11. Greg Moshal (37) & Beau Bortoli (37)
Nine months of consistent loan origination growth were shattered for Prospa (ASX: PGL) in March when the economy grinded to a halt due to COVID-19, leaving the company no choice but to defer loan repayments from a large chunk of its customer base.
As Australia's leading online lender to small businesses, the listed entity founded by Greg Moshal and Beau Bortoli eight years ago is naturally at the frontline of economic headwind, and unlike the Big Four banks its share price is nowhere near returning to pre-pandemic levels.
"Our customers are your tradies, grocers, dentists, cafes and florists, and we provide them with ways to manage their cash flow, facilitate payments and take advantage of opportunities to grow," Moshal, who is Prospa's CEO, said at Prospa's AGM in November.
"Prospa began eight years ago because we believed there had to be a better way. A better way for small businesses to access finance, and to grow and prosper.
"We've succeeded by putting this mission and our customers at the heart of everything we do, in the good times and the bad."
For Prospa these bad times involved COVID relief packages including partial and full deferrals of repayments, with around $223 million in support from the Federal Government's SME Coronavirus Loan Guarantee Scheme.
In response to challenging conditions, Prospa applied a forward-looking provision of $18 million which pushed its EBITDA loss down to $19.5 million for FY20, but on a positive note by the end of July the group had 13,300 active customers.
"We used our strengths in technology, data, and customer service to engage with our customers and provide the support they needed to navigate this period of economic uncertainty," Moshal said at the AGM.
The lender is also seeing encouraging signs of a turnaround. In the three months to 30 September, originations not relating to government guarantees had doubled on the June quarter.
"Our liquidity remains strong, and as Australia's largest online small business lender, we stand ready to support our customers as business conditions continue to improve," Moshal said in an October update.
12. Lance Giles (32)
2020 has ended with a bang for Youfoodz (ASX: YFZ) founder and CEO Lance Giles after the healthy prepared meals delivery group was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange earlier this month.
"For any business owner it's a sense of achievement to be listed on the stock exchange and I think that unlocks so much potential," says Giles.
The IPO raised $70 million, part of which will be used to create a purpose-built manufacturing facility on a 13,000sqm site.
Construction on the 18-month build is due to start in early 2021.
Health and quality are key drivers of the Youfoodz business model, as Giles looks to capture part of a $3.2 billion addressable market in Australia and New Zealand.
"People are more and more time poor and they look for that healthy alternative, and what YouFoodz has done has taken and really revolutionised ready-made meals," he says.
"We work closely with local farmers and growers to source product. It's that rigorous development process to make sure what turns up on the doorstep of a customer is the best quality product."
Around 59 per cent of Youfoodz's sales are business-to-consumer (B2C), but the remaining 39 per cent is business-to-business (B2B) with more than 3,500 locations Australia-wide stocking its products including Coles, 7-11, Caltex and BP.
The next stage of growth will also involve a push - backed by a marketing strategy with media personality Natalie Gruzlewski as the face of the brand - to bring on more subscribers.
"We have just recently introduced a very simple subscription model, which customers are really engaging in with us, and we do believe in the years to come we'll see more and more customers become subscribers," he says.
"We believe next year we'll be upwards of 50 per cent of our customers will be subscribers versus one-off orders, and by saying one-off I mean they're on a regular basis but they're not locked in to a weekly or fortnightly delivery.
"Being omni-channel, we fortunately have a lot of our customers may order a week's worth of food online, and then the following week they pop into Coles or 7-11 to get their food on their way home or whatever it might be."
13. Chris Eigeland (30), Vu Tran (31), Chris Hood (38) & Andrew Barnes (31)
The world's largest corporate training marketplace had its fair share of milestones in 2020, not least a US$40 million Series C funding round in May that was supported by SEEK, Microsoft and Salesforce, among others.
The capital raising was hot on the heels of GO1's ground-breaking integration with Microsoft Teams, a platform that became ubiquitous during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The working from home (WFH) trend was a tailwind for GO1 as organisations needed to be able to train staff no matter where they were, but Andrew Barnes notes there were also headwinds from key customers like Qantas, Virgin Australia and Singapore Airlines needing to lay off staff.
GO1 has also been involved in a project with the Queensland Government to provide free access to learning tools for job seekers in the state, and the four entrepreneurs are humbled to have worked with people who have lost their jobs during these difficult times including from their major airline clients.
