When Ankur Jain entered Wharton's undergraduate business program at the University of Pennsylvania in 2007, he immediately wanted to start a business. His father, Naveen Jain, the CEO of data company Intelius, told him no. He was there to get an education. He could start a nonprofit if he wanted to.
So Jain started the Kairos Society, a network of college entrepreneurs dedicated to, according to the mission statement, "solving the world's greatest challenges." Since the group's first event in early 2009, Kairos has grown to almost 700 members, or "fellows," and has become an adviser to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Jain helped put together a group of young immigrant entrepreneurs to help the chamber lobby Capitol Hill to change visa regulations), and advises Startup America. Its student entrepreneurs include Daniel Gomez Iñiguez, the founder of Mexican bio-fuel technology company Solben, and Soaib Grewal, the founder of WaterWalla, which hopes to improve drinking water conditions in urban India.
Kairos is Greek for "the right moment." When Jain first started the organization, he tried to persuade existing entrepreneurship clubs at other schools to convene under his Kairos umbrella. When he met resistance, he says, he decided to throw a major event to attract student-entrepreneurs across the U.S. to the club. Through a family friend, Jain met Bill White, who was, at that time, the head of the USS Intrepid Museum, a retired aircraft carrier permanently docked on the Hudson River. White agreed to let Jain host his dinner on board, gratis.
Then, through White, Jain got Bill Clinton to agree to speak. He also signed on Phil Condit, the former CEO of Boeing. And Bill Gates Sr. recorded a video message. Before he knew it, 500 students wanted to attend, and Jain had run up a $140,000 tab for the dinner and other elements of the summit. His father told him he needed to fundraise.
Again, Jain turned to the family network, starting with his dad's lawyer. He asked for $5,000. The lawyer agreed immediately. Jain's father didn't.
"I hung up the phone, and my dad was like, 'You're an idiot! He clearly would have given you $10,000 or more!'" Naveen told his son to call the lawyer back. Ankur sheepishly got him to donate $2,500 more. "That was my first lesson in fundraising," Ankur says.
Today, Kairos is a centralized organization, with an executive team of undergraduates. In February, in anticipation of his graduation, Jain named Dylan Reid (Cornell University) as the new Kairos CEO, and Victoria Schramm (Georgetown University), as president. Jain graduated in May, and is now at work on a business venture that will connect entrepreneurs with innovative technologies with established businesses in foreign markets.