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Naveen Jain on Life, the Universe and Everything (with apologies to Douglas Adams) (PAN IIT Newsletter Feb 2014)

posted May 29, 2014, 12:33 PM by IITRAANA Admin   [ updated May 29, 2014, 12:35 PM ]
[Article 3 of 3 from PAN IIT Newsletter Feb 2014 - Highlight on IIT Roorkee / Contributed by Sanjiv Sinha BE '98 EC]
As published in PAN IIT Newsletter Feb 2014
Featured IIT Roorkee Alumni
This month we focus on IIT-Roorkee. We highlight two alumni - Roopa Gir and Naveen Jain. Roopa, as a woman IIT alum has experienced first hand, the changing role of women in Technical Institutes and the workforce. She was one of the first women to enter the Geophysics department at IIT Roorkee in the 1970s. She had Naveen needs little introduction. He is a tech entrepreneur based in Seattle who blazed the trail for countless others that have since followed.

- IIT-R BE '79 alumni, MBA from XLRI
- Started two highly successful companies (Infospace and Inome)
- Ventured into Space Exploration (Moon Express)
- Co-Chairman at the X Prize Foundation
- Trustee of the board of Singularity University
- Philanthropic activities.
- Blogs at forbes.com
- Personal website is naveenjain.com.
Naveen Jain is a busy man. An IIT-R '79 alumni, he got his MBA from XLRI . So far, he has started two highly successful companies (Infospace and Inome) and ventured into Space Exploration (Moon Express). If that wasn't enough, he is also the Co-Chairman of "Education and Global Development" at the X Prize Foundation where he is focused on finding entrepreneurial solutions to address the global challenges in education, poverty, agriculture, health, and clean water. In addition, Mr. Jain is a trustee of the board of Singularity University an interdisciplinary university whose mission is to educate and inspire leaders to address humanity's grand challenges through innovative technologies. And when he is done doing all that, he also finds time for his philanthropic activities.

His love of entrepreneurship thrives in his three children (23, 19, 16) all of who are engaged in their own entrepreneurial pursuits. He regularly blogs at forbes.com and his personal website is naveenjain.com.

He took time with us to talk about some of the topics that are important to him.

On Education
Our education system is not broken, it has just become obsolete.

When I think of all the tremendous, seemingly impossible feats made possible by entrepreneurs, I am amazed that more has not been done to reinvent our education system. I want all entrepreneurs to take note that this is a multi-hundred billion dollar opportunity that's ripe for disruption. We conveniently place the blame on problems that stem from budget cuts, teacher layoffs, inadequate technology in our schools and our education policies. We need to recognize the fact that our education system continues to address needs of a bygone era. It simply does not cater to the present or future needs. 

Our education system was developed for an industrial era where we could teach certain skills to our children and they were able to use these skills for the rest of their lives working productively in an industry. We are now living in a fast paced technological era where every skill that we teach our children becomes obsolete in the 10 to 15 years due to exponentially growing technological advances. We need a new way of thinking about equipping our kids with the tools to succeed in this new age.

On Success
How do we measure success? Success, of course, is very personal; there is no universal way of measuring success. What do successful people like Bill Gates and Mother Teresa have in common? On the surface it's hard to find anything they share-and yet both are successful. I personally believe the real metric of success isn't the size of your bank account. It's the number of lives where you might be able to make a positive difference. This is the measure of success we need to apply while we are on our journey to success.

On Innovation
The 10,000 hour hypothesis doesn't work for innovation any more.

I believe that people who will come up with creative solutions to solve the world's biggest problems - ecological devastation, global warming, the global debt crisis and distribution of dwindling natural resources, to name a few - will NOT be experts in their fields. The real disruptorswill be those individuals who are not steeped in one industry of choice, with those coveted 10,000 hours of experience, but instead, individuals who approach challenges with a clean lens, bringing together diverse experiences, knowledge and opportunities.

On Children
Being a father has been, without a doubt, my greatest source of achievement, pride and inspiration. Fatherhood has taught me about unconditional love, reinforced the importance of giving back and taught me how to be a better person.

Children are like sponges. They absorb everything that they see around them. Like it or not, they mimic the good and bad things about you. One of the biggest challenges for many of us in the Pan IIT community is how to instill good work ethics and values in our children, who are by any objective metric, privileged. 

The only way in my opinion that works is to be as good a model as you can. If working hard is an important value to you, then you need to constantly work hard and make sure your kids see that. If creating opportunities for others is important to you, then you need to be creating opportunities for others. 

Editor's Note: Entrepreneurship is a passion of Naveen. A passion that he seems to have passed on to his children. But as they say, the proof of the pudding is in eating it. You can see the validation of his approach with fatherhood in a blog post by his daughter Priyanka on The Huffington Post (you can read it here). With four entrepreneurs in his family, clearly something in Naveen's approach to fatherhood seems to be working.