Professional SpotlightSpotlight

The life of an entrepreneur can be stressful, overwhelming, and busy. It can wear you out, and it’s important to make time for your personal life. Abhay Jain, the co-founder of SoundScope, a mobile platform that allows people to choose their night out based on the music they love, knows how brutal the life of an entrepreneur can be. Earning a B.S. in Bio-Business and Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and later receiving his JD from Duke University School of Law and an MBA from Duke University (The Fuqua School of Business), Abhay is no stranger to academia, hard work, and constant learning.

With one more year left in grad school, Abhay came up with the idea for SoundScope and utilized his professors, classmates, and classes to further his business plan and hone his idea. Now he works on his startup full-time in New York City and works hard to make his idea a reality. We’re excited to introduce you to this smart and ambitious entrepreneur – read on to learn more about how he decided what to major in at Virginia Tech, how he managed to earn both a JD and MBA, and which books and resources he finds most useful.

Name: Abhay Jain
Education: B.S. in Bio-Business and Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech); JD from Duke University School of Law; MBA in Business Administration from Duke University – The Fuqua School of Business
Follow: SoundScope.com / @SoundScopeNYC / / @JainAbhayk

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

AJ:  “Seizing your youth” means taking the time to learn about yourself. For me it meant traveling, living in new cities, meeting interesting people, and taking every opportunity that came my way. If you don’t know what you want, try and figure out what you don’t want.

CJ: You majored in Bio-Business and minored in Psychology at Virginia Tech. How did you decide what to major and minor in?

AJ: I was an “undecided major” when I first got into Virginia Tech. When my dad and I went into the academic affairs office he said, “You are at a tech school.  Why don’t you go pre-med until you find something better?” In hindsight, it was a smart move from my dad to lure me into becoming a doctor because I was far too lazy to venture to the other side of campus to change my major. Instead, I just added things that interested me. I thought psychology and consumer behavior were interesting so I took the classes I liked.  Plus, this girl I was crushing on was a psych minor, so that was also a draw. Ha. Before I knew it, I had completed the prerequisites for a dual major and a minor.

In retrospect, I’d like to say I was super methodical in my course selection but I knew my learning style — I just couldn’t excel at coursework I didn’t enjoy.

CJ: You also received your JD / MBA from Duke University Law School and the Fuqua School of Business. What led you to your decision to go back to school to receive these two degrees?

AJ: A bit of serendipity, I suppose. I spent every summer of college traveling and experiencing potential careers. One summer, I worked at a few hospitals across Southeast Asia. No matter how much time I spent with the doctors, I was far more enthralled by the work of the hospital manager. Similarly, I spent a summer at the Department of Justice in D.C. and found the ability to impact organizational change exciting. As you can imagine, finding a legal or managerial job with a pre-med degree is not that easy. So, I leveraged my “pre-med knowledge” to get a job at a, then, fledgling pharmaceutical startup. A great learning experience — I got laid-off after 12 weeks. Fortunately, it was 2008, the markets were tanking and I had seen the warning signs. So, I spent my spare time studying for the LSAT and applying to schools. Within weeks of my forced vacation I had an acceptance letter in my hand, a bargaining chip for other job opportunities, and a modicum of respect from my parents.

CJ: A JD / MBA combination is an interesting way to learn about law and business. What was your experience doing a JD /MBA program like? What does the workload entail, what would a day in your life look like, and how did you manage the stress of earning those degrees?

AJ: The learning Duke provided me was truly life-changing! I went from multiple-choice tests to writing and arguing 50-page papers. The JD helped me sharpen my mind in terms of spotting issues, resolving conflicts, and persuading others of my point of view. The MBA restored my quant skills and brought a piece of practical applicability to my academic pursuits as well as strong Rolodex of Duke Alums.

That being said, the JD was a steel-toed boot to the face. Imagine: being surrounded by some of the smartest and most stressed people you know competing academically in an area you know nothing about, going from the world of black-and-white certainty to shades gray and uncertainty, and reading dense legal jargon for five hours a night and being harassed by former politicians and litigators in a room full of 100 peers yearning to outwit you. It was punishment for six months until I finally got the hang of it. Once I understood the system, however, I really enjoyed the thought and learning involved.

