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Some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs are to meet in Monaco this week for their answer to the World Economic Forum in Davos, with Côte d’Azur sunshine instead of Swiss snow.
While the highlight comes on Saturday night when the EY’s World Entrepreneur of the Year is chosen from 47 different country winners, the annual event is about more than just competition.
Professional services firm EY, which organised the national competitions, has convened businesspeople to exchange ideas and learn from an array of expert speakers at the four-day event.
Nominees in Monte Carlo have been voted the most impressive entrepreneur in their country, often after a regional heat, and embrace sectors including healthcare, robotics, software and agriculture.
The companies of this year’s finalists boast combined annual revenues of $44bn, employ more than 159,000 staff and are drawn from 11 industries.
Manny Stul, the Australian founder of toymaker Moose, who won in Monaco in 2016 and is now a judge, said the winner must demonstrate they could trust their instinct to stay ahead of rivals. He said he was looking for someone who “has fire in their belly, who follows their intuition, someone who has the integrity and focuses on creativity and innovation”.
Bryan Pearce, EY global entrepreneurship and start-ups leader, said: “You can’t create new growth by following the old models. These are people who look for new solutions to the business opportunities around them.”
Mr Pearce said bringing entrepreneurs together could help find solutions to problems such as rising populism, the impact of human activity on the environment and the pressure on public services.
They include Vladimir Linev of Belarus, a physicist who grew up under communism and became one of his newly-independent country’s first entrepreneurs. Adani, which he founded, is now one of the world’s top 10 vision and imaging technology companies.
It provides more than 50 products to 80-plus countries with a focus on medical radiology, X-ray security screening and medical testing. These products include a micro-dose medical X-ray digital imaging system, used for tuberculosis and breast cancer screenings.
Australian regional winner Jo Horgan founded cosmetics group Mecca Brands in 1997 with funds from the sale of her house. She was a customer fed up of high pressure sales tactics who believed women would prefer a store where they were not hassled. With 25 per cent of the Australian market for luxury cosmetics, Ms Horgan is now looking to take Mecca global. She spends 2 per cent of turnover on training for the group’s 3,000 staff.
Christian Brönnimann, founder and chief executive of Swiss group Dectris, invented an X-ray detector that acts as a giant microscope, which doctors use to examine the Zika virus and create a vaccine.
Other regional winners include France’s Yves Guillemot, who with his four brothers built Ubisoft, one of the world’s biggest software gaming companies behind franchises including Assassin’s Creed.
Several of the finalists run family-owned companies, with the next generation taking them in a new direction. María Elena Obando’s father founded Colombia’s first parcel delivery company in 1967. Twenty years later, Coordinadora was struggling and Ms Obando joined to help save it. Coordinadora collects and delivers more than 18m packages a year in Colombia and is helping to develop the Latin American country’s ecommerce market.
As well as panel sessions on subjects such as how autonomous vehicles will transform city travel, the entrepreneurs can listen and learn from Lord Karan Bilimoria, the founder of Cobra beer, and Natalia Vodianova, the Russian supermodel who is also an activist investor and charity fundraiser.
James Lambert, the UK winner in 2013, said he had remained in touch with other finalists. He created R&R, Europe’s biggest independent ice cream business, from a farm in rural Yorkshire in northern England. “You meet fellow entrepreneurs that have conquered even greater heights and see how they have achieved this. It really fires up further ambition and competitive juices.”
“What we really want people to take away from this year’s event is the ability of each of our entrepreneurs to think differently about a problem, a process or a route to market,” said Mr Pearce of EY. “That particular kind of mental agility has to become an imperative as the transformative age disrupts almost every business sector and market.”
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