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Bold leadership, ground-breaking ideas, unparalleled passion …

For almost a decade the European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme has brought together the brightest minds and outside the box leaders to put their innovative thinking to work at building a more forward-thinking Europe that is a global champion for a better world. The European Young Leaders represent a new generation of leaders, able to tackle the increasing disconnects between citizens and political elites, to rebuild the trust that is vital to democracies.

These promising and established leaders come from a variety of backgrounds including politics, business, civil society, arts, science and the media.

The 2020 Class of European Young Leaders:


Tune in to the EYLs on Friends of Europe’s Leading Views podcast

Joss Garman on the climate crisis: how bad is it (bad!) and can we get out of it (yes!)?

Leading view

Joss Garman on the climate crisis: how bad is it (bad!) and can we get out of it (yes!)?

Joss Garman

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Negar Mortazavi on Europe's role in the US-Iran dispute, the Trump factor and the role of media

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Negar Mortazavi on Europe's role in the US-Iran dispute, the Trump factor and the role of media

Negar Mortazavi

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Una Mullally on abortion rights, marriage equality and galvanising a generation for change

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Una Mullally on abortion rights, marriage equality and galvanising a generation for change

Una Mullally

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Continue to Meet the EYL

Meet the EYL40

Eberhart Wusterhaus Gomez
Eberhart Wusterhaus Gomez

International Business Director, Clean Carbon Solutions, 2015-2016 European Young Leader

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Eberhart is an engineer specialising in energy generation for heating, power and vehicle fuel from both conventional and sustainable sources. He also has expert knowledge of the feasibility of the development and practical application of energy generation based on local conditions. Born in Mexico and educated in Germany, Eberhart has a vital understanding of industrialised and developing countries alike. He has been responsible for national renewable gas projects in Germany, and for the mechanical design and commissioning of gas processing plants in developing countries. He has a strong understanding of the global energy market, current obstacles and future perspectives, with experience of various multi-million euro investment contract negotiations around the world.

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Jakob Haesler

Co-Founder Project Alloy, 2013 European Young Leader

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Prior to founding Project Alloy, Jakob was the CEO and Co-Founder of Tinyclues SAS, a Paris-based software startup with the objective of industrialising datamining on Big Data with the help of advanced machine learning algorithms in a Cloud Computing environment. Previously he was a partner and consultant at McKinsey & Company in Germany and France where he worked on topics ranging from Banking to Public Sector Reform to Global Public Health issues, notably the creation and distribution of child HIV treatments. Prior to McKinsey he briefly worked at the World Bank. He holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Science from the University of St. Gallen. Jakob is also a founding partner of the “Cercle du Leadership”.

Fabian Heilemann
Fabian Heilemann

Founder & CEO of Sky & Sand, 2013 European Young Leader

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Fabian founded the leading German couponing company DailyDeal in 2009. To date he still leads DailyDeal together with his co-founder and brother. In private, he invests as a business angel in technology start-ups through his holding Heilemann Ventures. Before founding DailyDeal, Fabian worked for various German law firms and as a business consultant for Booz & Co. Prior to that, he passed the First Bar Exam of the State of Hamburg with distinctions and submitted a PhD thesis in Corporate Law at Heidelberg Law School. He was a visiting student at Santa Clara University and Stanford University, CA, USA and founded the Entrepreneurs Club at Bucerius Law School, Hamburg, Germany.

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Lars Hinrichs

Founder & CEO of HackFwd, 2013 European Young Leader

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Lars is Founder and CEO of HackFwd, a pre-seed venture capital company investing in technical talent across Europe. He is best known for founding the worldwide social networking website XING, dedicated to cultivating business contacts. He is one of the most successful web entrepreneurs in Germany and has received several awards, including Germany’s leading award for print and online media, the Lead Award, the 2004 German Internet Prize of the Federal Ministry of Economics and was elected Germany’s most important web entrepreneur in 2008 by the Startups Initiative. Lars is also an honorary member of the German Committee of UNICEF.

Andreas Kunze
Andreas Kunze

Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of Konux, 2019 European Young Leader

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Andreas is the CEO and Co-Founder of KONUX, a company that combines smart sensors and analytics based on artificial intelligence (AI) with the aim of guaranteeing the punctual operation and maintenance of railway networks. While working for corporations like Siemens and BMW, Andreas came to the realisation that many industrial companies were not yet aware of the advantages accompanying the Internet of Things, nor did they know how to properly make use of their data. He managed to raise +$50 million with leading Silicon Valley investors and just a year later, KONUX won the national mobility award ‘Deutscher Mobilitätspreis’ along with the German digital award ‘The Spark’ in 2016. That same year, Andreas was the youngest CEO to be included in the entrepreneur list by the German Capital Magazine.

Martin Ott
Martin Ott

EMEA Managing Director for We Company, 2012 European Young Leader

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Martin Ott is EMEA Managing Director for We Company. He was previously Managing Director Central Europe at Facebook, responsible for the development of Facebook’s business in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Benelux and Eastern Europe. With more than 15 years of leadership experience in the digital industry, he advises companies from start-ups to leading global brands on their growth opportunities in the digital world. Prior to joining Facebook in 2012, Martin built one of Europe‘s fastest growing payment unicorns as the Co-Chief Executive Office of Skrill Group in London. With 30M users, Skrill (formerly known as Moneybookers) was an early pioneer in offering global money transfer services. Previously the COO of Jamba/Jamster, he oversaw marketing, services and content as well as building and operating the consumer business, leading up to the groups’s acquisition by News Corporation. He also supports the board of trustees of AfriKids, a London headquartered NGO which supports sustainable development projects in Ghana.

