Gen-E 2023, Europe's largest youth entrepreneurship competition, brought together over 800 young entrepreneurs, their teachers, business partners, and decision-makers to explore new business ideas and innovations. The competition took place in Istanbul from July 11th to July 14th. Representing Finland in the competition were the student companies Vapu NY from Hämeenlinna and Toteuma NY from Jyväskylä.

The Toteuma NY team won the main award in the startup category, and Joseph Munyandamutsa, the CEO of Vapu NY, received a special award for leadership skills and potential.

The participating young entrepreneurs have taken part in the Company of the Year program in their respective countries, known as "Vuosi yrittäjänä" in Finland. This program, produced by the organization NYT-Yhdistys, is taught in middle schools, upper secondary schools, and higher education institutions across Finland.

The Gen-E event is organized by Junior Achievement Europe (JA Europe), the umbrella organization for Youth Entrepreneurship and Economy NYT-Yhdistys, and this year's host, JA Türkiye.

Hundreds of young participants from over 40 countries took part in the competition. The competing teams were selected from a pool of over 390,000 students during the 2022-2023 academic year. The event was also attended by Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, and Karen Reddington, the CEO of FedEx Express Europe.

Startup Category Victory Comes to Finland

The GEN-E competition awarded prizes to exciting ideas and creative concepts, including a thought-provoking mathematical game, an innovative support application for neurodiversity, a sports protection series designed specifically for the female body, and a data collection tool for underground infrastructure measurement.

The main Gen-E awards went to:

  • Isometricks (Greece), Company of the Year main award at the high school level.
  • Toteuma (Finland), Startup of the Year main award at the higher education level.
  • Mindcore (Isle of Man), Innovation of the Year award at the middle school level.
  • Tiaki (United Kingdom), Innovation of the Year award at the university level.

Representing Finland, the two teams that won the national "Vuosi yrittäjänä" competition in Helsinki in April were Vapu NY and Toteuma NY. The final event followed more than 10 semi-finals held across Finland.

Vapu NY, composed of young entrepreneurs studying at Tavastia Vocational College, organizes activities for elderly individuals living alone or in care homes. The aim of Vapu NY's business idea is to activate the older generations in our society. The company's shareholders have tackled the identified problem with great passion and have developed a solution that combines technology and human interaction. A multi-skilled team and a collaborative network have been formed around the business idea.

Joseph Munyandamutsa, a member of the Vapu NY team, received a special award for leadership skills and potential at the event. Joseph expressed his joy at the recognition and mentioned how rewarding it has been to meet other young entrepreneurs from different countries.

"It's great to see so many enthusiastic and ambitious young entrepreneurs and also to get visibility for Finland!" Joseph Munyandamutsa said.

The winning team in the startup category, Toteuma NY, consists of students from the University of Jyväskylä. Toteuma NY offers positioning services for underground infrastructure, such as electrical, internet, heat, and water networks. Toteuma's business idea addresses a genuine need in a socially significant sector. The business model has been simplified for non-experts, market research has been conducted, and a clear target group has been identified. The plan has already progressed significantly, and the company envisions its future growth.

Insights from Business Professionals for Young Entrepreneurs

At the GEN-E event, young participants took part in judge interviews, networked with fellow students, and showcased their companies at the trade fair in Istanbul. According to Salvatore Nigro, CEO of JA Europe, the organization's mission is to enable European youth to acquire the skills and mindset needed to help communities thrive and prevent marginalization. "The winners of Gen-E 2023 are an inspiration to all young Europeans," Nigro stated.