The Virtual Visionary
Palmer Luckey (21)
Founder of Oculus VR, Irvine, California

Palmer Luckey has the world's largest collection of virtual-reality headsets—63, to be precise. Long obsessed with VR, Luckey sees in it "the possibility of doing things we can't do in real life. We play games to escape into something more fantastic, and the problem is that with a normal game, you're not actually inside of it."

Of course, as Luckey's collection of displays suggests, history is a boneyard of failed attempts to make VR truly realistic. Four years ago, he set out to create a display that would solve the fatal problems of its forebears. Called Oculus Rift, Luckey's device is lightweight, has a wide high-def display, and has virtually zero delay between users' movements and what they see. Luckey dropped out of college to bring his creation to market, and after raising $2.4 million on Kickstarter, he's received $91 million in venture capital.

The consumer version of the Rift is expected in the next year, but there are already thousands of models in the hands of developers. Though gaming is the most obvious market, other applications hint at the near-limitless potential impact: Ford uses Oculus Rift to test car prototypes; Autodesk uses it to let architects walk through buildings before they are built; doctors treat post-traumatic stress disorder and train amputees to use their prosthetic limbs with it; and an experimental art project earlier this year employed the Rift to explore gender-identity issues by having participants inhabit bodies of the opposite sex. "We've even seen NASA using it to analyze panoramas that they've taken on Mars," Luckey says.

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The Social Shopper
Deena Varshavskaya (33)
Founder of Wanelo, San Francisco

Deena Varshavskaya never liked shopping malls because she had to wade through so many things that didn't speak to her. Traditional e-commerce wasn't much better. She wanted to be able to see what her friends loved and save what she loved, browse those things in one place, and click to buy. In short, she wanted what social commerce had long promised but failed to deliver—at least until her San Francisco–based start-up, Wanelo (short for Want, Need, Love), arrived. The site allows users to follow stores and other users, in the process creating their own highly personalized shops (think Pinterest, but you can buy everything). The Siberian-born Varshavskaya spent two years on the site before it took off, after a redesign she calls "incredibly minimalist. We removed every feature until we were down to two things: people and products." Wanelo now has more than 200,000 stores and exploded from 1 million to 10 million users last year. It's most popular among women in their twenties, naturally, but the young-male demographic is growing fast. With designers like Todd Snyder and retailers like Mr Porter actively curating their offerings on the site, it's not hard to see why.

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The Bitcoin Speculators
Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (both 32)
Founders of Winklevoss Capital, New York City

Don't count the Winklevii out. Infamous for their legal battle with Mark Zuckerberg (and reported $65 million settlement from Facebook), Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss have once again thrust themselves into the wildest development in business: Bitcoin. When the Harvard-educated twins announced last April that they had bought one of the largest holdings in Bitcoins on the planet, the investment was worth $11 million. Now the value has grown to $50 million, and some analysts think it could hit billions. "It's primed for the next jump," Cameron says.

Bitcoin, which operates outside the bounds of any governments or banks, has attracted its fair share of controversy. Black markets such as the online drug hub Silk Road have relied on Bitcoin because of its anonymity, and the currency has been prone to massive swings in valuation (and even mysterious, ahem, disappearances). Despite the bumpy journey, Bitcoin is increasingly being seen as a viable form of money. There are even Bitcoin ATMs in several cities. As usage grows, the twins are working to establish something called the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, which would allow investors to buy shares, just as they would with, say, Facebook stock. "We're just getting started," Tyler says.