Launching New Hopes
The young entrepreneur helps businesses “do well by doing good.” In the world of modern day business, there really aren’t borders any more,” says 21-year-old American entrepreneur Ankur Jain. “It’s not the U.S. market and the Chinese market separately. It’s everyone working together. It’s been exciting working in this field,” he continues, laughing. “And tiring!”

Ankur Jain experiences weightlessness aboard a Zero G aircraft. Visitors can sign up to float, flip and soar, as if they were in space, aboard a specially modified Boeing 727 of the Virginia-based Zero Gravity Corporation

What Makes Someone an Entrepreneur?

By Michael Gallant
Indeed, for the last several years, Jain has found himself on more airplanes than he’d care to remember, traveling around the world for meetings and conferences to represent the Kairos Society, which he created in 2007. “Kairos was founded under the premise that a young generation of leaders can use and harness the power of entrepreneurship to not only solve the world’s greatest problems, but to create billion-dollar companies in doing so,” says Jain.

Since its creation, Kairos has helped up-and-coming entrepreneurs work together across borders and disciplines, and the society continues to organize priceless mentoring partnerships, business showcases, and other educational opportunities for its members. Regardless of whether Jain and Kairos fellows are working to provide cloud computing technology to underserved schools, retrofit buildings to be more energy efficient, or create low-pollution transportation technology, they make a compelling case—if done right, good business and global progress can go hand in hand.

Learning entrepreneurship
“I had the great fortune of growing up in a very entrepreneurial family,” says Jain, whose parents are first-generation Indian American immigrants. “To this day, their story inspires me—it’s the true American dream.”

That story began with Jain’s father moving to the United States from India with under $100 to his name; finding his way to Seattle, Washington; and landing a job at software giant Microsoft, which was still a small company at the time. “After working there for a couple years, he decided it was time for him to pursue his own American dream,” says Jain. “He launched his own company and has been a serial entrepreneur ever since.”

As a young child, Jain accompanied his father to conferences and meetings. “I caught the entrepreneurship bug,” he says. “I immersed myself in this exciting world where you can literally control your own destiny—and help other people to do what they love and transform their worlds as well.” Jain himself made the transition from observer to innovator at age 11, when he and a handful of friends taught themselves basic computer programming. They created, among other things, an innovative Web service that let cell-phone users send text messages to multiple contacts at once, well before such functionality became standard on mobile devices.

To further pursue his entrepreneurial dreams, Jain studied at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. “There were so many bright minds at Wharton, but the entrepreneurial culture hadn’t hit the school yet,” he says. Before the Wall Street crisis of 2008, though, Jain saw an opportunity, as many students were already becoming disillusioned with the world of finance. “That felt like the ideal time to create a Silicon Valley-type atmosphere at the school with all of these brilliant people,” he says. The result? Jain’s Kairos Society, named after the Greek word meaning “the opportune moment.”

Kairos, Panjia and beyond 
A student-run, not-for-profit organization, Kairos currently has programs at over 40 universities in 14 countries. The society strives to provide young, inspired entrepreneurs with access to experts and resources, says Jain. “If we can take smart minds in different countries and give them opportunities to interact with leaders who can help them succeed, we can help create this American dream around the world,” he asserts.

That philosophy has manifested in activities throughout the United States, India, China, Mexico, the Middle East and beyond. “We bring in leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and scientists of today’s generation to work with our students,” says Jain. “So, from an early age, the students are given the tools and confidence to succeed.” Kairos’ programs have also involved bringing hundreds of students and CEOs together in New York for an annual global summit, as well as gathering Kairos fellows in the Netherlands to work with political leaders on issues ranging from health care to clean energy.

Jain summarizes Kairos’ philosophy as doing well by doing good. “We see the world as a series of grand challenges—not things to worry about, but rather, problems to solve,” he says. “That mentality has helped us launch over 100 companies around the world.”

In addition to his continued work with Kairos, Jain has dug deeply into Panjia, a new venture that supports multinational start-up companies. “What we’re saying is that innovation has no borders,” describes Jain. “Just because an entrepreneur is based out of China, that doesn’t mean that he or she shouldn’t be able to capture the global value of the creation he or she has developed.”

At Panjia, Jain and his co-founders try to minimize the risks of globalization for the entrepreneurs with whom they work. Through the company’s model for business development, Indian or Chinese entrepreneurs, for example, can bring businesses to American markets without having to shoulder the burdens of raising capital, or parceling out ownership shares of their company to new investors. In the process, Jain says, Panjia sparks the creation of new wealth and jobs for all countries involved, essentially tying together their economic expansion. “The whole idea is mutual growth and collaboration,” he says.

Jain sees Panjia’s efforts rippling not just into global economics, but also fostering greater international brotherhood. “I am just tremendously excited about this,” he says. “I believe that we can redefine globalization as a positive sum game because of entrepreneurs who are working across borders.” He pauses in thought, and smiles. “If we can do that, then the future of diplomacy is bright.”

What Makes Someone an Entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs are many types of people. Successful entrepreneurs come in various ages, income levels, genders and races. They have different types of education and experience, and come from different cultures and countries. But research shows that most successful entrepreneurs share certain personality traits, including creativity, dedication, determination, flexibility, leadership, passion, self-confidence and “smarts.”

Creativity drives the development of new products or services. It makes the entrepreneur improve constantly. It is learning, asking questions and thinking in new ways.

Dedication makes the entrepreneur work hard, 12 hours a day or more, often seven days a week, especially in the beginning. Planning and ideas must have support from hard work to succeed.

Determination means you really want to succeed. If something bad happens, you don’t give up. Determination persuades the entrepreneur to make another phone call, or knock on another door. For the true entrepreneur, money is the reward, but seeing the product or service actually work is more exciting.

Flexibility is the ability to move quickly when things change. An entrepreneur should be ready to modify his or her original idea if customers push for something else. 

Leadership is the ability to create rules and set goals. Good leaders finish everything they start and make sure everyone follows the rules.

Passion is what gives entrepreneurs energy. Passionate entrepreneurs can convince others to believe in their idea. Passion helps entrepreneurs stay focused and gets others to take their plans seriously.

Self-confidence comes from planning, experience and what you know. Self-confident entrepreneurs can listen to others without giving up their own point of view.


—Courtesy SPAN


December 2011

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