"We think education is a really important topic all of the time, but right now it's an even more important topic to help people access upskilling in different career pursuits that they might be looking at," says Barnes.
GO1 may have already had one of the world's largest libraries of online learning, making it a kind of "Spotify" for education, but it has continued to sign on new content providers such as Harvard University and edX.
The latest funding round has gone a long way to backing ongoing growth overseas.
"Whilst we've historically grown and started in Australia, an increasing amount of the growth of the business is now in North America, specifically the United States - we've got a team in the ground in the Bay Area [California], we've got another team in Salt Lake City and we've just started to build up a presence in Seattle," says Barnes.
"As we think about the future of GO1, there will be continued growth in the Asia-Pacific region but equally there's a huge amount of opportunity and blue sky in North America, so that capital raise has really helped accelerate what we were doing in the US."
14. Ben Bradshaw (38) & Shannah Bradshaw (35)
Disrupt Digital, Disrupt Music Group, Deep Future
"It has probably been my most productive year ever," says Ben Bradshaw, a marketing specialist who is constantly endeavouring to apply his proven marketing expertise to new industries and fields.
From the Google AdWords management and SEO business SponsoredLinx they co-founded in 2006, Ben and Shannah Bradshaw set up the umbrella group Disrupt Digital that now sits above agencies Get More Traffic and Search Marketing Experts.
Their label Disrupt Music Group also made its first major signing this year with Gold Coast artist Golding, who has now clocked close to a million streams and gained popularity in the charts as far as Finland and Mexico.
"Music is a personal passion. We saw it was a great opportunity for us to be a little bit disruptive in the sense that we felt we could do streaming strategies and global marketing," says Ben Bradshaw.
"We're pretty bullish. We built our own technology around artist analytics and data-driven artist platforms - we're bringing tech, AI, machine learning and everything we do in other projects to the table, to reinvest the industry with data-driven decisions.
"The more independent releases that get released, the bigger the challenge is to get in the ears of fans. We have a system where we'll start supporting and doing digital marketing for artists who we think are good, and then after they have a certain level of success then they'll qualify to go on one of our labels."
In 2020 Disrupt Music also brought Pixie Weyand - who has previously signed Tones & I and is the owner of Brisbane live music venue The Zoo - on board as its head of A&R (artists and repertoire).
Aside from the investment vehicle Disrupt Ventures which over the past year has invested in a podcast and a ventilator company in response to COVID-19, Bradshaw is also upbeat about an enterprise he plans to launch soon called Deep Future.
As a competitor AI tool that gets around the human challenges of tracking peers and identifying threats, Deep Future will use open source intelligence to provide a whole new compelling service in the market. Bradshaw believes it might even overtake Disrupt Digital itself.
15. Daniel Wessels (32)
After cutting his teeth in the sub-prime lending space with innovative technology-driven solutions, Daniel Wessels and his team at Jacaranda announced a major expansion in 2020 by diving into prime lending.
Jacaranda has blossomed by utilising advanced algorithms and machine learning to provide financing to those often deemed "unbankable" by traditional institutions, so why not apply that same knowledge to engage with more prospective borrowers?
"We had been toying with the idea of entering the prime personal loan market for a long time before the timing became right in August this year," says Wessels.
"This year has seen a mass contraction in demand for consumer credit, but we've still been able to remain competitive across the sector and scoop up solid market share."
For the past year the group has also been using a custom-built bank statement score to measure how risky a borrower may be, which the entrepreneur believes warrants a greater risk weighting than traditional scores such as credit scores.
In early 2021 Wessels expects to announce a substantial capital raise to fuel the next chapter of growth for Jacaranda Finance, while other developments include implementing a biometric identification solution for the company's application process.
16. Tammy Hembrow (26)
Saski Collection, TammyFit
It came as little surprise that the TammyFit home workout app went gangbusters this year, with its download rate doubling since the onset of COVID. The fashion label Saski Collection was also a natural match for that explosive market.
Saski supplied the masses of new home-exercisers with comfortable and stylish workout gear, despite some supply chain and delivery difficulties.
It also made its debut in the 'family clothing' niche with its Unisex & Mini collection which sold out within two minutes, the fastest in the company's history.
Reflecting on the challenges of the year, Hembrow kept her classic water-off-a-duck's-back attitude when describing the cancellation of Saski's first appearance at Miami Swim Week as "a bit frustrating".
