IDEA’s take on Global E-Week
Nick Naraghi, CEO of IDEA
The Kauffman Foundation started “Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) [as] the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth, and expand human welfare.” Northeastern has taken this opportunity to combine two of its core beliefs of being global and entrepreneurial by participating in this week. At Northeastern’s venture accelerator, IDEA’s focus was on all that is happening within Northeastern’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, including the ventures that have worked with us. Between the Center for Research Innovation, the Social Enterprise Institute, Health Science Entrepreneurs, the Community Business and Intellectual Property Clinics in our Law School, Scout, the Entrepreneurs Club and many others, our University is providing entrepreneurially-minded students with incredible support. This year at NEXPO, 45 companies started by Northeastern community members, 15 on campus resource centers, and 11 research projects showcased their latest milestones. As a member of this community, I was exposed in-depth to the missions and initiatives of all of the parts of our ecosystem throughout GEW, from organizations to the companies themselves. It was a great pleasure to learn from Vinny Armentano about his experience working with microfinance in South Africa, Diane Hessan from Startup Institute to hear about forming and leading teams of people, and Martin Keen about relentlessly pursuing innovations that you feel passionate about, to name a few!
NEXPO history and mission
Each semester, NEXPO, Northeastern’s Entrepreneurship Expo, takes place, hosting a number of startups, research projects, business ideas, and more. Students, executives, faculty, and visitors exchange ideas and build a number of invaluable connections. Hosted by IDEA, Northeastern’s Venture Accelerator, NEXPO is both a showcase and a catalyst for entrepreneurship. It is an opportunity for bright minds to find support for their ideas and others to learn about them. This year, it was a fitting end to Global Entrepreneurship Week, which featured a series of speakers, workshops, and events related to design thinking, ventures, and innovation.
NEXPO is a testament to Northeastern’s creed of experiential learning. It fosters creativity and ambition within students, soliciting inspiration from sources across the Northeastern community. NEXPO eliminates the notion that good ideas require a certain set of qualifications or years of experience. Ventures’ displays range from fully developed apps or products to ideas in their early initial stages. It is a chance for entrepreneurs to exhibit their work and how far they have come, but also to reach out to partners and collaborators beyond their immediate workspace to build upon their ideas and access new kinds of growth. NEXPO is a premier exhibition of truly amazing work, but above all it is a platform for connection, for a network of forward-thinking individuals with a passion for creative solutions.
NEXPO presents the perfect opportunity for Northeastern students to connect with new and upcoming ventures in energy, clean technology, health, social impact, entrepreneurship, and more. This kind of entrepreneurial interaction creates a space to share new ideas and connect like-minded individuals interested in a particular field. New Ground Foods, an innovative way to consume fair trade coffee, and Battle Tunes, a forum for exploring new music, are just two examples of the wide-ranging projects that were present at the event. The most significant take-away from the 2014 NEXPO is that a new generation of creative ideas, incorporating new and improved technology and social impact measures, is underway and helping contribute to an enriched community in the greater Boston area and beyond.
SEI @ NEXPO
NEXPO proved to be a fantastic opportunity for us to really explain what SEI is all about and get people aware of and participating in the social entrepreneurship movement. We talked to people from different backgrounds and varying levels of familiarity with social entrepreneurship, but they all had in common that they wanted new things to become involved in, and I was glad that they stopped to ask about how they can work with us. NEXPO offers the opportunity for people to learn about and become engaged with unfamiliar and exciting organizations, and our NEXPO team stepped up to the plate and showed them the many ways they can get involved with SEI through courses, projects, volunteering, student groups, and the many programs that SEI offers. I sincerely believe that our participation in NEXPO allowed us to help grow SEI by offering students the opportunity to participate in our programs so that they can get the most out of their time at Northeastern.
The NEXPO experience
As a part of GEW I was given the opportunity to represent SEI at IDEA’s NEXPO event. Along with a team of SEI students, we were able to be a part of a huge group of motivated, ambitious young people that have started their own businesses or are seeking to start their own businesses. Working on a team at this event highlighted the entrepreneurial spirit encouraged at Northeastern and made it clear to me why millennials are being seen as a “new generation” – a “generation of change”. We’re motivated, we’re ready for change in whatever area of study peeks our interest, and we have the power to do something about it. GEW represents that for me, a time to highlight the strength of our generation and our eagerness to see shifts in the business environment we have inherited.
Entrepreneurship through Impact & Experience
“Investing in Entrepreneurship for Social Impact” – On Wednesday November 19th, I presented on this topic with my peers Zach Corenblum and Prasanna Rajasekaran for Global Entrepreneurship Week on behalf of the Social Enterprise Institute. Our audience was diverse – we had administrator, professors, Northeastern students, and even two students from Tufts University who had come in to Boston from Medford for our presentation. We opened with an overview and history of Impact Investing, highlighting the differences between traditional investing and investing with impact in mind. Then we delved further into impact measurement, one of the most difficult parts of impact investing, and into financial incentivizing models for bringing impact investing into more mainstream banks such as the United Bank of Scotland. We finished with an interactive activity where we formed into small group to make our own impact investing funds. With a theoretical capital base of 15 million, groups were given “cheat sheets” on social enterprises with short descriptions and imaginative needs and financial return figures. The groups structured their investments and briefly explained to the room why they chose what they did. Lastly, we outlined ways that audience members could get involved with impact investing, for as inexpensively as a 20 dollar note with the Calvert Foundation or a 25 dollar investment in a micro-entrepreneur through Kiva. It’s said that the best way to learn is to teach, and I know that that is the case for me. Spreading the word about such a small but growing and important field like impact investing is critical for the development of the space and ultimately the development of the world.
Out of the Box
I presented with Kate Pellegrino at our talk “Business Consulting for Survival Entrepreneurs in Slums and Townships“. Our session was dedicated to speaking about entrepreneurs of a different light and perhaps not ones that are typically are associated with GEW. I spoke on my experiences from the South Africa Dialogue of Civilizations program doing consulting work for the Mfuleni Boxing Academy. Working with the Academy taught me so much about the entrepreneurial spirit and I am very happy to have been able to pass that on to my peers. It turned out to be a really tight and intimate session that highlighted some of the main differences between survival entrepreneurs and traditional entrepreneurs. My favorite part was taking Q&A from the audience. Everyone in the room seemed genuinely interested and curious about the challenges that face entrepreneurs in informal economies. Putting this presentation together with Kate was tremendously fun and I look forward to working with her again in the future. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to speak on behalf of SEI and to have been a part of such an awesome presentation.