Business school on the other hand was dramatically different education. It was a mix of overzealous networking, excel, calculus, calendar invites, and theme parties. To be perfectly honest, I was a bit burnt out from academia at the time and couldn’t stand lots of my overeager peers for a couple months. However, my last year as it all came together I truly enjoyed both realms of the education and savored the life-long friendships I made at both schools.

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CJ: After graduation, you founded SoundScope, a mobile platform that allows people to choose their night out based on the music they love. How did this idea come about and what were your steps for making it a reality?

AJ: During my grad school experience, I had the opportunity to work in various roles in cities around the country. My favorite of which was New York. My summer in finance in New York meant I had very limited time to go out. I always had a passion for music and going out and wanted to make the right decision since my time was limited. I wondered why there were so many amazing things happening in NYC but no way for people to find them?!?

Luckily, I had one year left in grad school so I used my concept for every major class assignment. Thus, I got to use the skills and expertise of my peers and professors to better hone the idea, build a business plan, and connect to people that could help execute.

CJ: What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned in starting your own business?

AJ:  People are the most important element of any business — I can’t emphasis this enough. Find people that are smarter than you that are reliable and hire them.

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

AJ: Get up and try to make it into to the gym early. Make a list of all my objectives for the week and what we missed last week.  Get into the office at 9:30. Catch up on emails. Go through what the rest of the team is working on during lunch and then back-to-back meetings ranging from financials to sponsorships.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be an entrepreneur do now to set him or herself up for success?

AJ: Dive in and seek out mentors.  Experience is the best education for an entrepreneur — intern any and everywhere, test out ideas through an MVP, and talk to potential customers. In your spare time, seek out other entrepreneurs to learn from.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

AJ:  Finding mentors IRL is not always easy. Initially, the web was the best way for me to learn from “mentors.” I really love the Stanford e-corner. They have a weekly SoundCloud segment from successful entrepreneurs that helped me think through tough problems and figure out where I wanted to take SoundScope. Also, Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of the Start” is a good crash course on the current state of startups.

CJ: When you’re not working on SoundScope, how do you like to spend your time?

AJ: Thanks to my iPhone I am technically always working. But whenever I unplug I love traveling, cooking, and listening to good music.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

AJ: I am trying very hard to build a stronger wall between my personal and professional life. Running a startup can be brutal.  It is an emotional roller-coaster that can really wear you out. I am working on keeping more of an even keel and not letting SoundScope pervade things I appreciate personally — whether it’s spending time with friends, going to the gym, or just sleeping.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AJ:  Life and people around you have a way of convincing you that you need to follow a certain trajectory — as in you need to figure out your career by 25, get married by 27, buy a house by 30, and pop out 2.5 kids by 35. Life is short. Do what makes you happy. Everything else will fall in place.

Abhay Jain Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

It’s difficult to not think of Max Levine when we consider what it means to Seize Your Youth. Not too long ago we ran into Max at four in the afternoon on a Saturday, having just got off of his 24 hour shift as an EMT for the George Washington University Hospital. Despite his sleepless day, he was vibrant and excited to share what he had just spent the last 24 hours doing. It goes without saying that this is a person whose passion is contagious, and we are excited to share his experiences and advice with you. As a pre-med student at GWU, Max knows what it means to commit blood (literally), sweat, and tears into achieving his dreams.

Name: Max Levine
Age: 21
Education: B.S. in Biology and Spanish from the George Washington University
Discover: EMeRG

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Max Levine: I would define seizing your youth as recognizing the times when it’s okay to not care about the future or really anything in general and just do what you want to do.

CJ: What has been the most unexpected aspect of college?

ML: The most surprising part of college has been working as an EMT as a student. I never would have thought that this was even a possibility never mind something that I would take up as a hobby.

CJ: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

ML: Mostly class and an urgent need to urinate. That and morning breath that even offends me.

CJ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

ML: Do what needs to be done, but do whatever makes you happy.

CJ: What has been your favorite college class so far? Why?

ML: My freshman University Writing course called “American Myth Through Western Film.” This class was awesome. All we did was watch sweet old western movies and then write papers about them. Our final project was to make up our own plot for a film and then write a brief summary of what the movie would be. It was fantastic.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

ML: It starts with four scrambled eggs and some cold water ( I can’t stand room temperature water.) Shower, dress myself with pretty little thought regarding color/pattern coordination. I’ll usually go to class and end up skipping lunch. Then I’ll either go to EMeRG shift, the parasite lab, or then go do homework and end up going to sleep around 12.