But her moments of success far outweighed the frustrating ones.
"We launched our first eight-week challenge where we had over 2000 people sign up from around the world," she says.
"We also went to New York Fashion Week before everything locked down in February this year, which was a big highlight for us."
In the year ahead, Hembrow plans to steadily keep growing both businesses and expand into new markets including fitness accessories and swimwear.
Hembrow is one of Australia's most beloved social media stars with a following of 11.8 million on Instagram alone.
17. Chris Anastasi (36) & Nathaniel Anthony (30)
Muscle Nation Clothing & Supplements
Muscle Nation is flexing at retail with a sizeable Instagram following that bulks up interest in its gym wear and protein supplements, resulting in a 'doubling of the data' year-on-year for its latest Black Friday Sale in November.
The brand alignment of these two very different products in the fitness space shows a keen eye for opportunity from co-founders Nathaniel Anthony and Chris Anastasi, who were able to overcome the logistical challenges of COVID-19 this year, hiring rather than firing.
The next frontier for the rapidly-growing company that was founded in 2016 is the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment at bricks-and-mortar retail, but for now business is predominantly through e-commerce.
The consumer-facing business was actually preceded by Anthony's Muscle Nation Advertising, an enterprise that continues to this day and harnesses a large social media network to sell advertising to fitness brands.
Anthony also co-founded fitness subscription service Muscle Box with Harry Toumbas, and runs his own property development company Anthony Building Group.
18. Ellie Vaisman (27) & Giovanni Pino (28)
Sourci grew from a pain point during Giovanni Pino's stint working for a printing company, during which he came face to face with the difficulties of sourcing products from overseas.
Teaming up with real estate agent Ellie Vaisman, the duo got to work on building their now successful startup.
For businesses of any size Sourci is a one-stop shop for supply chain assistance, the procurement of goods, and distribution consultation.
Having already found success in Australia before the co-founders have even turned 30, the pair have branched out to setting up two Sourci offices in China and one in India.
With manufacturing, distribution and supply chains slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sourci stepped in to get things back on track for its clients during the period.
This translated into some of the biggest orders the company has seen to date, especially as the company played a pivotal role in securing personal protective equipment (PPE) directly to Australian and international government clients.
"It was like the Wild West in China," Pino said.
"We were able to perform quite well during that period to make sure that what we brought into the country was at the highest quality."
19. Dr Reuben Sim (36) & Dr May Chan (35)
If you're one of Melbourne's top celebrities or influencers, Dental Boutique is the place to be.
The clinic specialises in cosmetic dentistry like teeth whitening, Invisalign and veneers, and boasts the likes of The Bachelor Sam Wood and wife Snezana, My Kitchen Rules stars Zana Pali and Gianni Romano, and Kiss 101.1 presenter PJ as clients.
Ultimately, Dental Boutique is helping clients achieve their dream smiles.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dental Boutique had to delay the majority of its cosmetic operations, but a shift to virtual consultations enabled the founders to keep Invisalign treatments right on track.
"Due to not many patients being able to travel overseas, we are finding that many patients are now investing their time and money into themselves," says Dr Reuben Sim, who co-founded the business with Dr May Chan.
"Despite COVID-19, we have ensured that not one lead is left unseen. We will continue to provide exceptional service for our patients, to ensure growth for Dental Boutique."
20. Micky Ahuja (31)
MA Services Group
What do security guards do when everyone's holed up at home?
It was a question Micky Ahuja, the founder of security services business MA Services Group, found himself asking back in March.
With major events cancelled overnight, Ahuja found himself in a sticky situation.
But thanks to some entrepreneurial ingenuity, MA Services Group saw its business go gangbusters during COVID-19.
The company pivoted to guarding essential businesses like grocery stores, and Ahuja began to sell things like bollards for crowd control.
The demand for professional COVID marshals was high too, with all of the above resulting in MA Services Group tripling invoice numbers in April.
Plus with Amazon Australia as a client, a giant fast expanding around the country, it's unlikely Ahuja will see business dry up anytime soon.
These developments have encouraged him to build a new office in Melbourne, replete with state-of-the-art alarm and CCTV monitoring systems powered by artificial intelligence.
Ahuja has been performing well internationally too, setting up shop in New Zealand with clients including Mirvac and Chemist Warehouse.