What would happen if tomorrow’s influential leaders were friends today – working together to solve the world’s problems? By building a network of young entrepreneurs, the Kairos Society is asking – and answering – that question.
The Kairos Society has strong USC alumni connections, including co-founder Jake Medwell ’11 and global president Alex Fiance ’10. Founded in 2008, this student-run club has grown into a professionally run organization with regional divisions, fellows in 60 countries, and a focus on innovations in education, clean technology and health care.
Now, Daniel Gross, a junior in the USC Marshall School of Business, has become the first regional president of the Kairos Society’s Southern California Division. His goal – get even more students, from USC and other universities, involved with the organization.
“The vision was really to build the community,” Gross said. “It’s people who want to challenge themselves and challenge what they think is possible in the world. If you take those leaders and put them together, they are going to be very competitive and push together and go exponentially further.”
Each month, Gross assembles 10 student entrepreneurs in the Southern California region to exchange ideas, build a network and solve problems. The group also attends larger events, such as the Nimbus Summit in Las Vegas and the Kairos Society’s Global Summit, to network with business professionals and venture capitalists who can help the students get their startups off the ground.
“I flew to New York to go to their annual conference, and it was incredible,” Gross said. “Bill Clinton was there, the CEO of Forbes, the CEO of Samsung. ”
Vince Fong, another USC entrepreneur, business major and Kairos member, also believes the society’s extensive network is one of the organization’s biggest benefits.
“What’s really valuable about Kairos is the network and the access to people that entrepreneurs don’t usually get,” Fong said.
Gross and Fong met in class freshman year. As Gross remembers, “I walk into class in my glasses and pajama pants. Vince – from Hong Kong, slicked-back hair, British accent – comes in at 10 a.m. in a suit and tie, talking business. As I got to know him better, he blew me away. He’s so driven and so interesting.”
Both had started their first businesses in high school. Their sophomore year, they started an electronic business card company, SwipeX. The idea for their business developed from a project for the “Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship” class taught by Tommy Knapp, assistant professor in the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurship Studies. Two years later, SwipeX was acquired by DatZing, a company founded by the former chief of design of Nokia. Fong is also currently working on another venture, FindMySong, which was selected by South by Southwest as one of the top startups.
Gross believes in learning from dedicated people who are taking risks, trying new things, eager to learn and willing to work hard, which is exactly why he identified with the mission of Kairos and how it helps entrepreneurs improve their own businesses.
“You are surrounding yourself with people who are going to challenge you and who think very differently from you,” Gross said. “Both of those never make you settle. They also force you to continue thinking out of the box and doing new things.”
“When I talk to kids in Kairos, I know they’re of the same caliber,” Fong said, explaining the selective process that students have to go through before becoming Kairos Society fellows.
Gross would like the group to grow. “We want a bigger group and more specifically, we need women. Entrepreneurship is not limited to guys only.” He also envisions developing an incubator to help fund student ventures.
“The organization has the potential to do a lot. We have a great amount of resources to offer to the fellows, a network of mentors, but we’re underutilized,” Gross said. “We need to build a strong community where I can sit down at a table and know that I’m going to be challenged by the people at the table, and that the people are going to show up and be curious, ready to learn and ready to contribute. What we can do from there is infinite.”