It’s in OZY’s DNA to look out for what’s new and next: we promised to uncover the rising stars in every field and inform readers about the names and faces they would come to admire in the years ahead. Among the stories and trends we’ve covered before anyone else, we’re especially proud of some. In this OZY Classics newsletter, we look back at some of the rising innovators, entrepreneurs and business leaders across the globe that OZY told you about first.
For most CEOs, outside investment is lifeblood. For Arsen Tomsky, it was something he reluctantly gave into after five years when his business truly started taking off. That business is inDriver, a ride-hailing app with over 100 million users launched from the coldest major city in the world: Yakutsk, Siberia. The hook for inDriver is simple: freedom. Drivers don’t forfeit as much of their money to the app as they would to Uber, and driver and rider must agree on the price for each ride, meaning nobody’s bound by surge pricing or other algorithmically set numbers.
South African mother Shannon McLaughlin became a household name in her country when she turned baby carriers into a successful business. But she raised her profile still further with a battle against retail giant Woolworths when it copied her design wholesale. She turned to social media and won her David and Goliath fight outright.
It started with a “you know what I hate” conversation and ended up with a billion-dollar company. Mattieu Gamache-Asselin, an Aboriginal Canadian, is the co-founder of Alto Pharmacy, a digital brand that brings medicine to your door (without charging for delivery) and circumvents the brick-and-mortar pharmacies that many tend to complain about. The Alto Pharmacy model has surged during the pandemic and is sure to expand, thanks to an investment of $250 million from SoftBank and others.
South African Scott Picken’s global real estate marketplace Wealth Migrate allows investors in 170 countries to plunk down a minimum of $110 (and hopefully one day just $1) in real estate — an investment vehicle long available only to the rich. Since going live in 2013, more than $105 million in equity has gone through the platform, and it’s facilitated more than $1 billion in international deals. Picken dreams of “closing the global wealth gap by showing the 99% how to invest like the 1% have always done.”
Over the past 30 years, much of Wall Street has shifted away from pen-and-paper trades to embrace digital dealings. But the $50 trillion bond market has been especially resistant to change — in part because purchasers buy through brokers, not public exchanges. However, the move to “electronification” — the industry buzzword for digital trades — is happening, whether people like it or not. And Iseult “Izzy” Conlin is at the forefront. Aiding workflow with her millennial tech-savvy, she rose fast at BlackRock and now thrives in her current multifaceted role at trading platform Tradeweb.
For decades, Dan Ahrens has thrived by betting big on naughty things like casinos, booze and cigarettes. His deadly honest assessment of human proclivities is almost the inverse of sustainable investing. And his newest venture is the first publicly listed, active American exchange-traded fund expressly focused on making your money grow via investing in cannabis equity securities. It also comes with a catchy name: YOLO. Previously a skeptic, Ahrens has witnessed the legal barriers to marijuana fall — and he sees a trillion-dollar market in need of smart financial instruments.
Ambitious Agents of Change
She’s the face of the new Saudi Arabia. The 30-year-old entrepreneur and social media influencer runs the kingdom’s most promising investment hub, Falak, which facilitates tech startups. She’s also a guitarist, writer, amateur pilot, high-profile refugee advocate and national champion squash player. Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia still has a troubling human rights record and is struggling to diversify from oil. Al-Dakheel, though, has emerged as a striking role model for change.
With Black women underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, Williams, 28, struggled at times with her identity and often found herself “code-switching” in a mostly white workplace as a quality engineer at NASA. Now she’s building pathways for the next generation — through hip-hop. With Listen Up Education, the St. Louis native is using music to engage underprivileged kids in math and science, and is on a mission to become, in her words, “the Black female Bill Nye — where Fresh Prince and Bel-Air meet.”
After years of astronomical inflation and a foreign currency crisis, financial life is far from easy in Zimbabwe. But Collen Tapfumaneyi’s fast-spreading innovations could help lift the country from its economic quicksand. He started with Zimbabwe’s first alternative trading platform, then launched C-Trade, a first-for-Africa marriage of mobile, online and text message trading. Tapfumaneyi is taking his place among the continent’s innovators with his goal of facilitating a stock market revolution: do-it-yourself public stock offerings.
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It’s not a tried-and-true design principle, but Richard Sheridan — who runs Michigan-based software company Menlo Innovations — has built his career on making people happy. And not just customers, but employees as well. The focus on employee happiness — and the philosophy that happy, well-rested employees create a better product — has drawn an estimated 3,000 yearly visitors who come to observe a workplace that serves as a model for how to treat workers.
Banks are all owned by somebody. Why not you? Teri Williams bought up four — yes, four — banks and rolled them together to create America’s largest Black-owned bank. It’s one of only 19 Black-owned banks out of 5,500 privately owned banks in the country. So how did she do it? Williams lays out the steps...
Martha Hoover was a local prosecutor before she decided in 1989 to enliven Indianapolis’s restaurant scene. Now with more than a dozen restaurants and bars to her name, Hoover has proved to be a pioneer in farm-to-table cuisine — as well as treating her employees with respect. She offers unusually generous benefits and financial literacy courses, along with offering free counseling for employees, all while keeping the workplace culture inclusive with implicit-bias training. In an industry rife with misogyny and high turnover, Hoover’s Patachou Restaurant Group is a revolution.