Meet 10 Millennial Entrepreneurs Who Are Rethinking Industries

For the past few months I circumnavigated the globe for a second time, this time ‘virtually’ on a mission to source the most disruptive seed-stage startups founded by entrepreneurs under the age of 30. Addicted to talent, I embarked on an inspiring journey through 77 countries. From Russia to Ghana to Brazil — fearless, ambitious, and entrepreneurial young minds around the world are rethinking industries. They are leveraging technology to build disruptive solutions to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Here is a photo journey of some ventures worth watching:

  1. Emmanuel Noah, Co-founder, BenBen (age 23, Ghana)
“Did you know that globally there is an estimated $9.3 trillion in trapped capital due to the lack of access to trusted and secured land records? ”— Emmanuel Noah

While attending the UN Solution Summit in New York, I was moderating a brainstorm session on BenBen’s blockchain powered land services. While Emmanuel explained the need their startup was addressing, he showed us a picture of a house in Ghana that had a huge sign “NOT FOR SALE” spray painted on it — nothing unusual he assured us. Growing up in Ghana, Emmanuel recognized the negative impacts of the government’s insecure, paper registry that lead to a lack of lending and trust in the land economy.

In Ghana it is estimated that the amount of trapped capital due to the lack of secured land records is $20 billion.

Emmanuel and his co-founder Daniel Bloch recognized that the land administration process is ripe for disruption and decided to revolutionize the land registry and transactions process through the introduction of blockchain technology. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he received a research grant that allowed him to spent 18 months researching the market, after which he joined the Techstars’ Barclays Accelerator. In March 2017, BenBen completed their first pilot with Barclays Bank Ghana and signed pilot agreements with two additional banks. Today they are in the process of finalizing agreements with three other banks. As the co-founder of BenBen he provides governments, financial institutions, realtors and the general public, instant access to property information using blockchain technology. Emmanuel managed to get through the bureaucracy and is currently working with the Ghana Lands Commission to implement a national land registry and property transactions platform.

BenBen’s team talent didnt go unrecognized at the Kairos Society Global Summit, at which Tim Draper personally invested $100,000 in the startup.

2. Nikita Cheniuntai, Co- founder, Apis Cor (Age 26, Russia)

“Did you know you could 3D print a 100 square meter house in 24 hours entirely on site?” — Nikita Cheniuntai

Nikita is a 26 year old entrepreneur and is the co-founder of Apis Cor. His vision is to solve an increasingly difficult global problem of affordable housing and he is currently on a journey to disrupt the global construction market.

They are the first company to develop a mobile construction 3D printer, which is capable at building entire buildings completely on site.

Apis Cor is cutting the traditional methods of construction by 40%.

Their technology is ready for mass use, and their equipment can be used in extreme conditions even at a temperature of -35 degrees Celsius (-31 degrees Fahrenheit). Despite his young age, he is not just imagining the impossible. He turned his vision into a an actual first prototype — their first residential house has been printed of which the construction costs amounted to only 10.134 USD! Having partnered with the largest construction company in Russia, and worked with various partners abroad they are on a fast track to scale their patented construction method internationally.

Nikita has already received 7000+ inquiries from construction companies, potential customers and people who see Apis Cor as a solution to improve their current living conditions.

Watch how they have constructed their first house:

3. Marcin Pilarz — Founder, Talkin’ Things (age 29, Poland)

“Did you know that 30 per cent of all branded drugs bought in developing nations are counterfeit?” — Marcin Pilarz
Marcin Pilarz presenting Talking Things at the New York Stock Exchange

I had the pleasure of meeting Marcin Pilarz, the founder of Talkin’ Things in Poland. I was inspired by his startup journey, and impressed by his humble attitude — today he is literally disrupting an industry. Marcin built a smart packaging system based on the NFC (Near Field Communication)/RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology, cloud computing and a mobile/web application. With his technology every customer is empowered to check any information about a product through a patented integration of the NFC/RFID tag in a package.

Globally it is estimated that the fake drugs market ranges from $75 to $200 billion and can make up to half of all drugs sold in some low-income countries. Marcin’s solution is applied to all food, beverage, wine and spirits, pharmaceutical and FCMG industries, which has a huge impact in fighting counterfeit products and protecting customers from any harmful health issues. His client portfolio includes an impressive number of Fortune 500 companies.

Talkin’ Things has over 20 pending patents and is bringing 1.5 Billion tags on the market within a year, reimagining the customer experience.

