AP Images

$70 million: What Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox paid last year for a 5 percent stake

Why he matters: When Smith, 43, first announced that his small punk magazine had grown into a multimedia youth media company worth $1 billion, few took him seriously despite the fact that he had persuaded Tom Freston, the 68-year-old veteran who had helped launch MTV, to invest and serve as adviser. These days, nobody is laughing. With an HBO newsmagazine show, a YouTube channel with nearly 4.5 million subscribers, a record label with artists like Snoop Dog, a film division that released festival hit Lil Bub & Friendz and an in-house ad agency tapped by AT&T for a smartphone campaign for millennials, Vice recently sold a 5 percent stake to 21st Century Fox that values the company at $1.4 billion. It's hardly a stretch. Vice is expected to post $500 million in revenue this year, with Smith promising the company will hit the billion-dollar mark by 2016. "If money is the modern-day report card, we get an A-plus," he says. Smith is openly speaking about a potential IPO and believes the company would be valued at an amount that's on par with the $28.9 billion given to Twitter during its IPO in November.

Proudest accomplishment this year: "The launch of Vice News. We had some of the best coverage of Ukraine and Crimea out there, and all of the news agencies were picking us up."

Secret weapon: "Our editors. People think it's easy to make online video that drives hundreds of thousands of viewers."

Nemesis: "At one point, it would have been Gawker, but we put them in our rearview mirror. Now it's the status quo media like The New York Times. All the guys who are looking down their noses at us because we are taking their market share. We are coming to eat their lunch."

How his peers view him: "I think we were the cute kid brother and I was the bombastic huggable drunk guy. Now that people are realizing that there is a method to our madness, they're saying, 'These guys aren't as stupid as we thought.' "

Off-hours: "I have a place in Costa Rica that is in the middle of the jungle," says Smith, who lives in Tribeca with his wife, Tamyka, and two daughters, Martina and Piper. "There's no Internet. There's no TV. Do I work there? Hell no."