Into the future with the Kairos Society
This weekend a horde of entrepreneurs and business leaders will lay siege to New York’s financial district as part of the Kairos Global Summit.
Over the next 48 hours, 350 student entrepreneurs will mingle with high-profile mentors in their field at the New York Stock Exchange, the United Nations (both partners of the summit) and the Rockefeller Estate in upstate New York to brainstorm practical solutions for a better future.
The event is the brainchild of 20-year-old Ankur Jain, founder of the non-profit Kairos Society that organizes the summit. Jain, who graduates from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania this year, started the society when he was a freshman in college. The thrust of the Kairos Society is to create companies that build a sustainable and good future. (Kairos is an ancient Greek word that means the opportune moment.)
“We’re all in college and everyone is so damn Wall Street focused, so I wanted to take all these really bright students and allow them to create their own destiny,” Jain said. “We need job creation and innovation right now and we are creating jobs and economic value while taking on world problems.”
Since its inception in 2008, the Kairos Society has acquired just under 700 fellows, including alumni. They come from 18 different colleges around the world including China, India and Europe. Past and present mentors include Microsoft founder Bill Gates, former president Bill Clinton, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange Duncan Niederauer, Chairman of Cushman & Wakefield Bruce Mosler, CNBC host Maria Bartiromo and many more.
It’s the relationship with these mentors that separates the Kairos society from all the other organizations dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start companies that promote social good Jain said.
“We have unprecedented partnership with the leaders of today and the leaders of tomorrow,” he added. “One of the exciting things about this generation is that we are working across borders.”
Last September, Alibaba.com hosted 50 Kairos fellows along with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in Hangzhou, China to discuss global trade. This April, 100 of the fellows will get to attend the World Foresight Forum (WFF) in The Hague. The forum is meant to complement the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, except instead of dealing with current global financial issues, WFF focuses on issues that will arise over the next 10 years.
Despite his young age, Jain is not new to starting companies. At 11, he created his first company, MyOnlineQuiz, which developed Internet quizzes and surveys that you could take about your friends.
“My dad is a serial entrepreneur,” Jain explained. “He got me super involved since I was little. He started his first company when I was six.”
Jain’s father, Naveen Jain, started tech companies InfoSpace and Intelius, and acts as a Kairos’ mentor. Jain grew up within the Seattle tech community and it comes as no surprise that many of the startups created by Kairos fellows are ones that use technology to help solve problems in education, energy and the environment. On Saturday, 50 of the companies started by Kairos Fellows will be showcased at the New York Stock Exchange.
While Kairos does not provide any seed money for these startups, the relationships built with mentors can blossom into investment opportunities. And if your dad happens to be a successful founder, that’s even more helpful.
“Kairos is about trying to create relationships,” said Jain. “There’s no speeches or keynotes.”
Which is why the main part of the summit is based on smaller, breakout sessions that allow fellows to connect with mentors in a more meaningful and impactful way.
Earlier this month, the Kairos Society was named as a partner in President Barack Obama’s new initiative to help boost U.S. innovation called the Startup America Partnership, which is being led by former AOL chief Steve Case and is partners with the Kauffman Foundation. One of the co-chairs at this year’s Kairos summit is the CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, Carl Schramm.
Photos; Top: Kairos Fellows on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange learning about one of their fellow students’ businesses. Bottom: Founder of the Kairos Socierty Ankur Jain and NYSE CEO Duncan Neiderauer. Credit: Courtesy of the Kairos Society