Innovators Under 35 in Davos: The Youth Among the Elite Who Define the Future


In recent years, one image has come to represent the concentration of real power like no other: the World Economic Forum (WEF), celebrated annually at the Alpine resort town of Davos (Switzerland). This year politicians, bankers and magnates were joined by four Innovators Under 35: Isaac Castro, Romain Lacombe, Rodrigo Teijeiro and Javier Agüera in an attempt to bring youth and technology to the upper echelons that shape the future of the world.

Isaac Castro (left) and Romain Lacombe (right), together at the meeting in Davos

Agüera and Castro belong to the Spanish editions of Innovators Under 35 2011 and 2013 respectively, and both are members of the Global Shapers organization, a WEF initiative. Lacombe was recognized in the French 2015 edition and attended the event through a special invitation from the French minister of economy. Teijero, a winner of the Argentina and Uruguay 2012 edition, was one of the speakers on the The 21st-Century Dream” panel during the event.

The researcher and entrepreneur Javier García, a global Innovator Under 35 winner in 2007, is a member of the WEF´s global advisory panel and explained as follows the inclusion of these young innovators in the world’s economic elite. “Half of the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared since 2000; young entrepreneurs were instrumental in driving this change, and since that year, they have created some of the most important companies in the world.”

García cited Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Tesla and Uber, all founded less than 20 years ago by entrepreneurs under the age of 40. “The world leaders that attend the forum in Davos every year are conscious of the fact that it is young people who define trends and create the fastest growing companies.” For this reason, Garcia concludes, “it is not unusual to see very young people in Davos, sitting on panels with chiefs of state and prime ministers discussing education, entrepreneurialism or network privacy.”

Isaac Castro during one of the WEF sessions

And this is exactly what these young Innovators Under 35 did: share the spotlight with the people who hold political and economic power. For Lacombe, “It was amazing to recognize both the business leaders of the most important companies on Earth today as well as the economists, researchers and innovators that are shaping the world of tomorrow.” His favorite moments were: “spending an afternoon in the mountains with explorer Bertrand Piccard and Harvard Professor Linda Hill to learn about their research on innovation leadership; and listening to my friend Amira Yahyaoui, a leader of the civic innovation and open governance movement in Tunisia, discuss on stage the future of politics and social innovation”.

Castro highlighted two encounters: the first with Richard Branson, the magnate and founder of the Virgin group, and his role model “for having fallen and picked himself back up, which inspires me as a technological innovator.” The second, with the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, who Castro defines as “a ray of hope” and who he cites as the political example he would like to see in every country. “We often lose hope with what we see first hand and in neighboring countries, but Trudeau is an inspiration as a leader that really thinks about the needs of his country and innovative ways to lead”, Castro says.

No doubt meeting these young innovator was just as inspiring for many of the attendees, who had the opportunity to learn from them how technology and entrepreneurship can resolve world issues. In the words of Lacombe,

“It’s easy to be cynical in today’s world given the amount of suffering, inequality, pollution and challenges the world faces, but I also came away with the resolutely optimistic conclusion that our leaders care more than we sometimes think about where the world is going and how we can make it more inclusive and prosperous for everyone”.
Romain Lacombe presenting his work to the French Secretary of Foreign Affairs