June - 2009 issue > Technology
Giving wings to the billion dollar dreams
By Jaya Smitha Menon
Friday, June 5, 2009
What would a 10 year old ideally be interested in? Gaming, baseball, trekking? But Ankur Jain was different. He would make his way in his Segway into his dad’s office and spend his time there. No wonder, when by the time he reached the seventh grade, he could easily engage in conversations about stocks and stakes. Having seen his father Naveen Jain (the serial entrepreneur who built Infospace and Intellius) build companies, he started his own venture called Starnium at the age of 12. But if you think that this guy would be content building companies and making it big, you got him wrong. Now a sophomore at the Wharton School, Jain along with some of the ingenious students there, have conspired to establish a society of collegiate entrepreneurs, called the Kairos Society and, in less than a year, the group has gone from nationwide to global.

“We are living in tough economic times and what is evident is that the traditional ways of looking at a career are far disappearing. This is the opportune time to create value for ourselves and the community and the best way to do that is to pursue the path of entrepreneurship,” says the 19-year-old Jain. And it is this belief that he tries to execute through Kairos. As a sophomore himself he finds that there are a lot of ideas at the undergraduate level which does not see the ray of light due to lack of proper support. As a person who has seen his dad transforming ideas into opportunities and executing them, Jain felt a compelling desire to break the conventional barriers existing in terms of undergraduate entrepreneurship. “Till now, there has been no organization that worked towards bringing the best students with bright ideas and connecting them with some of the greatest entrepreneurs and mentors,” explains Jain.

The purpose of Kairos is to bring together the brightest college students from different economic backgrounds from all over the country, who have passion for entrepreneurship. The idea got instant attention in the campuses where the students were eagerly hoping for some kind of support. Within a year the society has started the entrepreneurship group in over 18 universities. “In all these schools we have 50 to 100 hand-selected students who are doing incredible things,” says Jain. He believes that some of the billion dollar enterprises and products of the future are being cultivated at some of the nation’s leading universities.

With a motto of inspiration, experience and innovation, the Kairos Society aims to foster the entrepreneurial spirit among students by connecting them with one another, forging relationships with emerging start-up companies around the world. The Kairos Society’s advisory board is a who’s who of global leadership, who got involved with the organization because they believe in what the Society can do to foster tomorrow’s top entrepreneurs. This includes Scott Mednick; Chris Kitze, founder of Xoom.com; Bill White, President of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund; Rajat K. Gupta, Managing Director Worldwide at McKinsey & Co.; and Bill Owens, former U.S. Vice Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But Jain doesn’t just want the business minds; his aim is to create visionaries. As of now the society has students who have done experiments in alternative energy development, Emergent Energy Group, to creating a peer-to-peer lending platform, UniThrive. Levant Power, founded by MIT senior Shakeel Avadhany caught the attention of the U.S. military with a groundbreaking product called GenShock. The product harvests the wasted energy of vehicle suspension to generate electric power, which can then be used for fuel-efficiency gains. They are currently developing a product for the next generation Humvee and the heavy trucking industry.

What makes this new league of entrepreneurship particularly appealing is its insistence on social and environmental responsibility. The founders who believe in reinventing the American dream also possess a deep appreciation for the connectedness of the global world they live. Moreover, Jain believes that in today’s economy we cannot rely on what’s already been done, the only way to move forward is through innovation.

After building its base in more than 18 universities in U.S. Jain and his team decided to bring all the members of the society together. They organized the first Kairos Annual Summit last April. The conference offered college entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect with other students and professionals from all over the country and share stories, experiences and ideas about entrepreneurship.

Five hundred students attended the Summit alongside many prominent former and current CEOs and executives, including Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, William, H.Gates, Father of Bill gates, Phil Condit, the former chairman and CEO of Boeing Co. and Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont. Many students were recognized at this event for demonstrating inspiring out-of-the-box thinking and bringing new methodologies to the table. Delegations from as far as China and Israel attended the two-day event held at the Interpid Museum.

After the success of the society in the U.S, Jain is planning to launch the society in China, Israel and Korea.

Though a staunch advocate of collegiate entrepreneurship, Jain also stresses the importance of education, which he says is the greatest asset one can earn in a lifetime. At Kairos also he insists the students on completing their education, before venturing into entrepreneurship.

Jain says that his father has always instilled in him that one has to be the creator of his own destiny. No wonder, when at the age of ten, his father asked him if he wants to take the reins of Infospace when he grows up he shot back, “That’s your company. Am going to start my own.” And true to his words, Jain did start on his own but went an extra mile to kick off a movement, which today, is helping thousands of students like him to be the makers of their own destiny. By doing so he even surprises his dad by demonstrating the power of community. “I think our generation knows it’s up to us to come together and find ways to change the world for the better,” adds Jain.
Reader's comments(1)
1:I really impressed by the entrepreneurial attitude of this boy.
I amalso a recently graduated engineer & have several business ideas and know the potential of each idea in the future but the problem is that to implement those ideas, i havn't any support of anyone in terms of mentorship and finance. I'll definately implement those after doing MBA & have some experience but i want to implement them now as i don't want to wait for 5-6 years.
Can someone suggest me how to get support at this stage
Posted by: Yatendra Goel - 06th Jun 2009
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