The backdrop was downtown Manhattan on a cloudy afternoon. From the clouds of 10 Hudson Yards’ 45th floor, one could see the peaks and valleys of the world’s most inspiring skyline. It was here, that I would meet Ankur Jain, a visionary whose ventures are as lofty as his office.
At 29 years young, he has already built up quite a collection of accolades including “Best Connected 21-Year-Old in the World” and was named to Forbes’ prestigious “30 Under 30” list. All this success has stemmed from several sources, but none more important than his current venture: Kairos.
One of the most pressing issues young adults face is the rising cost and affordability of basic needs. Year after year, it becomes difficult to afford necessities such as healthcare and housing. This financial strain has created a suitable nickname for this generation… Generation Broke. Enter Kairos.
Kairos is a collective of mentors, mentees, and problem solvers that work with industry leaders to identify and select the biggest problems people are facing today. They have already built and invested in several companies working to solve inefficiencies in the housing, healthcare, and childcare sectors under the leadership of Ankur. One solution that Kairos has built is Rhino.
Housing is one of the biggest problems facing people today. They’re looking for solutions from the government, and are not getting them; they are not getting solutions from the existing industry. So someone like an entrepreneur needs to step up and solve it. Ankur and Kairos have indeed stepped up and are using Rhino as the solution.
Rhino essentially figured out an efficient way to deal with high priced security deposits. Ankur describes Rhino’s solution as, “instead of having to put up thousands of dollars, you can now just pay $5 a month, we’ll ensure your landlord you get to keep your security deposit. So simple.” He continues,
“All of a sudden, people are getting back thousands of dollars, like 40% of millennials have no savings. If you give them $1000, $1500 back, that’s a lot of money. Nearly 50% of all Americans really struggle with a $500 emergency expense. So when you start talking about $1000, or $1500 back its a pretty significant difference. That’s $45 billion in cash sitting in escrow accounts, that we could give that back into the economy.”
Rhino is just one of many solutions that Ankur and Kairos have created.
During our conversation, I was thoroughly impressed with Ankur’s body of work. It’s not every day that you get to pick the mind of one of the world’s great problem solvers. I delved deeper to find out what key factors make a successful entrepreneur.
I asked, ” What steered you towards social wellness programs? Why did it capture your interest?”
Ankur responded in a calm and collected fashion saying, “The biggest problems in the world are the biggest business opportunities. Entrepreneurship has always been about solving problems. Somewhere along the lines of people almost forgot that the first thing of any startup is what’s the problem you’re solving?”
Such a simple yet profound answer.
We eventually steered the conversation towards what it takes to be an entrepreneur. He continued dropping knowledge, stating,
“Every day, you wake up in the morning, and that you’re on top of the world, by afternoon, everything’s on the verge of blowing up. And by evening, you’re back on top again. And then by the time we go into bed, some other thing is broken, right. It’s not about was there big obstacles or other big ups? The reality is this entire journey is challenging, right? I actually think that one of the most dangerous things that we’ve done in society is we’ve made entrepreneurship seem simple and sexy. And it’s…hard. It’s really risky. It’s difficult and requires a lot of sacrifices.”
Dedication and sacrifice is not something new for Ankur. As a first generation Indian-American, such practice has been instilled into him since he was a child. He is the son of another great problem solver, Naveen Jain.
Naveen’s current venture, Moon Express, seeks to return to the Moon and unlock its mysteries and resources for the benefit of humanity. His literal moonshot is a culmination of life lessons and risk-taking which Ankur witnessed first-hand.
Ankur reflects on his experience saying,
“My dad grew up in a village in India, like, truly had no money… they studied on dirt floors, like that kind of thing. So really, this is the land of opportunity. And you have an opportunity to build something for yourself and for your society. You can’t let anything stand in your way. You got to put 120%. And that kind of hunger and commitment is something that I think this country was born on.”
He pauses for a moment, and continues,
“For me, growing up and seeing my dad every step of the way, got me thinking to start to put it on the line, risk that shows you that anything is possible. I think that’s probably the biggest mindset change. All of a sudden if someone can go from India to sending rockets to the moon, in one generation, just his lifetime. Imagine what we can do. Started from where we started to make an impact, the odds are definitely in our favor.”
And it is with those odds that Ankur has bet on Kairos. Each year, Kairos selects 50 of the most transformative companies and works with them to build inventive solutions for the world’s biggest problems. These companies are known as the Kairos 50 and represent the earliest bets on innovative new ideas.
To be great, sacrifice is required. The opportunities are there, it’s just a matter of grabbing them the reigns and pushing forward. The world needs more people like Ankur Jain. His work is impactful, his mentality is inspirational, and his methods are practical.
The biggest risk one can take is not taking a risk at all. Pick a problem, work out the solutions, and build.
So shoot for the moon. And if you miss…you’ll be amongst the stars.