The most important feature of the Talkin’ Things Smart Packaging is the protection of the customer. By placing a tag on a product’s packaging seal, the customer benefits from an anti-refilling protection and authenticity confirmation thanks to a 4-layer security system used for encryption of each NFC tag. When the product is in store, the customer taps the NFC smart label with a smartphone and the mobile app confirms the authenticity of the product and ensures that it has never been opened before. This message gives 100% certainty that the product is safe to use. Talkin’ Things is the only provider in the world that delivers a comprehensive 11 steps, end-to-end solution. This competitive advantage starts with custom-made tags and ends with software and hardware solutions ensuring the reliability of their Smart Packaging System.

4. Duleek Ranatunga, Founder Ourotech (age 21, Canada)

Did you know that its possible to remove the trial and error process of cancer treatment by testing the drug on patient tumor samples outside of their body?

Knowing which combination of drugs will work on cancer patients is especially critical for late stage cancer patients, who only have one chance for a doctor to give them the right treatment and less than 20% chance of surviving. While cancer treatment has now shifted from using one drug for a patient to a combination of a variety of drugs to ensure better synergy — how can we ensure the right combination for each patient?

Most hospitals have no way to personalize cancer treatments for patients.

Duleeka Ranatunga wanted to address this need through his startup Ourotech. He is a young visionary scientist who has created personalized cancer treatments using tumor engineering hydrogel technology that combines a patient’s tumor sample with an environment mimicking late stage human breast, colon and brain cancer. He obtains a patient’s tumor sample from biopsy, and grows tumors in proprietary hydrogel (Ourotech Genesis). This allows him to test cancer drugs and combinations using cell viability tests. With smart algorithms Ourotech can then translate the in­-vitro dosage to a human dosage to administer treatment.

Ourotech is currently offering this drug testing as a service, but in the near future it will also be offered as a product (hydrogel) in order to scale more efficiently and allow other labs or hospitals to use the consumable material to provide their personalized drug testing service.

Duleek has received a contract with Harvard Medical School and Dana Farber Cancer Institute to use Ourotech’s technology as a first of a kind complimentary diagnostic for immunotherapies in a preclinical trial and clinical trial if successful.

Watch Ourotech Founder and CEO presenting his company at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California:

5. Habib Frost, Founder Neurescue (26 years old, Denmark)

“Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for almost 17 million deaths annually?” — Habib Frost
The device allows for the first mobile computer-controlled balloon catheter that can be placed without flouroscopy or CT, where and when the patient needs it.

At the age of 23, Habib graduated as the youngest medical doctor in Denmark. During his last year at medical school he was called out to a 4- month old girl, while serving on the emergency services. Her heart stopped and she was suffering from a cardiac arrest. With the current treatment that was available he could not save her life. Deeply affected by the situation he knew he had to do something about it. Today he is using technology to address cardiac arrest — a medical area that hasn’t seen significant change in treatment since the 1980s with only about 10% surviving the treatment today.

Habib is the founder of Neurescue, a new intelligent medical device for the improved treatment of both cardiac arrest and critical bleedings. The device allows for the first mobile computer-controlled balloon catheter that can be placed without fluoroscopy or CT, where and when the patient needs it.

In a cardiac arrest the blood flow goes to near zero and the chest compressions can only replace about a quarter of the blood flow that is needed. With Neurescue’s device one can insert it into a blood vessel in the leg, the femoral artery, and occlude the aorta in order to redistribute the blood flow generated by chest compressions to the two most sensitive organs; the heart and brain. The increase in blood supply to the heart ensures that many more hearts can be resuscitated early. The increased blood supply to the brain protects against brain damage, allowing for more time to treat the underlying cause of the cardiac arrest.

Habib’s mission is to improve the current low survival rate from the current 10% with the use of Neurescue and they are looking at potentially multiplying the survival, by increasing it at the scene of the incident, and by bridging the patients safely to more advanced therapies inside the hospital, such as stent-placement and heart-lung-machines that currently take too long time to perform safely without Neurescue.

