Young CEOs drive the rise of purpose-driven companies

PaySquad founder Cam Richardson wants redemptive entrepreneurship to disrupt the traditional tech sector to create a sustainable and ethical industry.

Kavinda Herath/stuff

PaySquad founder Cam Richardson wants redemptive entrepreneurship to disrupt the traditional tech sector to create a sustainable and ethical industry.

More and more young people, driven by the desire to change the world around them, are entering the business world before the age of 30.

Young Enterprise Scheme CEO Terry Shubkin says a growth in support available to 18-30 year olds in “recent years” has encouraged young people to stay longer in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in that age group… in the last few years we’ve doubled the number of students graduating from our programs, and we’re seeing more and more going on with their business or staying in that ecosystem.”

Angel Association New Zealand, an organization that connects early-stage investors nationally and internationally, found in its latest analysis of the startup ecosystem in 2017 that the average age of founders in New Zealand was 35, younger than the age overall average of 36.

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Shubkin said that those in the under-30 age group tended to be in the purpose-driven entrepreneurial space, with vested interests in creating social, environmental and cultural change.

A report from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says the number of purpose-driven businesses in New Zealand is likely to grow steadily over the next 10 years as a result of heightened awareness of social responsibility.

“One of the benefits that [to the business landscape] it’s the ingenuity of young people… I see it as something positive, the system hasn’t eaten them up… a lot of older people are going to say ‘well that’s already been tried, that didn’t work’… and maybe that’s true, but maybe society wasn’t ready for that,” he said.

“That’s where you’ll see a lot of innovation and fresh ideas.”

It is this entrepreneurial ecosystem and the opportunities available that led Southland entrepreneur Cam Richardson to found his own business late last year.

PaySquad founder Cam Richardson says he wants to encourage young people to

robyn edie

PaySquad founder Cam Richardson says he wants to encourage young people to “make inventing cool again.”

Richardson had been studying as a geotechnical engineer before stumbling into the business world by winning a funding challenge in 2013 with his invention: a bicycle helmet with a built-in lock.

“That was the moment of the light bulb. Like ‘well, there are entire ecosystems that help people with a drive to do amazing things for the world,’” she said.

Richardson, who is the founder of Invercargill’s PaySquad fintech startup, firmly believes that to be successful in business at a young age, you must be motivated by a force greater than profit.

“Entrepreneurs today are getting a little more flashy than in the past, it’s like ‘wow, great, I’ll get some nice cars and some street credit.’ You don’t see the extremely long nights, the lack of social interaction, the nights out with friends, and the constant rejection,” he said.

PaySquad is designed to allow multiple people to purchase directly from a merchant at a point of sale, rather than splitting costs after purchase.

For Richardson, it’s a method of disrupting popular Buy Now, Buy Later services, on which about a third of consumers are behind on their payments.

“If we can encourage people to collaborate and buy things together instead of resorting to credit or making unsustainable purchases, then we will bring a real redemptive force to the payments industry and to consumerism in general,” he said.

You want to show that you no longer need to be in Silicone Valley, or have a lot of capital behind you, to make a difference in the Southland business landscape.

“In the old-school mindset, you only hit career breakthroughs when you’re in your 40s, but today, you can do it that young. It’s still important to have mentors and a bit of wisdom behind you, but what’s possible is huge when you’re younger.”

Shubkin agreed.

“The biggest thing for me is that it’s not about this or… adults and youth working together is where we’re going to get that real innovation and growth.”

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