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.
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.
Images by Carpe Juvenis