Future Labs is talking about generation Z

18 Feb 2019

Filmmaker Sean ‘Stellar’ Treacy. Image: Future Labs

Our start-up of the week is generation Z brand consultancy Future Labs, which is headed by two teen entrepreneurs.

“Future Labs is a generation Z consultancy,” explained Future Labs co-founder Adam Flanagan.

“We refine and create marketing campaigns for companies to help them engage with generation Z.”

‘As gen-Zers ourselves we have a unique insight into the generation which means we can offer companies first-hand insight’

Entrepreneurs Flanagan (aged 17) from Belfast and Harry Beard (aged 19) from Bedford founded Future Labs in 2017, to future-proof brands across the UK and Ireland.

Both considered as generation Z, they are uniquely positioned to help brands refine their digital and marketing strategies to better target the lucrative market of teenagers and young people born in the digital age.

In recent weeks they released a film – The World of Generation Z – directed by 14-year-old award-winning filmmaker Sean ‘Stellar’ Treacy, which showcases how the new generation of entrepreneurs and leaders in their field are shaping the future of branding for businesses.

The film reveals the lives and achievements of three exceptional teenagers: 19-year-old Ketnipz cartoonist and designer Harry Hambley, 19-year-old south London rugby sensation and American Football League player Tyrese Johnson-Fisher, and 18-year-old Sony record label composer Oliver Graham.

The market

Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2010) influence around €4.5trn in spending annually.

“Yet we feel so many brands struggle to properly engage with generation Z because of the way they conduct their day-t0-day lives, being social media natives,” said Beard. “As gen-Zers ourselves we have a unique insight into the generation which means we can offer companies first-hand insight.

The founders

Picture of a young man with dark hair wearing a grey t-shirt.

Adam Flanagan. Image: Future Labs

Flanagan was born and raised in Belfast. He founded Future Summits which brought hundreds of gen-Zers to a full day hackathon based at Titanic Belfast. The summit not only gained the attention of generation Z, but also major corporate companies with past sponsors including Google, Twitter and BT. He  has been recognised for his entrepreneurial achievements, being the youngest member of the Founders of the Future gathering at 10 Downing Street.

Beard was born and raised in Bedford. He founded OPEN, which managed social media accounts for a wide range of businesses. He was recognised by EY for his company and was named as the second-best entrepreneur in their Founders 30 competition. Since this accolade, Beard has given talks all over the UK to inspire young entrepreneurs and also educate retailers in attracting the attention of generation Z.

Picture of a young man in a chequered shirt wearing a tie and a sleeveless coat.

Harry Beard. Image: Future Labs

“We came together to create Future Labs as we saw the need for companies to target generation Z in a more meaningful way,” said Flanagan. “With both of us having experience specifically with generation Z marketing – successfully – it made sense to create a gen-Z-specific company.”

The technology

Future Labs is working on a digital platform that will be launched in late summer 2019.

Beard said: “The short-term goal is to produce engaging campaigns that will deliver success for clients, as well as building a team of motivated and capable young people around us.

“Ultimately, however, we want to become one of the leading brands based around young people, diversifying into various activities and services based around this growing segment.”

Flanagan added that Future Labs has so far had some encouraging initial success and it is starting to gain some traction.

“Investment is something we often discuss, and to take Future Labs to the next level it is something we will need to look at. There are competitors who are gen-Z facing, but the majority of them aren’t gen-Zers themselves – we feel we have a major unique selling point and we want to exploit it! Funding would also naturally help catalyse the development of our tech platform.”

Young and fearless

Beard points out: “Being young could be seen as a challenge, but for us it’s our main USP! When it comes to being creative it can be hard to always think of new ideas, but we’re constantly planning the next campaign. It’s safe to say we’ve become obsessed with the creative side.”

From Flanagan’s perspective, the island of Ireland offers one of the most supportive business environments in Europe. “Belfast specifically offers its own advantages, with initiatives such as the Eagle Lab at Ormeau Baths offering invaluable advice and resources.

“There really is no better place to get your start-up off the ground.”

Beard also notes how generation Z is fortunate to have technological firepower at their fingertips in ways that previous generations could only imagine. But at the same time it is still about having the acumen to identify opportunities as they arise.

“Success is a ladder, and each opportunity leads to the next. It’s important to use the resources at your disposal.

“These days, we are fortunate enough to have access to technology that allows us to start the next big brand from home.

“Meet-ups are also a great opportunity to network with like-minded people, who may have faced similar challenges themselves and can therefore offer advice.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years