled in a top-down fashion by big companies, so there's a slow cycle of innovation. We want to make hardware innovation limitless and put the power of electronics in everyone's hands."
Lynn Root, 28, back-end engineer, Spotify
Three years ago Root was working in banking—but then she took a computer science class. "I did my final project in [the coding language] Python," she recalls. "The idea of creating something out of nothing electrified me, and I said, 'Screw finance!'" Now she's an engineer at Spotify and a global leader of PyLadies, a mentorship organization for women in tech who code in or want to learn Python.
Her words to live by: "You don't need a degree in computer science to work in tech," she says. "You need gumption and focus. It's OK not to know something as long as you show that you're intelligent enough to learn it."