2023 Startups 100 | Young Entrepreneur shortlist and award winner

Move over, millennials. Gen Z has arrived - bringing brilliant new business ideas with them. Discover the next generation of geniuses on our Young Entrepreneur shortlist for 2023.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

There’s been a lot of buzz around the business world’s newest tenants. Word on the street is that Gen Z entrepreneurs – loosely defined as anyone born between 1995 and 2010 – will be more educated, inclusive, and digitally-savvy than any other generation before them.

It’s a broad statement, but in the case of our Young Entrepreneur cohort, one we definitely won’t be arguing against.

Each invention has featured in this year's Startups 100 Index and is poised to disrupt an entire industry, from construction to education, and make life that little bit simpler for the 21st century consumer. And every one was started by bright, budding business owners under the age of 25.

Alongside Startups 100 guest judge and multipreneur, Eloise Skinner, we’ve reviewed all four future-Zuckerbergs to judge who should take the Young Entrepreneur title for 2023. Read on for the full shortlist.

eloise_skinner
Introducing Startups 100 guest judge, Eloise Skinner!

At 30 years of age, Skinner is already a published author, teacher, and therapist. Plus, she’s founded two successful businesses: consultancy firm, The Purpose Workshop, and education resource platform, One Typical Day. And, as the newest addition to her CV, Skinner will also host Startups’ soon-to-launch podcast, Speaking of Startups next year!

WINNER: Zeus Labs – Clemente Theotokis (23) and Jai Kanwar (23)

Zeus Labs

Startups 100 WINNER
2023 Startups 100 | Winner of the Young Entrepreneur award

In recognition of two brilliant young innovators aged 25 and under who are here to solve the next generation’s challenges with their inspiring business idea.

Learn more about Zeus Labs

Having grown up surrounded by people working in the transport sector, Kanwar had heard for decades about the many inefficiencies within UK transport routes.

But it wasn’t until 2018 that, working alongside Clemente Theotokis, the duo decided to find a solution to the problem. Working with a team of top tech engineers, Zeus Labs was born – and not a moment too soon.

With port delays threatening both UK importing and exporting, Zeus provides a massive 71% reduction in admin hours for shippers, as well as scalable access to over 10,000 trucks (and growing) for hauliers.

The figures speak for themselves. In just two years, Kanwar and Clemente Theotokis’ ingenious software solution has handled 660,000 tonnes of freight per year, equating to a value of £6.6 billion, and is on track to achieve 400% growth in 2022.

Zeus has certainly delivered a convincing argument to Skinner, who praises both founders for the business’ “incredible growth rate, major contracts, 100% platform conversion rate in trials, and European expansion. [Zeus] is on the road to success.”

Skinner simply couldn’t argue with Zeus Lab’s significant corporate contracts and growth rate; an inviting package large enough to fill its own 12T haulage truck. In her final comments, she highlighted the firm for the huge role it could play in 2023 to relieve the UK’s current supply chain woes.

“Against a backdrop of economic instability, supply chain issues and a push for greater sustainability, Zeus stands out as a startup directed towards change”, she expands, “I was particularly impressed by the rate of innovation within the company, and the commitment towards a better future for the industry as a whole.”

Runner Up: Hausbots – Jack Cornes (24) and Harry Smith (24)

Hausbots

It was while painting the living room for Harry's parents that Jack Cornes and Harry Smith first had the idea for Hausbots. Imagine how much easier the task would be if a robot could do it for them…

Fast-forward four years and the HB1 is a world-first wall climbing robot, with Kier Highways and National Highways trialling the technology. Launched when Cornes and Smith were both just twenty years’ old, what started as a humble concept has since grown into a multi-million pound company.

Hausbots' technology is so game-changing that it was shortlisted for the COINS Grand Challenge – a global competition for tech ideas that improve the built environment – last year.

Fresh-faced founders Cornes and Smith have built a robot army that will give the construction industry the weapon it needs to combat poor site safety. Skinner’s verdict? “Hausbots is an impactful, inspiring business idea with demonstrable results. I was particularly impressed by the way the technology has already been adopted in trials.”

Runner Up: Clever Lili – Alex Hak (18)

Clever Lili

In 2019, while revising for her GCSE history exam, a 15-year-old Alex Hak hit a wall. The amount of content she needed to learn was unfathomable, and sometimes differed from what she could find online.

That's when Hak Jr, alongside mum and cofounder, Petia Hak, invented Clever Lili; an AI that can answer over 120,000+ questions related to GCSE History across multiple exam boards. 26 schools (in the UK and globally) have since signed up to use the product and the company was also a finalist for the Education Resources Awards in 2021.

Lili’s biggest proof of concept? Hak Jr says she used the app to go from a 6 to a 9 in her GCSE History exams.

So does the AI educator pass Skinner’s rigid assessment standards? Skinner tells Startups that Clever Lili is truly “changing the revision game (and will be especially impactful for those with learning disabilities). Clever Lili is an inspiring story of a founder using a personal problem to create a transformational solution.”

Runner Up: Pretty Mama – Jenny McFadden (25)

Pretty Mama

Most of us fill our time in university with pot noodles, pyjama-living, and procrastination. Jenny McFadden is not most of us. In 2018, whilst in the final year of a Business and Law degree at Northumbria University, McFadden decided to launch Pretty Mama – a supplier of modest, attractive breastfeeding clothing – with her sister Alex.

McFadden’s’s business acumen was such that she was selected to receive business support and advice from Northumbria’s Student and Graduate Enterprise team. Through the programme, Pretty Mama appeared on the latest series of Dragons' Den, where it made Dragons' Den history by securing investment from all four investors – and grew a healthy 10k social following to boot.

She might have impressed the dragons, but did the Pretty Mama founder make it past Startups’ steely eyed Eloise Skinner? It was a resounding yes, with Skinner paying respect to the company’s “clear mission and ambition.” She also expresses particular admiration for McFadden’s ability to cofound the business while studying.

What does the future look like for young entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Many of society’s major innovations have been dreamt up by student entrepreneurs; Facebook-cum-Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg being the best example. Skinner says that while experience might be said to bring wisdom, youth has its own particular perks.

“Young entrepreneurs bring an innovative, forward-looking perspective to industries in need of disruption,” says Skinner. “I think this year’s shortlist shows the power of new thinking.”

Skinner reports being struck by two recurring themes within our shortlist. First, the innovative technology being demonstrated by our nominees – the first generation to grow up with the internet. Second, the importance given to equity, inclusion, sustainability and representation.

“Both factors indicate a bright future for all of these businesses and – hopefully – reflect the attitudes of young entrepreneurs in general,” she comments.

So how should a first-time founder approach launching in 2023? With the wave of challenges threatening to sink many small businesses this year, the likelihood of finding success might feel up in the air.

But cacti still thrive in the desert. While today’s environment might feel hostile, it could also be the perfect time for a reactive product or service that complements new shopping habits – something Skinner attests to.

“Recessions often expose deep issues within society – issues that call out for new solutions,” she tells Startups. “While big competitors might be refocusing on core product lines, or reducing their costs, startups have an opportunity to break through [with] creative, fresh thinking.”

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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