5 Gen-Y Entrepreneurs Who Aim To Change The Game In 2014
If there's anything that makes an emerging venture more exciting than it already is, it's the idea that an entrepreneur will bring a sense of change along with him or her.
The prospect of shaking up an industry is worthy of praise, rather than the revenues, profits and usual statistics, which prompt applause from admirers. It is for this reason that we have compiled a list of entrepreneurs whose ideas not only have the potential to make a great impact on our world, but also insight change.
Whether it's a prodigious executive set to give a company a new brand image to completely reinvent itself, or an entrepreneur who is giving his community a healthier means of consumption, these entrepreneurs are on their way to making a difference in their respective industries:
Olenka Polak | myLingo (Entertainment Industry)
In 2014, Olenka Polak will look to become the latest Harvard University dropout to achieve entrepreneurial fame. After receiving $750,000 of angel capital this month, and winning the Harvard College Innovation Challenge in April, Polak has chosen to forego her sophomore year in favor of pursuing her startup, myLingo.
Polak's app allows ESL moviegoers to hear the translation of film in their native language via headphones. The idea came to Polak while she was watching a movie with her family, only to be troubled by the fact that her parents couldn't fully enjoy the film. Now, with a couple of veteran advisors by her side, Olenka and brother/cofounder Adam Polak are set to take on LA this year to make myLingo a hit in Hollywood.
Zach Sims | CodeAcademy (Tech Industry)
The best gift an entrepreneur can give to humanity is an essential service, for free. CodeAcademy is a site that teaches programming in different languages -- no, not Spanish or French -- like Java and HTML. Many of the world's top entrepreneurs, from Mark Zuckerberg to the late Steve Jobs, have campaigned for the teaching of coding to be more widespread, recognizing programming as a priceless skill in the 21st century.
With CodeAcademy, Sims is doing his part in educating upcoming generations, particularly this month. To coincide with Computer Science Education Week, Sims released an intro to coding course that can be taken using an iPhone. The intro foreshadows what will eventually be CodeAcademy's first, full-fledged mobile app, Sims said.
Joel Mwale: SkyDrop (Social Industry)
This 20-year-old Kenyan earns his place on the list more for his vision than anything else. Joel Mwale launched SkyDrop in 2009 with the purpose to filter rainwater and make it into a drinkable source.
Since then, SkyDrop has turned into an enterprise, 20 employees strong, and Mastercard has lended Mwale $2.5 million to support the project. Mwale has used the funding to drill boreholes that will allow SkyDrop to produce clean water at a rate of 6,000 liters per hour.
“And since the water produced by the borehole may be more than what we intend to use," he says, "we have plans to pipe the surplus to the community at no cost, serving a population of 500,000.”
Mwale's work has not gone unnoticed on this side of the Atlantic, either, as Forbes has named him one of its '30 under 30' for young African entrepreneurs.
Palmer Luckey: Oculus VR (Gaming Industry)
CEO Brendan Iribe may be the public face of Oculus VR, but he seldom shies away from throwing praise towards the brains behind the virtual gaming project. It was, in fact, 21-year-old Palmer Lucky who, in 2011, founded the technology behind the Oculus Rift headsets, which are now set to disrupt the gaming space in 2014, especially after the company's latest bit of news.
Oculus has just raised $75 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz to help release its first product in the upcoming year, after investors were wowed by the company's latest demo in November. Lucky, Iribe and the rest of the Oculus gang will be hoping that the market's reaction will keep the excitement going.
Tracy Britt: Berkshire Hathaway (Finance Industry)
At just 29 years of age, Tracy Britt has found herself in a position as Warren Buffet's esteemed prodigy, a status that leaves her under speculation as the billionaire's imminent successor at Berkshire Hathaway.
The Harvard grad was hired four years ago by Buffet under the official title of "financial assistant," an appointment which came two years after the CEO sent a letter to shareholders in 2007 informing them that he was searching for a young successor. In that short period of time, Britt has also assumed the role of chairwoman of four of the companies in BH's portfolio, including paint giant Benjamin Moore.
The Kansas native and farm girl may not be officially confirmed as next-in-line to Buffet's throne just yet, but if her rapid rise is any indication, you'd be wise to put your money on it.
Top photo: Getty Images