Who Is the Entrepreneur of the Year?

Last week Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and owner of Chobani Inc., producer of an American brand of Greek-style yogurt, beat out nearly 2,000 of the world's best entrepreneurs to be named the overall winner of Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of The Year.

Who Is the Entrepreneur of the Year?
Source: chobani.com

Ulukaya is one of Ernst & Young's 25-plus year quest to recognize those whose entrepreneurial spirits serve as role models for aspiring innovators. Finalists were not just from the proverbial Silicon Valley startup — they were spread across all sectors throughout the country.

This year Ernst & Young, working in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation, set out to analyze why this group of entrepreneurs has been able to prosper in the face of uncertain and trying economic times.

"This group grew their revenue overall 48 percent over the last two years. The S&P 500 grew at 16 percent," said E&Y partner Bryan Pearce. In addition, the entrepreneurs grew 150,000 jobs during the same period.

So: What are these entrepreneurs doing right?

E&Y and the Kauffman Foundation's new study "Defying Gravity" examined their techniques. Key factors range from maintaining a focus on the individual employee to embracing innovation.

One of the most important factors startups should consider is to put customer acquisition over venture capital. Kauffman Foundation VP Lesa Mitchell explains that there is a myth in the country "that all companies are attached to venture capital and we know that only 16 percent of high-growth companies ever take venture capital."

According to the study, one could be argue that the most important key to entrepreneurial success is the ability to preserve and protect an established brand. More than half of E&Y's Entrepreneur Of The Year finalists identified preserving company culture as a top concern for their companies to grow and mature.

The full report Defying Gravity report on high-growth entrepreneurship can be found here.