By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
Today I am talking to Ankur Jain, a 20-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and founder and president of the Kairos Society. (Kairos, in Greek, means “the right moment.”)
Ankur’s vision is to shift students’ perception about the business world – to not depend on others for employment but to shape their destiny and the destiny of others through sustainable entrepreneurship.
Kairos Society members are students from all disciplines who are creating entrepreneurial and sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems in healthcare, education, nutrition, and energy.
Irina: Hi, Ankur. Why don’t you briefly start with your background?
Ankur: I grew up in Seattle, Washington, in a family of entrepreneurs and went to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School for my undergraduate degree.
I’m studying for my BS in economics with a concentration in marketing and entrepreneurship. I’m a second-semester senior and expect to graduate in May.
I started the Kairos Society toward the end of my freshman year. The Kairos Society is an organization that is all about the question, “Can we create this entrepreneurial spirit among the top young students around the world, bringing them together across not only campus borders, but [also] national borders to start companies to take on some of these big global problems?”
The premise is that there’s an incredible movement among this next generation of entrepreneurs, which is that they want to prosper. They want to create wealth for themselves and in the process, create jobs and drive the economy forward, but do that in a way that’s different from previous generations.
These young entrepreneurs from across the world are starting companies in a way that they’re trying to take on the core issues of global problems, such as education, healthcare, or clean tech, and find out what are the next billion-dollar businesses that are going to make a positive impact on the world.
Irina: How did this idea come about, and when did you start it?
Ankur: We officially started the Kairos Society as a national organization in April 2008. We had started it earlier that year, in January, as a local group at the University of Pennsylvania.
It started off as a small thing at the University of Pennsylvania, where there was a need to bring together smart entrepreneurs from the business school with students from the engineering school and students from the College of Arts and Sciences.
The initial goal was to try to re-create a Silicon Valley–like atmosphere at the university. As we got together, this small group of us, and started talking about ideas we cared about, businesses we’d started in the past, ventures we wanted to launch, and people whom we wanted to get involved, we quickly realized that this was a need of people across the world.
We started off across the entire United States, but there was a need for people to want to create their own jobs, to create their own destinies, especially in 2008 when we started this. It was the nadir of the economic downturn.
We decided there was no better time to take on entrepreneurship and encourage people take control of their own future. What was exciting about this was that it wasn’t just about starting a company, creating jobs, and spinning it off to some VC or selling it in a year.
It was about creating meaningful, sustainable companies that can change the world. That’s why we named the Kairos Society what we did. Kairos is Greek for “the right moment.”
Irina: What is your structure? Is it non-profit or for-profit?
Ankur: The Kairos Society is an entirely student-run not-for-profit organization, which is one of the exciting things about this. One of the things we talk about a lot at Kairos is this new concept of the multinational startup.