Dominik Risse
Dominik Risse

Vice-President Colorant Additives Business, Lanxess, 2012 European Young Leader

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Dominik is Global Head of Marketing at LANXESS AG (Leverkusen, Germany), a leading global specialty chemicals group. Prior to this, he held various management roles in the chemical industry (LANXESS, Bayer) including a nearly 4 year assignment in Southeast Asia. His political record includes activities at both the regional and national levels for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), as well as for the Junge Union and the Wirtschaftsrat Deutschland (the Economic Council of the CDU). Dominik holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Bradford University School of Management and attended INSEAD’s Leadership Programme in Singapore.

Max von Bismarck
Max von Bismarck

Chief Business Officer & Managing Director, Deposit Solutions, 2014 European Young Leader

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Max is a European serial entrepreneur and Chief Business Officer of Deposit Solutions. Previously Max was Partner and CEO Europe for SkyBridge Capital, the global alternative investment firm, and Director and Head of Investors at the World Economic Forum in Geneva and New York. Furthermore, he was a Co-Founder & Managing Director at Public One Strategy Consulting, and part of the initial team of the technology company Mondus Limited that originated out of Oxford University. He serves as Senior Advisor Europe to the Berggruen Institute and is a former Senior Advisor on Global Business at the Asia-Pacific Research Center of Stanford University.

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Andi Wecker

Film- and TV producer, writer, director at Network Movie Film und Fernsehproduktion GmbH, 2015-2016 European Young Leader

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After working in various jobs including as a camera assistant, electrician and assistant director in film and television, Andi joined the film production company Network Movie in 2002 as a producer. Projects then included the first series of the international co-production “The Team” for which Andi was Creative Producer, several series of the crime drama, “Soko Köln” (PD Cologne), several TV-movies including an adaptation of Frank Schätzing’s bestseller, “Die Dunkle Seite” (The Dark Side). While fulfilling these responsibilities, he studied directing at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne and wrote and directed several short films and commercials.

Chanyu Xu
Chanyu Xu

Founder and CEO of her1 and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

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Chanyu is a German serial entrepreneur, passionate foodie and start-up mentor from Berlin. In 2009 she co-founded her first successful ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) start-up Customer Alliance which is currently used by over 3,500 hotels in 35 countries. Chanyu has since co-founded several food-tech start-ups, including eating.de backed by star investor Peter Thiel and her1, which offers tips and products for a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. Her latest start-up, ONO LABS, provides women with 100% natural nutrition before, during and after pregnancy.

Julia Zimmermann
Julia Zimmermann

Chief Scientific Officer, Terraplasma, 2014 European Young Leader

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Julia is principal investigator in the research area “plasma medicine”, a rapidly growing, interdisciplinary field of research requiring synergistic contributions from physicists, engineers, chemists, micro- and cell-biologists and physicians. To carry out this fundamental but also translational research she created a “plasma medicine network” including partners from more than 20 institutions in Germany, England, the USA and Russia. Julia is also Co-founder of the company terraplasma GmbH – a technology company, founded in May 2011 as a spin-off from the Max Planck Society. The mission of terraplasma GmbH is to develop and bring to market different cold atmospheric plasma devices. Julia holds a PhD in Biophysics from the Technical University in Munich.

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Selection process

Due to Covid-19, no European Young Leaders class will be selected for 2021. Application for the class of 2022 will open in the spring of 2021.

The EYL40 programme is a unique, multi-stakeholder programme which aims to promote a sense of European identity by bringing together forty of the brightest European leaders every year and engaging them in initiatives that will shape Europe’s future. We aim to select 40 European Young Leaders of diverse backgrounds in order to enable a broad exchange of ideas, creating the basis for a new generation of engaged European leaders. Additionally, in 2020, the programme will include 6 Young Leaders from the Western Balkan region. In doing so, we aim to promote structural dialogue across the continent that will foster better mutual understanding.

Since the launch of the programme in 2012, we have gradually taken steps to ensure the diversity and exceptional quality of its selection process. We have made sure that its comprehensive and competitive nature ensures the identification and selection of remarkable individuals. Candidates can either apply or be nominated for the selection process of the programme.

Selection criteria:

  • Candidates must be between 30 and 40 years of age;
  • Candidates must be a national of an EU member state or of one of the 6 Balkan states currently on the path to EU integration (Serbia, Kosovo*, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro);
  • Candidates should have established themselves the highest levels of their chosen profession, or be on track to do so;
  • Candidates must be committed to serve society at large through noteworthy contributions and have demonstrated a record of significant achievements and outstanding professional experience;
  • Candidates are also evaluated based on their ability to contribute to the enrichment of the programme as a whole;
  • Candidates are required to be fluent in English as it is the working language of the programme;
  • Candidates must commit to participating in at least one seminar during the programme year.

*references to Kosovo in this document are used without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UN Security Council resolution 1244/99 and the International Court of Justice Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

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