Neurescue raised 26 million DKK in a series A financing round ($3.8 million USD)

Neurescue combines sensor technology from modern aerospace engineering with both medical theory and a new procedure. A Mass-manufacturable version of the device will be ready by the end of the year. Watch Habib present at TEDxHamburg:

6. Dominik Tomičević & Marko Budiselić, co-founders Memgraph (Age 25, Croatia)

“Did you know that it is estimated that there are about 2.5 Exabytes of data produced everyday?” — Dominik Tomičević
Memgraphs Dream Team! From left to right: Dominik Tomičević, Marko Budiselić & Karim Traiaia

That’s the equivalent to 90 years of HD Videos. By 2020 our accumulated digital universe of data would have grown by 10X, and data will be more interconnected than ever before.

Dominik and Marko met in primary school at a programming competition. Today they are the co-founders of Memgraph, the world’s first scalable real-time Graph Database.

Graph Databases represent $1bn in market opportunity and have been the fastest growing segment in the database market since 2013. Forrester predicts a 25 percent industry uptake by 2017 translating in a market increase of 100% YoY well into the next decade.

In order to answer complex questions one needs to store, manage and access interconnected data. Tech giants such as Google and Facebook have reimagined their businesses around the value of data relationships. They rely on high-performance graph applications which have been created using expensive & bespoke hardware and software costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Attempts to democratise this capability has left developers largely dissatisfied, particularly when requiring high performance on a scale, rendering many applications impossible.

MemGraph is bridging this gap by bringing the performance of graph databases built by tech giants to every enterprise.

For the past 50 years, enterprises were able to gain a competitive advantage by leveraging traditional analytics. However, in today’s reality, these traditional analytics have become accessible to the masses, are an expected part of every organization’s bottom line and thus are not providing the competitive edge that they once used to. For the modern enterprise to succeed in our highly connected world, it must absolutely learn to efficiently leverage those connections.

The founding team is an impressive one. Dominik, the CEO has been named by Forbes as one of the top 10 CEOs in the UK to watch in 2017. At the same time he also won the “Bill Gates’ Imagine Cup” having developed game-changing technologies using data-processing. His co-founder and CTO, Marko, is an expert in graph databases having previously developed cutting edge personalized recommendation technology at a multinational media company. Karim, works at Techstars as a business associate and met the Memgraph team during the Techstars London 2016 accelerator program. Today he is heading their business development.

7. Vivek Kopparthi, Sivakumar Palaniswamy, Chase Garrett, Co-founders Neolight (Age 27, 26, 27, Arizona, USA/India)

“Did you know that 60% of newborn babies suffer from Jaundice?” — Vivek Kopparthi

Every year over 5.9 million infants go untreated for jaundice. Over 1,200 infants die each day as a result of this completely preventable health condition. Many who survive are left with permanent brain damage. In countries like the U.S., jaundice is the 3rd most common reason parents return to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, with their infants.

Current treatment options are only available in the hospital. Babies are separated from the mothers during their critical first days in massive and expensive incubators. Beyond the possible side effect of skin irritation and dehydration, parents experience anxiety and hospital bills that can run up to $8,000 a day.

This is all preventable, and NeoLight has a solution.

Vivek and his team recognized that hospital-based infant care is in desperate need of disruption and founded NeoLight, a medical device company that (to quote their mantra) is “empathy-driven”. Their first product, SkyLife, is a portable, small and cost-effective device that allows parents to treat jaundice at home. Its flexible, innovative design has NeoLight believing that it could eradicate jaundice from the globe. SkyLife is currently in final stages of FDA review and is expected to be available in fall 2017.

NeoLight has teamed up with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Arizona State University and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. In the past year alone, they have secured $3M in investment from the likes of NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Dignity Health, and AOL Co-founder, Steve Case, among several other industry leaders.

In January 2017, Vivek was recognozed by Forbes Magazine as a 30 Under 30 fellow and in April 2017, the team was recognized by Obvious Ventures who awarded Neolight the World Positive Award of $50,000 USD at the Kairos Society Global Summit.

The company is already expanding to other neonatal health conditions with the development of their second device, which will treat infant hypothermia.

8. Xavier Duportet, Eligo Bioscience (age 29, France)

“Did you know that the World Health Organization is predicting that infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria will be the main cause of deaths in 2050?”
— Xavier Duportet
Xavier Duportet, Founder Eligo Bioscience

Xavier Duportet is the founder of Eligo Bioscience, a biotech startup that is developing a new kind of intelligent, highly targeted antibiotics, which will only kill pathogenic bacteria, while sparing the rest of our healthy microbiome.

Equipped with a PhD in Synthetic Biology, Xavier’s mission is to find an alternative treatment to fight infections, especially antibiotic resistant deadly bacterial diseases affecting the children and populations at risk.

