Tiffany Kelly and Ashten Smith-Gooden followed their passions for sports into a life of entrepreneurship, now they’ve each secured spots on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Media list.
By Emily Mason
For decades, student athletes were cut out of the multi-billion dollar college sports industry their work powered. That changed last year when the National Collegiate Athletic Association approved a new policy allowing college athletes to get paid for use of their personal brands. Entrepreneur and data scientist Tiffany Kelly aims to supercharge that shift with Curastory, a platform to help athletes and entertainers create and monetize video content.
Growing up in Louisiana, Kelly, 28, competed on swim, volleyball and basketball teams. That love of sports (and a B.S. in sports management and analytics) earned her a job as the first African-American analyst on ESPN’s Stats & Information team. There, using her self-taught coding skills, she built projects like the College Football Fan Happiness Index.
In 2019 she founded New York-based Curastory. The startup has raised $3.5 million from high-profile investing firms including Lightspeed Venture Partners and Google and is on track to bring in $9 million in revenue this year. Kelly’s power moves at the intersection of sports and data have landed her a spot on Forbes’ 2023 30 Under 30 Media list.
“The disruptors that win in billion dollar exits are the ones that are young enough within the industry to not be clouded by old constructs, but old enough to learn the history of what works and doesn’t in the industry,” Kelly says.
Our annual list spotlights young journalists, authors, entrepreneurs and content creators who are driving the world of news and content. All candidates had to be under the age of 30 as of December 31, 2022, and never named to a 30 Under 30 list.
Nominations come from the public and our research; the final honorees were chosen by a panel of judges including Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House Correspondent and 2019 Under 30 alumna; George M. Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue; Trip Adler, founder and CEO of content sharing platform Scribd and 2014 Under 30 alumnus; and Charlamagne tha God, co-host of radio show The Breakfast Club, which tops 4.5 million listeners daily. Of those named to the final list, more than half identify as people of color. Nearly half are women and two are non-binary.
Kelly is featured alongside 29 other media mavens shaping our digital landscape—and she’s not the only sports fanatic on the list. Ashten Smith-Gooden, 26, played Division I volleyball at University of California, Berkeley where she also helped start the Black Student-Athlete Committee. After graduating, Smith-Gooden co-founded Swish Cultures, a media company updating followers on all things basketball. She’s since collaborated with NBA and WNBA all-stars including LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Candace Parker.
This year’s list also spotlights Travis Lyles, 29, The Washington Post’s youngest-ever senior editor who helps direct the newspaper’s social media platforms. In his five years on the job, Lyles has helped build the Post’s following from 600,000 to more than 6 million on Instagram.
Another honoree is Alex Aster, 27, a determined author who used TikTok and Instagram to market her young adult novel, Lightlark, after it was rejected by 16 publishers. The strategy paid off with Aster landing a 7-figure movie deal pre-publication and selling 24,517 copies of the New York Times best seller in its first week. Today, she has over 1 million followers across the two platforms.
Daniel Snow, 29, makes the list after starting his media company RapTV, which covers news across music, entertainment and e-gaming. In its fifth year of operation the brand brought in almost $5 million in earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation.
This year’s list was edited by Jair Hilburn, Mark Joyella and Emily Mason. For a link to our complete Media list, click here, and for full 30 Under 30 coverage, click here.
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