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CJ: How did you get involved in parasitology? What are the benefits and difficulties with that work?

ML: The parasitology class is offered to undergrads and I took it for my major. I ended up volunteering in the lab because I needed some lab experience for medical school and ended up loving the people I met there. The benefits are incredible. I have been given many projects to work on that are getting me invaluable experience in research methods and lab work in general. I am getting published by the end of this semester and will be looking to get a phenomenal recommendation from my professor as well. The difficulties of the lab include the time commitment and the general frustration of failing science experiments however I would hardly say that these are difficulties. The pros outweigh the cons by a long shot.

CJ: What advice would you give to incoming freshman who want to be pre-med in college?

I would say to not worry about the other pre-med kids because they’re usually pretty obnoxious and will do anything to let you know when they’ve succeeded and you’ve failed. Get out and do other things and learn how to be a social human being. Although grades are important, you won’t be a good doctor unless you genuinely know how to talk to and relate to people in a sincere manner. Also be open to other options, there are plenty of other things to do for jobs in the BIO field, not just medicine.

CJ: You spent a summer working at hospitals in Chile. Could you please tell us more about that experience and how it influenced you?

ML: I worked in both a public and private hospital in Santiago, Chile for 3 months. The private hospital was much like any modernized hospital you would find in the US, just in Spanish. Working here, I had the privilege of observing numerous operations that ranged from gastrointestinal procedures to vascular complications. These were the best surgeons and doctors in the country (possibly the continent) operating in this hospital.

The public hospital was in a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Santiago that treated about 1.5 million patients a year and was named the busiest public hospital in Chile. The building itself was an old tuberculosis asylum that was converted into a hospital and the majority of people that come are pretty short on cash. I had met a younger doctor at the private hospital that was also doing rotations at the public hospital so I would go with him to and from shift. Here I was able to get my hands dirty, so to speak, and I learned how to give stitches and was fortunately able to participate/assist in a range of surgical procedures. This included appendectomies, cholecystectomies (gallbladder removal), one leg amputation, and a handful of other procedures. The leg amputation was the most memorable by far simply due to the gravity of what was going on. A woman with severe diabetes had neglected an infection in her leg, which had led to the necrosis of the majority of her lower limb. We amputated the leg from just above the knee in order to saver her life. It was a powerful and surreal experience that I will never forget. I won’t get too graphic with this but the most profound moment was the moment the leg was cut free. I had been holding the leg in a fixed position from the start of the operation and as it detached, I remember holding the leg and just looking at it and taking in what was in my hands and what this meant for the woman who had lost this limb. It’s hard to say how this has affected me, however I know for sure that this will be a lasting memory.

CJ: You are double majoring with Biology and Spanish. Can you explain why and if it’s been worth it?

ML: I have been taking Spanish since the 6th grade. I can’t imagine my life without the ability to use Spanish in some way shape or form. Additionally, Spanish is a really useful language to know in this country and has helped me in the medical setting, being able to communicate with Spanish speaking patients. On more than one occasion I have had to use Spanish on a call with EMeRG and even more so in Chile. Learning Spanish has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and the Spanish/ South American culture is definitely a prominent part of who I am today.

CJ: Between academics, working in the research lab, working as an EMT, and spending time on yourself, how do you juggle it all?

ML: There are three categories in college and everyone can only choose two. They are: Social life, Sleep, Good Grades. I have chosen to have a social life and “good grades” (in my case just study a lot and get okay grades) and I don’t really sleep a ton. I take medication for ADHD every day and it’s an amphetamine, which helps to keep me awake during the days (don’t worry it’s prescribed). I’m also just used to being tired all the time so little sleep isn’t a huge deal.

CJ: What is your favorite city?

ML: Boston. Hands down the best city on the planet. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston and it’s a city with a great personality and is more personal that New York.

CJ: What’s your favorite book?

ML: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

CJ: What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?

ML: Don’t let high school get you down and don’t worry about your social status. The kids who peak in high school get what’s coming to them in college and don’t really amount to a whole lot. Don’t worry about what’s ahead; go run around without a wallet, cell phone or keys while you can because those days are long gone now.

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