In an ever-changing marketplace of ideas heavily influenced by technological proliferation and modern cultural phenomena, the millennial imagination is profiting from utilizing the instruments developed by precedent generations. Steeped in this age of innovation, however, some young people have rejected their position as “tomorrow’s leaders” in favor of bringing that fate to fruition earlier than expected. Here are six millennial innovators to keep an eye on, as they become today’s leaders.
Seth Priebatsch (born in 1988) dropped out of Princeton after his freshmen year to found SCVNGR, a challenge-oriented geosocial mobile application. Soon after his company legitimized its status with ample seed funding and industry acclaim, Seth went on to develop another app titled LevelUp, a mobile payment platform alternative to cash, credit, or debit cards. This system, which ties your credit information to a unique QR (Quick Response) code on your mobile device, has spread nationwide, expanding to thousands of businesses over the span of a few months. Estimated to be worth millions of dollars, Priebatsch has said his motivation is that, “If I don’t build what I want to build … someone else will.”
As the youngest person in his company, Seth has continued to develop solutions in a changing tech field by innovating and adapting to the marketplace, in a pattern vaguely reminiscent of another famous college drop out.
Soyoung Hwang has recently co-founded a “health sharing networking” platform called HealthKeep. Its premise is to provide an anonymous online social network between patients to share experiences, symptoms, and treatments. Compliant with confidentiality laws, this program crowdsources healthcare decisions, all while guided by proper practitioner supervision. Hwang saw a problem — a disconnected patient population — and used social media concepts to become a leader in the always-convoluted health care industry. By promoting “something active and engaging,” Hwang has transformed medicine into a conversation.
Inventor Eric Migicovsky was inspired to turn his cell phone into a wristwatch, before the likely competitors of Apple or Samsung have entered the market. After posting his business idea onto Kickstarter, where he thought he might break six figures, he ended up raising over $10 million in just one month’s time. His watch combines music control apps, pedometers, messages, phone calls, and a display for time. As a budding hardware developer, Migicovsky is leading the field in the next era of smart devices.
Sahil Lavingia was the 19-year-old college dropout and lead designer at Pinterest before he left to go start his new company Gumroad. Lavingia has said, "I only want to work on things that solve my own problems," and Gumroad attempts to create an online market place for selling your "shareables." From his experience at Pinterest, Lavingia had connections with investors to raise an easy $8 million. As Gumroad keeps adapting to the technological circumstances of the day, it has seen tremendous growth in fundraising, sales, and users. Following the trend of crowdsourcing, Sahil’s twitter biography says it all — he is "enabling creators to earn a living selling what they make."
Javier Fernandez-Han was listed in Forbes’ "30 under 30" in the energy industry at the youthful age of 17. Javier developed a system called Versatile that uses an "algae energy system" which can "treat waste, produce … bio-fuel, and is a source of livestock and human food production." This system is said to have great humanitarian effects for the world’s poor. Javier was drawn to inventing by a call to help others, stating, "Once I realized I enjoyed inventing, I began to see how I could provide solutions to common problems." Before even turning 20, this young inventor has transformed the way we look at energy innovation.
Jodie Wu, an alumna from MIT, founded Global Cycle Solutions. Centering on an invention to efficiently prepare corn to be eaten or sold, this foundation had two goals: to provide products, and to create jobs for East African markets. Expanding their foundation to include self-sustaining solar-powered lights and cell phone chargers, this organization took Wu’s tangible innovation, brought it to a region in need, and has reached underserved communities. Wu wanted to apply her engineering skills “in a different context,” and this opportunity has allowed her to make a difference, in a very real way.