Wise 20 Under 20 2021
AI Europe Event Analysis Fintech

20 Under 20 2021: Climate Change at Forefront of Gen Z Business Operations

The 20 most promising European young founders have been identified under Wise’s annual ’20 Under 20′ competition. 

The winning founders showcased a dverse range of businesses, from developing study support platforms to remedying issues presented in the education sector, to empowering youngsters starting their adult life via working and travelling programmes.

A growing year-on-year trend is thinking green and building solutions for a sustainable future, from constructing self-sufficient housing for people in desert areas to producing cruelty-free makeup and sustainable fashion. Next to using artificial intelligence and cutting-edge tech tools, young entrepreneurs are bringing joy to everyday life with custom-made products like exquisite cakes and locally produced flavoured honey.

This year’s cohort of the 20 most promising young entrepreneurs aged 16 and 19 were chosen by a world-class panel of investors and business experts, including Wise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group, Roxanne Varza from Paris’s startup hub Station F, MEP Ondřej Kovařík and Dr. Patricia Scanlon, founder and CEO of Soapbox Labs.

Nominated as the best young entrepreneurs in 2021 are Ida Johansson (Founder of Turn Consulting, which uses AI to revolutionise gen Z recruitment) and Oliver Edholm (Founder of Depict.ai, an AI-powered e-commerce tool) from Sweden, who won £25,000 worth of prize money to take their business to the next level.

One contestant, Rocco Huesch, who founded the eco-investments platform Fair, wants to prove that investments can be made in a way that doesn’t harm the earth. Their plan is to unlock the power of retail money to change the world, by helping to channel it into companies and initiatives that tackle the climate crisis and other ESG issues.

Speaking on his experience of the fair, Rocco comments “The 20 Under 20 competition has been a fantastic experience – the application was fun, the mentorship and guidance have been very useful (as you’d expect from the line-up Wise assembled), and I’m really excited to build relationships with the other finalists.”

His fellow finalist Leo Djunbushian presented his business Sandsettlers, which seeks to build self-sufficient housing in desert areas. He is dedicated to providing solutions to climate change and supporting people through climate catastrophes.

 “20 Under 20 is not just a competition, but a motivation accelerator,” Leo comments.

The third UK finalist, Olatunde Odu, presented his baking business, Bobby’s Bakes. From baking a cake for his mum’s birthday, to supplying local bakeries with his creations, and shipping his bakes nationwide, his business has gone from strength to strength.

Olatunde comments, ”I’m grateful to have been around such amazing young entrepreneurs and to have heard their stories.”

In addition, 20 Under 20 awarded the most promising founders in the following three categories: EdTech (Vagif Aliyev, for Snapstudy), GreenTech (Leo Djunbushian, for SandSettlers), and Social enterprise (Rocco Huesch, for Fair) with a total of £5,000 self-development budget.

Prizes for all of the 20 talented founders include £1 million worth of fee-free transfers with Wise Business to expand their companies across borders, expert mentoring from world-leading entrepreneurs, investors, and experts, as well as networking with fellow finalists and judges.

Taavet Hinrikus, Co-Founder, Wise
Taavet Hinrikus, Co-Founder, Wise

Wise co-founder and 20 Under 20 Chairman Taavet Hinrikus said, “The determination and creativity of young entrepreneurs is astounding and this year’s winners of our 20 Under 20 competition prove that yet again. Growing a business globally is no small feat and it can be tough for young CEOs to find the right people to lean on.

“To help the bright young talent on their journey of scaling up, we are offering them practical mentoring sessions, as well as creating an international network of like-minded innovators – a strong supporting network is one of the most valuable assets of entrepreneurial life. I’m truly excited about what lies ahead for all of our 20 finalists.”


  • Tyler is a fintech journalist with specific interests in online banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

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