The UK’s youngest CEO is 12 – and he’s a sign of the times

The newest generation is well placed to develop fresh ideas

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Jenk Oz, a 12-year-old from London, has become Britain’s youngest CEO. He reflects a worldwide trend, according to London Business School (LBS) alumnus Navin Valrani: entrepreneurs are getting younger. 

The announcement shows the “huge potential” of Generation Z (Gen Z) – those aged 18 or younger – for dreaming up business ideas, said Valrani. He founded a junior MBA programme aimed at inspiring school children in the Middle East to become entrepreneurs and believes that with the right help, young people can make a sizeable business impact.

“With parental support, business ideas can become reality. Governments need to take notice of how the world is changing and come up with the right laws and regulations to make the most of this generational shift,” he said. 

The UK’s youngest founder, Oz, advocates “treating your idea like a company” and has created a version of the publisher Time Out for his own age group, which covers events, entertainment and culture in cities around the world. He said: “Everything apart from my school work has to be 100% about the business. That’s how you make it as a young entrepreneur.” 

Valrani, CEO of Arcadia Preparatory School in Dubai, helped design a programme giving pupils a grounding in idea generation, fundraising, marketing and social entrepreneurship.

It’s in the area of social innovation that Valrani looks forward to the biggest impact. He said: “One student came up with an idea for a sports club business that would exclusively hire people from low-income families. That’s an eight-year-old girl talking about social entrepreneurship.

“Businesses can positively influence communities and I think it's our duty to pass that philosophy onto our children.”

So, are young entrepreneurs a sign of the times? Gen Z has a more entrepreneurial spirit than millennials according to a study by consulting firm Millennial Branding and Randstad, a US-based HR services firm. Some 17% of the Gen Z people surveyed wanted to start a venture and hire others compared with 11% of millennials. 

Valrani said: “This is the first generation that has experienced internet 2.0: they have been exposed to the web pretty much since the day they were born. Social media and access to information are providing tremendous impetus for business ideas at a very young age. 

“Schools are becoming more progressive to meet these demands. Gone are the days of traditional classrooms and instructional lessons.” Valrani’s classrooms, for instance, have beanbags, walls that students can scribble on and inspirational quotes from famous entrepreneurs – all “conducive to the generation of ideas”.

“The newest generation wants to start up and start early. At Arcadia's junior MBA programme, children as young as nine are discussing how to raise money and how they can make a difference.”