By Paula Hass and Valentina Loiz
The future of Europe depends on the ideas, ambition and determination of young people. The young achievers on this list have shown that you don’t need to be grey to wield power and profoundly influence lives. They come from a diverse range of backgrounds and professions, reflecting not just the optimistic, youthful population of Europe but also its dynamic economy.
Through our own research and multiple conversations with industry experts, we selected names that meet our three broad criteria: The extent of impact of their achievements, and their ability to disrupt the status quo; scalability of the business or line of work and; their potential to stay a long-term player. Here is a list of top 10 young achievers who have contributed significantly to make our world a better place and deserve the appreciation for all their efforts. We are honouring these new generation of leaders for their lasting values and clear footprints. The list that follows is in no particular order.
Oleksiy Honcharuk – Oleksiy had just three months of government experience when he became the Ukraine’s youngest ever prime minister in August 2019. A lawyer, Honcharuk was appointed a deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office in May.
Honcharuk, who studied law and public administration before cofounding a law firm at the age of 24, is considered a supporter of liberal economic reforms. Some have described him as a “team player” and “workaholic”. Before becoming deputy head of the president’s office when Zelensky came to power, he managed for several years an EU-funded NGO that works to improve the business environment in Ukraine.
Sanna Marin – At 34 she has become the world’s youngest prime minister, and her country’s youngest ever, at a difficult time – as Finland is hit by strikes and populist nationalism looms over its politics. Her socio-economical background is rare for the leader of a country.
She comes from a home with not much money, and was the first in her family to have a university degree. But it’s not just that. Rainbow families could feel empowered too, because Marin lived in a two-mum family.
Greta Thunberg – Over the last year, the teenager has entered the global spotlight as the leader of a youth movement that’s pushing governments and corporations to address the climate crisis.
Thunberg began a global movement by skipping school: starting in August 2018, she spent her days camped out in front of the Swedish Parliament, holding a sign painted in black letters on a white background that read Skolstrejk för klimatet: “School Strike for Climate.” In the 16 months since, she has addressed heads of state at the U.N., met with the Pope, sparred with the President of the United States and inspired 4 million people to join the global climate strike on September 20, 2019, in what was the largest climate demonstration in human history.
Along the way, she emerged as a standard bearer in a generational battle, an avatar of youth activists across the globe fighting for everything from gun control to democratic representation.
Josephine Goube – A French innovator with a heart of gold, Goube has shown that entrepreneurial innovation and humanitarianism can go hand in hand together. She is the CEO of Techfugees, an impact-driven global organization aimed at building a sustainable ecosystem of “tech for refugee” solutions & supporting the inclusion of refugees and displaced people into the tech industry.
Alumnus from both Sciences Po Paris and the London School of Economics in urban development, Josephine seats on the board of the Norwegian Refugee Council and acts as an informal expert for the European Commission on migration reforms. Nominated as one of the top “30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs” by Forbes in 2016, 2017 and 2018, in 2017 she was honored as “Digital Women” of the year in France in 2017.
Vikash Das – As one of the world’s most recognised faces of conscious capitalism, Vikash’s inspiring passion has the potential to inspire any audience. He has redefined the concept of business in Europe by combining a traditional business model with a pressing social mission in ways that have been helping to make big changes in eastern Europe.
He is the founder of Vat Vrikshya that directly and indirectly impacted the lives of almost 30,000 artisans in Eurasia by facilitating business and leadership trainings, connecting artisans to markets and funding small scale enterprises. As one of the Global Shapers in World Economic Forum he is revolutionizing the start-up ecosystem in Europe by mentoring young founders, connecting to angel investors and changing the organizational set up of start ups. An eloquent speaker, Vikash believes passionately that today’s consumers are most likely to support organizations who stand for something they care about.
Robert Gentz – The story of the rise of the business economist from Düsseldorf Robert Gentz to becoming the boss of the e-commerce success Zalando starts on a beach in Guatemala. Gentz was vacationing there at the beginning of 2007 and read in a newspaper that StudiVZ was sold to Holtzbrinck Publishers for a giant €85 million. He found it fascinating and asked himself, “How can a website be so valuable? What is valuable about it?”
Predominantly specializing in shoes, the company has gone from strength to strength, with a current value of a staggering 6.8 billion euros and 5,000 staff on the payroll. In the realms of entrepreneurial eCommerce, Gentz is truly one of the prototypes on how to do things correctly.
Gert van Vugt – At less than 30 years of age, the ambitious Dutchman has achieved much in a short span of time. As the sole founder of Sustainer Homes, van Vugt set out to reduce carbon emissions in the construction industry, which accounts for a third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.
His company employs the latest green technologies to create sustainable homes that cut out 90% of greenhouse gases from the construction process. Hundreds of these green homes have already been built, and there are even plans underway to build three whole sustainable neighbourhoods by the end of the year.
Jamie Bolding – Hailing from the United Kingdom, bolding is the sole founder of the meteorically successful Jungle Creations. This social media marketing platform helps connect users with a talent for viral content creation join forces with the biggest companies looking to crowd source fresh talent to help put their latest campaigns together.
Numbering titans of business like Baileys, Virgin, Apple and Disney amongst their client base, 110 million followers help this site generate 5.5 billion unique video views every month, making for one of the liveliest social marketing networks around.
Kriti Sharma – Sharma is Vice President of Bots and AI at Sage, one of the UK’s largest tech companies and co-inventor of a range of chatbots for business finances.
She’s dedicated herself to developing more diverse and ethically sensitive artificial intelligent systems that improve customer engagement in business and financial sectors. However, Sharma is solidly opposed to trying to make bots better mimic humans and instead focuses on programming the software for maximum utility and user-friendliness.
At the age of 21, Sharma was elected as a Rajiv Gandhi Science Fellow for her work in energy optimisation and its applications in astrophysics, material science, polymer and bioinformatics research. In 2010, Google awarded her the Google India Women in Engineering Award for excellence in computer science and demonstrated leadership in promoting diversity.
Habib Frost – Habib Frost is an Entrepreneur, Inventor, Researcher and Physician. He graduated as the youngest Medical Doctor in Denmark at the age of 23 and was elected Forbes 30 under 30 in 2017. He is the founder & CEO of Neurescue developing computer-aided medical devices to improve the current rates of resuscitation and survival, using a combination of novel medical technology, hardware and software. Habib is a speaker on the future of medicine and digital biology having worked with sensors, robotics and the gene editing technology CRISPR.
About the Authors
Paula Hass works for the office of the U.N special envoy for financing the UN Sustainability Development Goals. She was previously an engagement manager in McKinsey’s healthcare practice in Germany and London. She has designed and implemented impact evaluations of tech start-ups and social ventures in Europe and Asia.
Valentina Loiz, a senior journalist from Berlin, Valentina has worked with some of the most globally recognised news and media outlets. Having an extensive knowledge of Economics, Political and Social affairs, she writes on international trade, market, policy matters, humanitarian and development resilience. Her investigative reporting has appeared in various dailies.