On January 31, Bachelor in Business and Law dual degree students Pedro Bajk and Bailey de Villiers will launch GENEX, a platform that facilitates investment into people, rather than stock. This will allow investors to bank on talented individuals (or “issuers”) they find promising, with the intention of financially kick-starting their career. Issuers can come in many shapes and sizes, from soccer players, to singers, to aspiring lawyers. While other startups in the world of Financial Technology have toyed with this idea, Bajk and de Villiers have differentiated themselves by focusing on what they call “human equity”. That is, ensuring their system is sustainable in the long term, and as fair as possible for both issuers and investors. Despite admitting a stigma remains, GENEX will also try to minimize the pressure felt by issuers after they receive funding by investors.

The origins of this startup harken back to the “DoEat” restaurant on Calle María de Molina in Madrid. Bajk had asked de Villiers to speak after class. At the restaurant, Bajk introduced the idea of investing in people, what he called “the underlying asset”. He had been thinking of ways for people without much of a disposable income to give back after receiving gifts or donations. Investment was a costless answer to this. Students may not have disposable income, but they do have the promise of future productivity. De Villiers, dazed, replied that the same idea had been bouncing around his mind. Bajk finally put it into words. With that, Bajk and de Villiers started their joint venture. 

They started planning on their own, eventually coming up with the name “GENEX” (“Generations Exchange”) while tanning and brainstorming on Bajk’s balcony. The name represents a company that invests in the talent of younger generations, and aims to last for generations to come. Once they were confident in their plan, Bajk and de Villiers asked many of their professors for feedback. The co-founders were told their idea was “different”, yet there were “no critical mistakes”. This encouraged them, a feeling multiplied by Professor Lola Conde’s time as legal counsel for the startup. Bajk and de Villiers also attribute many of their connections to IE, as the Venture Lab gave them direct connections to investors. 

GENEX’s co-founders recommend a similar path for IE students looking to turn their own idea into a business. Their first piece of advice is “don’t go anywhere”. They stress that a solution has many problems within it, and all of those should be addressed before an idea is pitched to any professor. They advise aspiring entrepreneurs to make sure they have a tangible, feasible idea that they can explain clearly and succinctly before they approach anyone. After that, Bajk and de Villiers recommend the Venture Lab for technical help, connections, and direction. The Venture Lab is IE’s own “startup incubator”, with programs and initiatives catered specifically towards new ideas and a focus on networking.

When they first pitched GENEX to a room of potential investors, Bajk and de Villiers were met with skepticism. This discouraged them, but also reminded them that their i

dea was not quite traditional. To entice investors, they would need solid evidence to prove GENEX’s worth as an investment. Originally, the co-founders were hoping investors would buy into their idea, helping them finance a tech team headed by de Villiers, to then code a prototype of GENEX. When this didn’t come to fruition, de Villiers decided to learn the code and build a prototype himself. If rejection was their biggest challenge, this decision may have led to their greatest successes, as many of their hypotheses were proven by code that followed market mechanics. Subsequently, once investors were presented with a more tangible prototype, the idea of GENEX started receiving a lot more attention and praise in the world of FinTech. 

With GENEX launching on January 31, Bajk and de Villiers are looking for issuers and investors to get involved with their platform. They always recognized IE as a pool of talent and a hub for financially aware students looking to invest. This inspired what they call “fast-track issuance”. “Fast-track issuance” allows IE students to skip the bulk of the verification process, allowing them to launch and customize their assets within a couple of days. GENEX also has a finite amount of native tokens to spread amongst its users, which can be bought and traded. In addition, rewards are available for those who bring talent to the platform. Starting January 31, anyone can get involved with GENEX at the website “genex.app“. 

“Investors today have tons of power […], but you have equal value to provide, if not more,” de Villiers said. “Especially in a traditional field like finance, it’s a tough break.” With the help of their professors, the Venture Lab, and eventual investors, Bajk and de Villiers have turned their moment of chemistry and inspiration at the “DoEat” into an investment in the future, and as January 31 closes in, they look forward to an eventful release.

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