PHOTO: Australia’s Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs
Imagine the business you have painstakingly built has been forced to close, or perhaps your subscribers or users have hit the panic button out of fear of financial hardship.
Maybe your business is still operating normally, but your biggest customer has suddenly put a major contract on hold, leaving you wondering how you’ll pay staff and meet sales targets that seem to be vanishing before your eyes.
For many people reading this, these scenes were a lived experience they’d rather forget from the autumn of 2020.
Many of Australia’s leading young entrepreneurs featured on this list faced these very challenges, but remarkably they pulled through by either overhauling their business models to capitalise on newfound opportunities, or simply did what they do best with a couple of tweaks.
Meanwhile, others were in the driver’s seat with their feet on the trend accelerator that was COVID-19; their operations demonstrating a certain “antifragility”, to use Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s term relating to things that are not just resilient to adverse surprises, but actually thrive because of them.
“It has probably been my most productive year ever,” says Disrupt Digital co-founder Ben Bradshaw, reflecting a common sentiment amongst entrepreneurs nationwide who have either gone into overdrive with new ventures, or are finally seeing their efforts come to fruition as they rapidly scale up organisations that were once just unproven visions.
Most entrepreneurs interviewed in forming this list took great pride not just in surviving or growing their revenue or profit, but in the jobs they secured or created at a time when unemployment levels went through the roof. Of course, the JobKeeper wage subsidy program played an integral part in that, even for those who didn’t necessarily need it due to the flow-on benefits for the economy.
While “social distancing” entered the lexicon in 2020, a sense of fostering community was also common amongst these entrepreneurs, and many had made personal sacrifices both financial and with their time to address our bushfire crisis before the public even knew what a coronavirus was. One of the business leaders on this list, Steven Lampsakianos of Alphatex Industries in Sydney, is fitting out fire brigade vehicles to gear up for the next disaster.
Generating annual revenue of almost $3.69 billion, Australia’s Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs are a diverse and fascinating group of people whose work and business acumen are shaping this country for the future. The youngest businesspeople featured – Samira Razak of Maple Community Services and Blake Garrett of School Bytes – are just 22 years old, and clearly have the potential to move further up the list as their journeys progress.
There are also 10 entrepreneurs who have companies listed on the ASX, three of whom launched on the stock exchange this year – Adam Brimo’s OpenLearning (ASX: OLL), Lance Giles’ YouFoodz (ASX: YFZ) and Andy Taylor’s Douugh (ASX: DOU).
From popular brands with global scope to health foods, fitness apps and a company that was recently granted the FDA’s first approval of an over-the-counter COVID-19 testing kit, the businesses forged by the entrepreneurs on this list are making an impact, and we can’t wait to see what they deliver in 2021.
1. Nick Molnar (30)
The co-founder of Afterpay (ASX: APT) Nicholas Molnar is back where he needs to be: the helm of the ship.
Molnar, who founded the buy-now pay-later (BNPL) company alongside Anthony Eisen, recently stepped back into the role of managing director at Afterpay just over a year after he left the top job to focus on the group’s US ambitions.
It is a timely move for Molnar. His group is growing remarkably fast in 2020 on the back of the pandemic-induced e-commerce boom.
And with regulators more or less backing away from imposing any special restrictions on BNPL players, of which Afterpay is the largest in Australia, Molnar will steer the giant as the digitised lay-buy transaction model settles itself into the fabric of the financial services tapestry.
Internationally the company has skyrocketed, seeing its customer base climb above 11 million people globally at the end of Seprtember 2020, while US customer numbers cracked more than 6.5 million.
Overall Afterpay’s underlying sales more than doubled in FY20 to $11.1 billion, with $4 billion coming from the US market and $600 million from the UK.
The company’s share price also cracked the $100 mark for the first time this year back in October and reached an all-time-high of $120 on 17 December.
Afterpay accounts for the vast majority of BNPL transactions in Australia, with 73 per cent of the more than $5 billion spent on all platforms transacted through Molnar’s fintech.
Further, it receives 80 per cent of its revenue from merchant fees with the remainder coming from missed payment fees.
“While Afterpay is clearly the largest of the companies profiled (73 per cent of the total value of BNPL transactions), Afterpay represents a relatively small proportion (27 per cent) of BNPL consumer debt,” Afterpay said at the time.
Essentially synonymous with the BNPL sector generally, Afterpay is in a good position to take advantage of the connected e-commerce natives that make up the established Millennial market and emerging Gen Z consumers.
2. Cliff Obrecht (34), Melanie Perkins (33), Cameron Adams (40)
Now valued at more than $6 billion, double what it was worth in 2019, graphic design platform Canva had a year like never before in 2020.
With more teams working remotely and looking for new ways to collaborate Canva introduced a range of new features.
This resulted in Perkins, Obrecht and Adams’ platform skyrocketing in popularity: more than 3 billion designs and 45 million presentations were created this year and the company now boasts 2 million paid subscribers to Canva Pro.
To assist with the work-from-home phenomenon Canva introduced real-time collaboration to its online design suite, enabling teams to work on projects simultaneously.
Canva also launched ‘Brainstorms’ (a new design type built for teams to collaborate simultaneously on notes and mood boards), ‘Talking Presentations’ (allowing presenters to talk through their slides in an interactive format) and ‘Brand Kits’ (allowing teams to select and define colours that match their brand).
Canva for Education also launched earlier this year, giving classrooms a free and tailored solution featuring Canva’s premium design tools and an extended library of student-friendly design assets.
The company says monthly student usage has more than doubled since August 2020, with more than 8 million students and teachers using Canva every month across 90,000 educational institutions.
A partnership with FedEx in the US was also a major coup for Canva, allowing business owners and consumers to design anything they like and print it at more than 2,000 FedEx Office locations across the country.
To cap off the year Canva is running a feel-good campaign called #OnAGoodNote, encouraging the world to start 2021 on the right footing.
The Australian tech and design giant hopes users around the globe will come together and use Canva to spread positivity as we leave 2020 in the dust.
Click below for this year’s top 100
READ MORE VIA BUSINESS NEWS AUSTRALIA