Member Article

Lockdown Startups: Gen Z turn to entrepreneurship, as pandemic fuels ‘passion projects’

On a mission to support young entrepreneurial talent, TransferWise, a global technology company building the best way to move money around the world, has identified the twenty most promising young founders across Europe.

New research from YouGov and TransferWise revealed that almost half (46%) of young people aged 16-25 in the UK have changed their career plans since the lockdown started, with more than half (55%) saying they find the concept of launching their own business appealing.

22% of those who have started, or are considering starting their own business, have come across a problem during lockdown that makes them want to start their own business. In addition, 41% claim that ‘feeling passionate about their business’ is a key driver for their ambition.

As a keen supporter of entrepreneurship,TransferWise launched its 20 Under 20 competition in 2018 to support young business leaders on their journey.

A high-profile panel of leading entrepreneurs, investors and advisors, including Nico Rosberg (Sustainability Entrepreneur and F1 World Champion), Eva Maydell (Member of the European Parliament), Roxanne Varza (Director of STATION F in Paris), Zanny Minton Beddoes (EIC of the Economist), chaired by TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus, chose the 20 winners. Each entrepreneur will receive tailored mentoring and £1 million worth of fee-free transfers to take their business global.

Overall, the competition saw an increase of 300% in applicants from last year. Almost 50% of applicants are female founders and 66% of applicants from minority backgrounds.

Looking to build a green and inclusive future, sustainability and social entrepreneurship emerge as the key themes among these young businesses.

From the 20 finalists, the 20 Under 20 competition chairman and co-founder of TransferWise, Taavet Hinrikus, chose two overall winners who receive £12,500 prize money each for their business:

**John McElhone **(19) from Northern Ireland, co-founder of CropSafe. Today, farmers lose €400bn every year due to farmland mismanagement. John and his team empower farmers across the globe with the data to make better informed decisions. By evaluating millions of weather and agricultural data points and sending actionable real-time alerts to the user’s app, CropSafe seeks to innovate 21 century farming.

**Henri Pihelgas **(18) from Estonia, co-founder of DeepPeat. What started as research for a school paper regarding sea contamination, Henri has built a startup looking to clean the oceans from oil spills in a new efficient and sustainable way. DeepPeat produces reusable and eco-friendly peat-based mats which absorb 5-10 times more oil than current solutions and offer to repurpose the collected oil.

The young founders join the two previous winners Rose Dyson (2018), founder of cruelty-free beauty company Pura Cosmetics and Aimée Clint (2019), founder of Books by Stellas, a social enterprise breaking stigma and raising awareness of Autism.

TransferWise Chairman and co-founder Taavet Hinrikus said: “There’s an astounding level of determination and creativity amongst young people, and this year’s winners of the 20 Under 20 competition prove that. The global pandemic and climate crisis have only accelerated the younger generation’s ambitions to find solutions for the most pressing problems that humankind face. Both winners, John and Henri, are committed to making the world a better place and I believe their businesses can have a global impact.

“Growing a business globally needs a ton of support and it can be tough for young founders to find the right people to lean on. To help the bright young talent on their journey scaling up, we are offering them practical mentoring, as well as creating an international network of like-minded innovators - a strong supporting network being one of the most valuable parts of the entrepreneurial life. I’m really excited about what lies ahead for all of our 20 finalists.”

John McElhone, co-founder of CropSafe: “Winning the TransferWise 20 Under 20 has been a huge shock and an opportunity that I can see opening many doors for the future of CropSafe. With the prize money and mentorship, we are able to push forward with our plans to to roll-out our product globally to the users who need it most. TransferWise has made this possible for us with their support, and with our amazing team at CropSafe, I’m looking forward to what the future holds for us as a global business.”

Henri Pihelgas, co-founder of DeepPeat: “Participating in the competition and being chosen one of the finalists was a milestone for me. It shows that I’m working on the right thing and it inspires me to contribute even more to my company. I’m also hoping this will inspire all teens to be more entrepreneurial and to dream big. Because you never know when these kinds of amazing opportunities come along. The prize money gives us the opportunity to further develop our product and start proper production.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by TransferWise .

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