By Ankur Jain
Ankur Jain is an entrepreneur. He is also the founder and chairman of the Kairos Society, an organization that helps young entrepreneurs from around the world start high-impact, high-growth companies. Here is his perspective on the impact young entrepreneurs are making in today’s world.
Entrepreneurship can launch you on a path to change the world. But closer to home, entrepreneurship can give you the freedom to transform the lives of your family and people in your community. What better reasons are there to start your own business, except, maybe, the satisfaction of being your own boss?
In my experience launching the Kairos Society, a foundation that provides support for student entrepreneurs, I’ve seen such examples every day: All over the world, young people without any of the advantages considered crucial to success are starting businesses big and small. What they do have is the passion and determination to make their business dreams happen and to change the world.
One of them, Hemant Sahal, a 22-year-old student at Vellore Institute of Technology in Vellore, India, is moving ahead with a business idea that came to him while he was riding his bicycle through poor villages near his home. Sahal noticed that villagers were suffering from heavy metal poisoning caused by tainted drinking water. Most existing water filters did not remove these metals, and those that did were too expensive for local people. Through his new company, CALLMAT, Sahal is developing inexpensive treatments for removing toxic chemicals from the water supply.
The Time Is Now
In many ways, this is the perfect time for young people like Sahal to experiment with entrepreneurial ventures. Governments of emerging economies start seeing the value of helping citizens realize their business dreams. Entrepreneurs create jobs and increase prosperity more efficiently than governments — especially when they are free to do so. The Internet has collapsed time and distance barriers. Business incubators pop up in places from Cairo to Warsaw to São Paulo where earlier few people understood what entrepreneurship is about. So young people everywhere, no matter where they are on the economic or education ladder, can take part in the entrepreneurial revolution.
If you’re fired up about the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, don’t get discouraged by the obstacles you believe are in front of you.
Solving A Problem
You may think that money, or lack thereof, can be an obstacle to starting a business. Although startup capital is great if you can get it, plenty of businesses are launched without it. For instance, businesses based solely on the Internet don’t need office space, supply chains or other things that normally require startup money.
If you need startup capital, there may be financial resources from your local or national governments that you’re not aware of, so it’s smart to ask around. You can ask ordinary people to help you fund your startup with small sums of money on crowdsourcing websites such as Indiegogo.
You may believe that you can’t launch a business because you don’t have partners or mentors. Thanks to the Internet, you don’t have to worry much about finding people at home to team up with you or give you advice. You have a wealth of advice, support and potential partners at your fingertips. You can build a team, find suppliers and manufacturers, and do other things online.
As for what it takes to start a business, think about it this way: Entrepreneurship is about solving a problem, not starting a company. A couple of years ago, two friends at university realized just that. While attending the University of Southern California, Jonathan Shriftman and Jake Medwell saw that other students were buying fixed-gear bicycles. These bikes were very expensive — typically $1,000. Jonathan and Jake were convinced the bikes could be made more cheaply, but they had no manufacturing experience.
Nevertheless, they searched the Internet and discovered that they could have the bikes made for $310, and a business — Solé Bicycles — was born.
Don't Take "No" For An Answer
Jonathan and Jake asked a lot of questions before finding the right partners for the business. You need to get into the same frame of mind in order to become an entrepreneur. So don’t be shy about asking people for information or connections. Sometimes we are afraid to ask for favors but, trust me, the entrepreneurial world is built on people helping each other.
You also need to believe in your idea and lose your fear of being told “no,” because you’re going to hear “no” a lot. That’s OK — it’s part of the process of starting a business. You can expect to be told “no” about a hundred times before someone actually says “yes.” Find a few people that believe in you and keep them close — they can support you when you’ve heard nothing but a flurry of “no’s.”
Most importantly, don’t ever let hearing “no” stop you from dreaming big and setting your goals high.
Business incubator: (n) An academic, nonprofit or private organization that provides different forms of assistance to a startup, often including office space.
- I heard on the radio about a business incubator program that is now accepting applications. Let’s apply for the program.
Crowdsourcing (n): Obtaining services, content or ideas by asking help from a large number of people (typically an online community).
- Crowdsourcing enabled Jonathan and Jake to pinpoint the specific market — that of fixed-gear bikes.
Fixed-gear (adj.): With reference to bikes that have only a single gear attached to the rear wheel.
- It is tough to bike up a hill with a fixed-gear bike. When you go downhill, the pedals turn as fast as the wheels do, which makes it difficult to keep up.
Heavy metal (n): A term to describe a metal that is dense.
- The water filter removes heavy metals from the water supply for the neighborhood. Now people can use the water for drinking.
Launch (v): To start or set something in motion.
- The company launched its newly designed website last month.
Manufacture (v): The production or making of articles by hand or machinery.
- Our country manufactures furniture and also technology. We export both to different countries around the world.
Startup: (n) A newly created company that is focused on technology and oriented toward high growth.
“Yeah, it’s a startup. I like it.”
Supply chain (n): A system for moving goods or services from the business to the customer. A supply chain is a simple or complex system of suppliers, technology, logistics and other services.
- The earthquake interrupted the supply chain. No one could move supplies in or out of the country. Also Internet and telephone services were down for one week.
Tainted (adj.): Something that is dirty or polluted due to the addition of a harmful material.
-Tainted drinking water should be filtered. But this technology can be expensive. Entrepreneurs around the world seek new ways to lower costs to clean tainted water.