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When young entrepreneurs connect

Sydney student Aryan Verma, the founder of Young Entrepreneurs Connect (YEC), puts out his first 'Featured Hustlers List'

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Aryan Verma is not your average 20-year-old student. While he studies Commerce at the University of Sydney, he is also the founder of Young Entrepreneurs Connect (YEC), a 4,000 strong community that aims to nurture the ambition of young entrepreneurs, encouraging them to unlock their potential and become the next generation of leaders and impact makers. Last month, Young Entrepreneurs Connect released its first ever ‘Featured Hustlers List’ – an initiative aimed at putting the spotlight on Australia’s brightest young minds. Aryan spoke with Indian Link on the eve of the announcement about his journey, YEC and all things entrepreneurialism.

Aryan’s interest in business began at the age of 14, when he began teaching himself real estate valuations and keenly following the likes of entrepreneurs such as Grant Cardone and Patrick Bet-David.

It was more than a hobby.

“I would often message agents on realestate.com with my estimates of listed unit blocks to see how close I was to the offer price,” says Aryan. “But at 14 years old, it wasn’t practical to enter fields like investment banking or private equity, so instead I focused more on startups and entrepreneurship because there were virtually no barriers to entry.”

Having spent a significant part of his early teens teaching himself about the startup sector through Google, by the age of 16 Aryan was in prime position to start a venture of his own – and so began YEC.

“In my head, being an entrepreneur was something that every young person should do, especially if they were career- oriented and aspired to get to the world stage,” recalls Aryan. “So, I started YEC with the mission to make entrepreneurship mainstream. There weren’t very many programs and events at that point targeted towards high school students, partly because the Australian startup ecosystem is still growing and is slowly trickling down to attracting more young people.”

Young Entrepreneurs Connect held its first speaker and networking event in January 2020, with 6 speakers from different industries, and over 60 attendees. Importantly to Aryan, for most of the attendees, the event was their first practical, real-life interaction with entrepreneurship.

Just three years on, and YEC currently boasts 4,000 students across Australia and the United States, with a vision to bring Australia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to the likes of international hubs such as Silicon Valley, London and Shanghai.

The Featured Hustlers List is the latest step towards that journey, reflecting not only Aryan’s desire to think outside the box – but his focus on encouraging others to do so, too. “I wanted to put together Australia’s best and share their stories, aiming to inspire other young people to pursue something beyond school and the traditional education system, because that is where outliers are found.”

It’s a purpose that’s particularly close to Aryan’s heart, given many of Aryan’s classmates from Sydney Boys High School went on to pursue more ‘traditional’ careers in medicine or law, even as Aryan sought something different.

Visakhan Vythilingam from Greenfluence
Visakhan Vythilingam from Greenfluence (Source: Supplied)

Entrepreneurs featured on the Featured Hustlers List come from diverse backgrounds and fields, including custom footwear, creative arts, education, and even podcasters, such as Sunny Bahuguna and Mayank Sohani (co-founders of men’s mental health podcast Bottled Up) and Visakhan Vythilingam, (co-founder of sustainability podcast Greenfluence).

Sunny Bahuguna (L) and Mayank Sohani (R)
Sunny Bahuguna (L) and Mayank Sohani (R) from Bottled Up (Source: Supplied)

To Sunny, being featured on the Featured Hustlers List is an opportunity to inspire. “Being featured gives us a chance to provide representation to other South Asian entrepreneurs looking to start on their own journey,” says Sunny. “Role modelling and visibility of others who have been on a similar journey as us is so powerful. It’s something I’ve struggled with on my own journey. There’s so many talented South Asians entering entrepreneurship and leadership each year, but we need the representation and role modelling to show them that it’s possible and that we all have a seat at the table.”

Ryan Nindra from Starlite
Ryan Nindra from Starlite (Source: Supplied)

Ryan Nindra, who featured on the list as the founder of Starlite – an organisation which provides career upskilling and networking resources to university students, many of them free to use – echoed those sentiments. “Being a young entrepreneur from a diverse background in Australia, the biggest thing you can receive is recognition for your efforts in making change for the better,” says Ryan.

Aryan’s own ambitions lay in the venture capital / private equity sectors, with Softbank CEO Masayoshi San amongst Aryan’s greatest idols.

There’s little doubt that, as entrepreneurship attracts greater focus in Australia, so too will those on YEC’s Featured Hustlers List go on to become idols in their own right one day.

READ ALSO: Youth entrepreneur Yash Dutt on the 40 under 40 list

Ritam Mitra
Ritam Mitra
Ritam is an award-winning journalist and lawyer based in Sydney. Ritam writes on domestic and global politics, human rights and social justice, and sport.

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