Young people change the world, or at least that’s the hope. We usually look to the younger generations for innovation, disruptive ideas and jolts of enthusiasm.
Youths, especially those with an entrepreneurial bent, have been a target demographic of the government and industry leaders alike. President Obama was elected on a wave of enthusiasm and younger voters, and he’s asked those same people to reinvest intellectually in their country by starting businesses and working to solve important issues both nationally and abroad.
Industry has also turned to young startups and their equally young founders for new ways of thinking and doing business. Don’t forget that some of the most dominant digital companies on the planet – Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Groupon, etc. — were all started by young entrepreneurs.
What happens when those motivated minds turn their focus to social causes? We picked these four young social entrepreneurs as change-makers to keep an eye on.
1. Eden Full — SunSaluter
Solar energy is an abundant but underused resource. Full’s SunSaluter is able to soak in rays and convert it to electricity but the real genius is that the SunSaluter is able to rotate in conjunction with the sun without expending power. This seemingly simple act increases the panel’s efficiency by up to 40% without leaching off any electricity itself. Full is keeping the secret close to her vest but she did let out that the panel is able to rotate thanks to metal coils which expand and contract in accordance with the local heat and angle of the sun.
Full is currently at Princeton but is working with some big corporations to get SunSaluters out and working in the field.
2. Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa and Crew — Warby Parker
For every pair of glasses bought, Warby Parker donates a pair to regions and people in need. So far they’ve shipped 50,000 pairs of glasses across the world to help all people see better.
Warby Parker is not the first company to run on a buy-one-give-one model. TOMS Shoes rose to similar fame for donating shoes to needy communities. It’s not just good karma, it’s good business. The model has helped both TOMS and Warby Parker gain extra spotlight and a range of fans looking to give back while staying stylish. Expect to see more companies follow in their footsteps soon.
3. Kassidy & Ryan Brown — Journey of Action
They created Journey of Action as a way to bring those stories to the general, sometimes ill-informed public. The Browns decided to become their own Guerilla media campaign after they realized that the mainstream media and major networks often reported on problems without focusing on the people trying to solve them.
Ryan and Kassidy are still putting out videos and updating the site to make sure important local issues and local heroes get the attention they deserve.
4. Scott Gerber — Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)
Gerber, who is in his late 20s, isn’t just about funding startups and mentoring talent. He has craftily managed to introduce sustainable philanthropy and social innovation into his work.
Just this year, Gerber created NexGen IT Bootcamp, a pilot program to teach and empower young Egyptian entrepreneurs with a talent exchange and free mentorship program partly sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Gerber brought a small team of YEC members to develop business plans, run seminars on raising capital and reaching the global startup community.
He also created a fund closer to home to help American entrepreneurs get a foothold out of college and eliminate their student debt. The program, called the Gen Y Fund, will invest $15,000 to $50,000 into early-stage ventures from students across multiple verticals.
These sustainable models allow Gerber to inspire and fund innovation while not sacrificing the bottom line. His blend of business with social issues has resulted in Gerber’s own little farm industry of young entrepreneurs looking to make a difference.