On November 17th, the Center for Research Innovation hosted crowd-sourcing entrepreneur Ben Kaufman of Quirky, who spoke to more than 75 students, faculty, staff and alumni at a reception designed to celebrate the entrepreneurial mindset at Northeastern University. The event was sponsored by WilmerHale.
Kaufman, the 24-year-old founder and CEO of Quirky, was joined by an entrepreneurial panel of faculty, alumni and students who shared their stories with the audience. Serving with Kaufman on the panel were Professor Vince Harris, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and founder of Metamagnetics; Genevieve Jewell (BA’06), founder of Jewell Entertainment; Steve Picheny (E’64), founder and former President of Stepic Medical; and Michael Behan, a current Northeastern student and founder of Njabini Apparel.
Kaufman shared how his entrepreneurial streak started in high school and led him to his current venture with Quirky, a New York City-based social product development company.
“You have to devote your entire life to a cause that you believe in,” Kaufman said. “Executing an idea is huge, but it all starts with the idea itself.”
Tracey Dodenhoff, Director of the CRI, explained that the University is behind all its entrepreneurs and their ideas.
“You are in an environment where there are people who want you to succeed,” she said. “We will connect you with the best resources no matter what stage of development you are in.”
Dodenhoff introduced each panelist by sharing their entrepreneurial story.
Professor Vince Harris, the William Lincoln Smith Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northeastern, mortgaged his house in order to create a company called Metamagnetics, a small, veteran-owned business that provides electromagnetic solutions to the needs of the commercial and defense community in the areas of communications and radar.
“Vince Harris never really sat down to think it all through,” Dodenhoff said. “He just knew he would someday have a company.”
Genevieve Jewell was named Billboard Magazine’s “Top 30 Executives Under the Age of 30” at the age of 24.
“Genevieve was frustrated at a job most people dream about – she worked for a talent management company serving A-list musicians,” Dodenhoff explained. “The problem was Genevieve wanted to create A-list musicians.” Jewell took six-months to plan her venture, and launched Jewell Entertainment earlier this year. She takes talented new artists and helps them leverage new ways to monetize and grow their career sustainably.
Steve Picheny started with a $20,000 loan from his father and created a medical products company with nearly $50 million in annual revenue.
“Steve wanted to make a difference in the world,” Dodenhoff said. “And he did just that.”
Michael Behan emptied his bank account to pursue his dream of making a difference. He is the founder and CEO of Njabini Apparel, a company whose mission is to economically empower handicapped Kenyan mothers by providing them the opportunity to be self-sufficient, provide for their families, educate their children, and save for the future.
“What keeps Michael up at night is that if Njabini Apparel fails, there is something far greater hanging in the balance – these women and their families,” Dodenhoff said.
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