His team has build eligobiotics, new drugs that are able to not only identify bacteria that need to be killed — including those that are resistant to antibiotics —, but also kill them specifically and efficiently. If successful, this could save millions of lives reversing the current WHO predictions forecasting that over 10 million people will die from antibiotic resistant infections per year.

“Eligo’s technology could be as important as the discovery of penicillin.” — Proffessor . Christian Brechot, Executive Director at Institut Pasteur

Xavier has recruited a top team, he managed to attract scientists from MIT, Stanford, Inserm and Institut Pasteur, as well as former executives from large big pharma to join him on his mission. He wants to bring his smart-antibiotics to the market as fast as possible and he is about to raise a Series A round. His goal is to bring the technology to the clinic and test their technology on humans by 2020

Xavier’s talent has been widely recognized. He is a senior advisor to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Founder and President of Hello Tomorrow, has been named the French Innovator of the Year by the MIT Technology Review, is a Forbes 30 under 30 fellow, French PhD-Entrepreneur of the Year by AEF, and a laureate of the Worldwide Innovation Challenge.

9. Carlos Lei Santos, Andre Francisco, co-founders Hype Labs (Age 25 , Portugal)

“Did you know that there are currently 5 Billion (dis)connected devices?” — Carlos Lei Santos
Founders HypeLabs; Carlos Lei Santos & Andre Francisco

Carlos and Andre spent most of their childhood playing with technology. Andre was fascinated by Computer Science and became a self-taught developer at the age of eleven. Carlos started working in tech at the age of fourteen and started managing a team working for IBM at the age of sixteen. They have since then gained experience working for some of the top research labs in the country.

While studying a semester abroad in Brazil, Carlos and Andre found it extremely difficult to contact anyone on campus due to the lack of wifi, so they decided to build a chat app which allowed people to text and send a ‘push-to-talk” message, even while offline using peer-to-peer mesh networks. They didnt expect that the app would gain so much popularity on campus. It wasn’t until they attended a tech conference, where the internet was down that they understood the need for other apps to use such technology — thats when HypeLabs was born.

HypeLabs is an SDK platform that allows any device to communicate even without the internet. Today, Hypelabs is used by more than 300 companies on a closed beta program. Their client portfolio has more than a dozen Fortune 500 enterprises using their services.

From messaging apps to vehicles, file sharing tools to drones, their technology is already being used on a wide variety of use cases. The founders’ vision is to connect everything in the future: securely, interoperable and even when offline.

Carlos and Andre were part of the AngelPad accelerator and were nomited as one of the 100 most disruptive companies in 2016 by Marketing Week. To this date they have raised $1,5M, and hold offices both in Porto (Portugal) and San Francisco.

10. Ivan Novikov, Founder Wallarm, (age 28, USA)

“Did you know that every single site on the internet is permanently under attack by the bots scanning the entire Internet for vulnerable machines? Anyone can be hacked.”
— Ivan Novikov

Did you know that 76% of enterprise are switching to agile development techniques to run faster — but security almost always becomes a sacrifice to the speed? Thousands of companies fall prey to hackers every year. Many will remember the Yahoo or LinkedIn hacks taking place in 2016. LinkedIn alone leaked 117 million email accounts and passwords.

Ivan Novikov and his team are familiar with this problem — collectively they have conducted more than 250 security audits for the top internet companies, before starting Wallarm.

Wallarm does not only block attacks, but also continuously monitors applications for critical flaws using an integrated vulnerability scanner. For each problem detected it provides a description of the vulnerability and instructions on how to fix it clear an easy to understand for any developer.

Wallarm is a Y Combinator backed next generation web security startup. Today they have more than 100 paying enterprises and SaaS companies. Their customers portfolio is an impressive one including a NASDAQ-listed payment system, a gaming company with 140M players, and a search engine company. There is a reason they were named among the top 25 Y-combinator startups. They managed to achieve 100% revenue growth during their summer at Y- Combinator in 2016, raising $2.3M right after.

“WHEN SOMETHING IS IMPORTANT ENOUGH, YOU DO IT EVEN IF THE ODDS ARE NOT IN YOUR FAVOR”
— ELON MUSK

Success depends on many factors, but can be significantly amplified by the incredible mentors you meet on your startup journey. If you truly believe you can help any of these startups, please reach out. If they will find the opportunity interesting, I will be happy to make an introduction.