The year of millennial & Gen Z unicorns: young leaders breaking into tech startups

updated on 15 March 2022

Sruthi Rambhatla              5 min


Working with no restrictions

In the past several centuries, the pattern of educational systems and digitalization has completely changed the landscape of youth empowerment. Now, even teens are creating their own path and starting their own businesses. Because of the ubiquitous access to the internet and the fast-paced nature of technology available today, even small-scale projects can create tangible impact on people and their lives.

Millennials and Gen Z

Mint Graphiti
Mint Graphiti

At the forefront, young people are more willing to follow their dreams. Benjamin Franklin once said, "if passion drives you, let reason hold the reins". Passion is driving an astonishing number of youth to make the switch to entrepreneurship, despite the challenges they face. Apart from passion, there are a host of reasons why millennials and Gen Z choose to become entrepreneurs over the traditional route of getting a 9-5 desktop job. They are also more open to a flexible work culture (e.g., gig work) compared to older generations, especially in the climate of today. 

Striving for freedom & equity beyond themselves

Millennials and Gen Z tend to have completely different opinions and ideas from their parents and judgemental society. They thrive for freedom, equality, and justice in all aspects without any discrimination on grounds of sex, language, region, or religion. Many of them want a lifestyle that isn't bound to a 9-5. Of course, even though there's a lot of hype about having a flexible lifestyle, entrepreneurship involves more hard work and longer work hours. Young people are often exploratory and project-driven with a huge interest in learning novel and trending topics, from formal education to on-the-job discoveries, they tend to choose entrepreneurship and have demonstrated to be be successful at it.

As Albert Einstein said, "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere". From Edison (or Edward Calahan) inventing stock ticker to Steve Jobs developing personal computers, millennials dream bigger than ever before and are willing to put in the work to change outdated systems. People who are willing to create a change in society, who dream to facilitate people with more benefits and comfort apart from changing their own lives become social entrepreneurs.

Record-breaking growth in the startup ecosystem globally

The pandemic spurred a new way of entrepreneurship prompting people to start their own companies and doesn't seem to be slowing down. The US had 3.4 million new business applications in 2021 reported by the US census bureau. For the third consecutive year, high-growth startups have raised more than $130 billion, and 2020 represented the fourth straight year where more than 10,000 venture-backed companies secured an investment.

Venture capital (VC) investments in China reached $130.6 billion for 2021. That set a new record for the country which is about 50% higher than the $86.7 billion total of the year before. Many entrepreneurs turned away from softer internet business and instead turned toward hardcore technologies. The biotechnology was on top of the list of investment hitting $14.1 billion last year,  tenfold increase from 2016.

India on the other hand witnessed 7,000 new startups in 2020, with more than 10% growth in seed-stage deals and 13 unicorns added, for a total of 37 unicorns. With some rise and fall in investments, the VC investments have played a pivotal role in bolstering the startup ecosystem in India standing behind US and china globally, creating 3 million jobs directly or indirectly over the past 8 years.

Australia saw a continued rise in VC funding between July 2020 to July 2021, to a record of $2.5 US billion up from $1.95 US billion from the previous year, according to the latest KPMG venture pulse report. It reported a record of 327 VC investment deals over the financial year up from 311 over the previous 12 months.

Over the past decade, VC has seen massive changes:

  • Funding has risen by 17% annually to a figure of $254 billion. 
  • Global venture investment last year totalled $643 billion, compared to $335 billion for 2020, marking 92% growth year over year. 
  • Early-stage startups, while at the same time, increased by $100 billion more compared to the previous year. 
  • 2018 global funding increased 5 times than 2012.
  • 2021 global funding increased 10 times than 2012.

Now, turning your ideas into reality has never been easier. The tools are more straightforward to start building a startup and the world is interconnected—this is why many youngsters are taking advantage of these opportunities!

Who are the ones changing the world?

Several founders from all corners of the world from different educational backgrounds have not only established profitable, innovative businesses but have paved the way in social entrepreneurship, developing solutions to social, cultural, and environmental issues. They are making significant strides in global and local communities.

Here are brief bios of millennial and Gen Z entrepreneurs.

Luca Schnettler (22) is based in the UK and founded Qumata, a startup that focuses on patient data and insurance underwriting, aiming to improve healthcare. The algorithm developed received global attention with large insurance companies across many continents. He also recently secured Series A funding round worth $10M. 

Bonnie Chiu (23) a native citizen of Hong Kong co-founded Lensational, a non-profit social enterprise that aims to empower marginalized women by equipping them with cameras and photography training. Bonnie was a 2015 Hivos Social Innovation Award recipient and received the 2016 Asian Women of Achievement Award- Young Achiever.

Ennas Abo-Hamed (30) from Palestine is the founder and CEO of H2GO Power, a cleantech company that provides safe methods of hydrogen production and storage, which is a spin-out of Cambridge University. She was a finalist in the 2015 Cartier women's initiative awards and won the best energy startup award in the 2016 HT summit, and raised a total of $3.26M

Vibin Joseph (31) from India is the founder and executive director of BIOZEEN, a bioprocess engineering company, responsible for immunizing 1 in 3 children worldwide with its manufactured vaccines. As 6.6 million children die every year from diseases, which can be prevented by vaccines, BIOZEEN seeks to reach every child it can.

You can begin your journey irrespective of your age and anywhere you are, which is making young founders more confident to sell their ideas and pave their own road to success. The world needs more of young leaders creating an impact and taking charge. 

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