Top Stories
Top Stories
Life

Millennials who shook the world

Vegard Wivestad Grott | AFP | Getty Images

A new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators are make their presence felt, as "millennials" come of age.

Across the world, millennials—those born between 1980 and 2000—are leading the way in technology, excelling in sport, fighting for human rights and even risking their lives for what they believe.

From Malala Yousafzai to Mark Zuckerberg, CNBC profiles some young change-makers, from oldest to youngest, whose words and deeds have already shaken the world.

By Anmar Frangoul, Special to CNBC.com, on August 19, 2015.

Daniel Ek
Noam Galai | WireImage | Getty Images

Born: 1983

Vinyl, cassettes, CDs, iPods: The way we consume music keeps on changing.

Music-streaming service Spotify, which Daniel Ek co-founded in 2006 with Martin Lorentzon, has revolutionized the way we listen to our favorite songs, making it easier to find tracks and eradicating the need for CDs, vinyl or other physical devices for storing music.

Today, more than 20 million people are Spotify subscribers with over 30 million songs available on the platform.

To date, Spotify says that it has paid $3 billion in revenue to composers and performers.

Mark Zuckerberg
David Ramos | Getty Images

Born: 1984

Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004 along with Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin.

Today, Zuckerberg is Facebook's chairman and CEO and one of the world's youngest multibillionaires, with an estimated fortune of $41.8 billion, according to Forbes.

Facebook has transformed the way people interact with each other online, becoming a one-stop shop for photos, videos and messaging.

The company employs more than 10,000 people across the world and says it has 968 million daily active users.


Mohamed Bouazizi
Photographer | Collection | Getty Images

Born: 1984

In December 2010, 26-year-old street seller Mohamed Bouazizi hit the world's headlines when he set himself on fire after Tunisian police confiscated his wares. His family and friends alleged he had suffered constant police harassment and demands for bribes.

Bouazizi's desperate action sparked protests throughout Tunisia and led to the overthrow of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had taken power 23 years earlier in a coup.

In the ensuing months, protests erupted across the Arab world, from Egypt to Syria and Libya to Yemen. The Arab Spring had begun.

Bouazizi himself died 18 days after setting himself alight.

Speaking to Reuters in January 2011, Bouazizi's sister said, "What kind of repression do you imagine it takes for a young man to do this?"

"A man who has to feed his family by buying goods on credit when they fine him ... and take his goods."

Lionel Messi
Gabriel Bouys | APF | Getty Images

Born: 1987

Arguably the greatest soccer player of all time, Argentinian Lionel Messi's career highlights include winning FIFA's Ballon d'Or four times in a row and scoring an astounding 73 goals in the 2011-12 season.

Standing only 5 foot 6 inches, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency as a child. He left Argentina to join FC Barcelona when he was just 13, with the top-ranking Spanish team paying for his treatment.

Diego Maradona, another of soccer's greats, said of Messi, "I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentine football and his name is Messi. Messi is a genius."

Camila Vallejo
Hector Retamal | AFP | Getty Images

Born: 1988

Vallejo rose to prominence in 2011 when she emerged as the charismatic figurehead of Chile's student protest movement, calling for universal free education. The protests resulted in the mass occupation of universities and schools, as well as marches in the capital of Santiago that drew thousands of supporters.

Protests continue to this day, but some progress has been made: In June, the Chilean government ratified legislation aim at ensuring that education is a "social right accessible to every child."

One aspect of the law, which is due to come into full effect in March 2016, prevents schools from requesting socioeconomic information from prospective students.

Vallejo has subsequently entered politics and is a member of the Communist Party of Chile. In 2014, she was elected as a member of Chile's Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the country's congress.

Michael Sam
Dilip Vishwanat | Getty Images

Born: 1990

Defensive end Michael Sam became the first openly gay player in top-flight American football, after he was picked by the St. Louis Ram's in the 2014 National Football League (NFL) draft.

His pick made headlines around the world and even U.S. President Barack Obama offered his support.

A White House official told NBCNews.com, "The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation's journey."

Sam's journey since then hasn't been plain sailing and he was let go by the Rams in August 2014. Only last week, he said he was going to "step away from the game at this time," citing concerns over his mental health in .

Mhairi Black
Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images

Born: 1994

The youngest U.K. lawmaker since 1832, 20-year-old Mhairi Black was elected to the British Parliament as the member of parliament for Paisley and Renfrewshire South in Scotland in May 2015.

Black unseated Douglas Alexander, a senior Labour politician who had been Shadow Foreign Secretary and became a politician when Black was only three.

A member of the left-leaning, pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), Black's maiden speech to parliament pulled no punches and has been viewed over 10 million times online.

"The SNP did not triumph on a wave of nationalism—in fact nationalism has nothing to do with what's happened in Scotland," she said.

"We triumphed on a wave of hope, hope that there was something different, something better… (than) the Thatcherite neoliberal policies that are produced from this chamber."

Malala Yousafzai
Odd Andersen | APF | Getty Images

Born: 1997

Malala Yousafzai, is a Pakistani activist for female education and is the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

She came to fame after a gunman boarded her school bus in Pakistan, asked for her by name, and shot her in the head in October 2012. She had become a target for extremists because she had spoken in favor of education for girls and criticized the Taliban.

Yousafzai miraculously survived but was left in a critical condition. She was flown to Birmingham in the U.K. to receive treatment for her injuries and remained in the country after leaving hospital.

Her shooting shocked the world and provoked outrage. Subsequently, Yousafzai become a spokesperson for, "the millions of girls being denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors."

She was a joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014.