22-Year-Old University Dropout Amasses Wealth, Joins Young Rich List

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Aaron Hornlimann, only 35 years old, started a company that provides a much-needed service: technology to make travel through airports more efficient.

If it weren’t for Aaron Hornlimann’s stroke of luck, he never would have started the company that led him to the Young Rich List.

The university dropout, who bred guinea pigs in his younger days, had a failed business venture under his belt when Heinz Corona took him to a Jetstar business meeting.

He wasn’t able to sell Jetstar his access card and security technology because they thought it was too pricey.

“If you can manage to have people board the plane using only their cellphones, I’d be intrigued,” is what Hornlimann recalls the chief information officer said.

“I told them I could build it even though I had no idea how,” Hornlimann says, laughing. “But that’s the great thing about not knowing what you’re doing—you just go ahead and do it anyway.”

And it paid off. When he was only 20 years old, he developed technology that allowed boarding passes to be sent via SMS. Jetstar implemented this change in 2009.

Afterwards, he started Elenium with Corona and Fred Melki, two people who he had previously worked with at Jetstar’s IT operations. The trio set out to build technology that made travel more convenient for people.

They landed their first client, Sydney Airport, with a sketchy design for a portable check-in kiosk. The sale however came with a time limit–they only had six weeks to build it.

“We worked 18-hour days, seven days a week and ended up delivering on time,” Hornlimann says. “But we also learned to never promise something that you haven’t built before.”

Elenium’s success only grew from there, with the company now providing technology solutions for airports and airlines around the world. This success landed Hornlimann a spot on the Young Rich List with an estimated net worth of $37 million.

But it’s not all about the money for Hornlimann. “More importantly, I love what we do,” he says. “I still have that same drive to make things better, more efficient and easier for people.”

And with Elenium’s recent release of their mobile app, it looks like Hornlimann will be continuing to revolutionize the travel industry for years to come.


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