This year, the world’s largest program of its kind; EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year is going virtual. On 4 June, finalists from 31 countries will compete online - and ultimately one winner will become EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020. The international finals are the culmination of regional events in 150 cities around the world.
“More than ever given these unprecedented times, it is important to learn from and recognize the unstoppable entrepreneurs who have a significant impact on the economy, on job creation, on innovation and on their communities and whose ambition helps create a better world,” says Søren Smedegaard Hvid partner in EY and responsible for the Entrepreneur Of The Year program in Denmark.
The agenda for the event includes both international guest speakers and stories from the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year Class of 2020 as they rise up to solve the world’s most challenging problems – before the exciting reveal of the 2020 winner.
For the past 20 years, the international finals have taken place in Monaco with several days of winners’ interviews with the judging panels, knowledge sharing, networking and celebration. This year, due to COVID-19, the competition is transformed into a global, virtual experience.
Meet the Nordic national winners who are ready to compete for the international title in 2020:
Sweden: Pär Svärdson, Apotea AB
Pär Svärdson was just 16 when he started his first business, borrowing US$5,000 from his father to start Svärdson Management Capital. It would later become Adlibris, Sweden’s largest online bookstore, which Pär subsequently sold. Pär then used his expertise in e-commerce to expand a small online pharmacy with limited online stock, which he took over and renamed Apotea in 2012.
Pär spotted the opportunity to grow Apotea after the deregulation of the pharmacy market in Sweden. When he started Apotea, there was no pure online pharmacy in the Swedish market. Pär saw great potential in facilitating people’s everyday lives and sending medical products directly to the customer’s door. Today, Apotea is the biggest online pharmacy in Sweden and has more than 650 employees. Apotea recently recruiting 200 more to deal with the huge demand for hand sanitizer, thermometers and pharmaceuticals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Norway: Jan Christian Vestre, Vestre AS
Vestre is a Norwegian manufacturer of outdoor furniture. For more than 70 years it has created social meeting places for millions of people. Vestre has become the leading supplier of urban furniture in the Nordic region.
You will find 60 of Vestre’s chairs, benches and tables at Times Square, New York’s best-known meeting place, with 50 million visitors a year. Vestre’s furniture can also be found at places like Cadence Park in Los Angeles and at Hamburg airport.
As a five-year old Jan Christian Vestre had his own desk under his father's desk in the basement office. A few years later he accepted orders after school and as a 12-year-old he registered the domain vestre.com and sat up email addresses for the employees. By 25, as his father passed away, he took over as CEO and has since then expanded the business and tripled the turnover.
All production is made in Norway and Sweden at environmentally certified factories. Vestre shows that it is possible to succeed internationally with production and design in high-cost countries. It produces long-life products while minimizing the environmental impact.
Vestre’s motto is: "Everyone can save the world. At least a bit". Specifically, this means that it has integrated in its strategy nine of the United Nations 17 sustainable development goals. Each year 10% of its profit is donated to external sustainability projects.
Finland: Timur Kärki, Gofore Plc
Gofore Plc is a Finnish digitalisation specialist with international growth plans. They use consulting, coding and design as tools to incite positive change. They pursue projects that have significant positive impact in both society and in the environment.
Gofore values have been at the heart of the company's operations from the very beginning. The goal was to create a company that is a good place to work for everyone and that lives on customer success. These same values still live strongly on Gofore while operations have grown. The company culture is based on equality, transparency and trust. Everyone has a part and a voice in communal culture. The company trust its experts to make the best decisions themselves – they believe that smart people make smart decisions.
Timur Kärki founded Gofore in 2001 together with three friends. Timur became CEO of the company in 2010, when Gofore had around 25 employees. During his nine years as CEO, the company has been on an enviable growth curve, growing 50% each year. Today, Gofore employs almost 600 people across Finland, Germany, Spain, and Estonia.
Denmark: Anders Byriel and Mette Bendix, Kvadrat A/S
As the global leading manufacturer of high-performance design textiles, Kvadrat is an internationally renowned and progressive design company, committed to continuously pushing the boundaries of aesthetic, creative and technological advancement in textile design. The clients are the worlds most accomplished architects, artists, designers, furniture manufacturers and retailers.
Kvadrat supplies most major furniture manufacturing brands with upholstery textiles. Kvadrat textiles have been used in architectural developments such as The Gherkin in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, The Reichstag Berlin, Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, the Copenhagen Opera House, Foster & Partners studio in London and the Oslo Opera House.