Key Learnings from NYC

Life has a funny way of going about its business. One of my goals in 2013 was to be out in the U.S. at some point, interacting with a local startup community (I didn’t specifically have a preference where in the U.S). Since last Tuesday (19th Feb), I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of one of the most highly coveted student-run organisations in the world- The Kairos Society.

Fellows from the U.K, U.S, India, Scandinavia, Canada, France, Germany, Holland and many more countries – gathered in New York for the annual summit. Kairos is an organization which aims to gather the top student innovators and entrepreneurs (somehow I’ve fallen into this bracket?!) from around the world to be able to facilitate a valued network of peers to collaborate and design solutions to the pressing problems the world currently faces.

I’m particularly keen to direct this article to some of the insights that I’ve learnt during my trip,  so I’ll focus on key learnings, and briefly speak about any other personal memories.

I’ll start by saying stop worshipping a particular city, and look more closely at WHY you look to that city. The mindset and work-ethic of NY’s inhabitants puts the U.K to shame. They rise early, they don’t take lunch breaks and they work till late. Now, I’ve been a keen proponent of work-life integration for sometime, but the U.K needs to appreciate the trade-off between “work” and “life”.

Onto the city:  I find the NY people and its culture are what shapes the city more than anything, along withthe vast skyscrapers glittered across the city. I find that in all major metropolis’, you will always have certain landmarks such as the World Financial Center in Shanghai and the Empire State Buildingin NY, but they all share similar characteristics. I wouldn’t go as far as saying, “once you’ve been to one you’ve been to them all”, but it is important to bear in mind that travelling to a particular location shouldn’t be an end goal. Key learning: Stop looking at everyone else, look at your surroundings and think about how you can be the best in the world at what you do.

Onto Kairos: The themes for the 5th Annual summit were 3-D printing and Mobile Health. I’ve read around Mobile Health, but it didn’t ignite as much interest as 3-D printing did for me. In addition, with mentors from Autodesk (a company which I admire) and Shapeways, I decided to follow this theme a lot more closely. The prototypes developed by some of these companies were amazing and I believe, the UK will start to notice 3-D printing late this year whereas in the U.S it seems to be the craze right now. I’d encourage more students from the UK to look at the potential of 3-D printing and track what’s happening inthe U.S in 2013. I envision a global social enterprise coming out of this industry in the near future if anyone can utilise 3-D printing with a wide variety of raw materials in different shapes and sizes.

Friday’s Kairos dinner allows me to fully appreciate the  breadth of talent and extraordinary energy around me- I had mentors who’ve gone on to create multi-million pound businesses to my right, and students from Berkeley who are in the middle of creating drones using military technology provided by NASA. I was incredibly humbled by the occasion. Key learning: Being part of an incredible network of talented entrepreneurs can never be seen as a bad thing. Grasp more of these opportunities with both hands. 

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 In the UK, it seems the media (including students) are very quick to lament the “lazy student”, but they wouldn’t have thought about using those two words in tandem if they were on that same floor as I was on Saturday- The New York Stock Exchange floor that is.  Key learning: Don’t ever take a stereotype at face-value, it’s most probably false. Obviously I couldn’t write a blog post on the Summit without mentioning Madeon, Lady Gaga’s DJ, opening up the party on Saturday night and making history as the first DJ ever to perform at NYSE.

Overall, the Kairos Summit, the Fellows and New York have all given me so much to ponder, and so many opportunities to consider. I will never forget my first trip to NY, nor my first Kairos Summit. I look to develop these relationships further in over 2013 and help Fellows reach their goals whilst working on mine. So, if you were at the Summit or if you’re a Kairos Fellow and you are reading this, let me know how I can help!

Key learnings: 

–       New York is an amazing city. But there’s so much more to the skyscrapers and NY Yankees. Explore, explore and explore.

–       The U.K need to take more opportunities, optimally collaborate, and develop long-standing partnerships with the U.S, as they seem to already be doing. And we need to build more businesses at a ground level (starting with scientific innovation at universities).

–       There are a larger number of businesses in more advanced areas such as healthcare, education, manufacturing, biotech, clean tech and energy. We need to encourage students to look at commercialization of their ideas and research in order to have 1st, 2nd and 3rd years thinking about applying their research in a more practical manner.

–       The food in NY is awesome. But it’s not really authentic.

Have you ever been to NY? What did you think of the city? And the food? Are there any places I should’ve gone to? 

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