We are so honored to have had the opportunity to speak with Kidpreneur, Kunal Chandiramani about founding two successful businesses while he was just a teenager. He is the founder of Kstar and Compacademy. You can read his in-depth interview below, and listen to the full audio interview by clicking these:
Kidpreneurs: First, tell us a little bit about your background and experience. What, or who, inspired you to pursue your ideas?
Kunal: I started at a very young age and I was addicted to the idea of making the world a better place for everyone. And that is what led me into entrepreneurship and trying to create that change. Entrepreneurship gave me the challenge to do something which hadn’t been done before. And the beauty is, as an entrepreneur, you have no rules. You can disrupt anything. You can do anything. You can teach the world and that’s beautiful.
Kidpreneurs: What was the first business that you chose to pursue and what process did you go through to start it? What did you friends and family think?
Kunal: So my first business was started when I was ten, which was a website development company. I created a website about my city and about the key attractions in my city. Then I made a website for half of the schools in my neighborhood for free because I wanted to learn that’s when I realized that my skills were getting better. I decided to take it forward and turn it into a business as a website development company.
My family and friends supported me a lot. One of the greatest things my family did was they didn’t ever try to force me to try to get into a business at a young age. They let me make my own path. If I was trying to start a business, they never forced their views on me. That was beautiful because I had my own learning and could make my own mistakes. They did not restrict me to any limits. They did not put any boundaries, they let me grow myself. I can’t thank them enough for that.
But a lot of people did try to give my parents advice about how they thought it was ridiculous that I was trying to do something that they didn’t think was supposed to be done. And the biggest thing is that kids are taught to be scared of failure. And at the same time, they’re taught to be scared of trying. Many kids are forced to focus only on studying or to follow in their father’s footsteps.
Kidpreneurs: What obstacles, challenges, or setbacks did you face as you began to learn the in’s and out’s of entrepreneurship?
Kunal: Well, in school you are told to say yes to everything and that no opportunity should be missed. I would say, “Say no to as many things as you can say because you cannot say yes to the ‘good’ and the ‘great’. Say no to the ‘good’ and say yes to the ‘great’. That’s my advice.”
And that was a setback for me because I said I said yes to ten things and I couldn’t do justice to any. And when the 11th thing came, which was better than all the 10 things before, I couldn’t say yes to that. On the other hand, if I say no to all the 10 good things and they say yes to one great thing, it’s valued more than a hundred good things. So go for greatness, not for good. And learn to say no.
Another challenge was about expanding my boundaries without being scared and not allowing my age to limit me. Also, I would say to take risks. The saddest thing you can ever face is the feeling of not taking a risk. So take risks and learn.
Another thing is: read. This is one single thing that can change your entire life. It allows you to get anyone in the whole world as your mentor. I could get through most setbacks by gaining perspective from books.
Kidpreneurs: How did you celebrate your milestones and successes?
Kunal: What I like to do is every time I reach a milestone I like to set a foundation for the next bigger milestone. So every time I reach milestone A, and I’m preparing for milestone B, that’s when I set a foundation for milestone C.
I truly love what I do. And the biggest celebration for it is doing what I love. I love what I do so much that every time I have a milestone, the biggest celebration for me is just continuing to innovate.
People always try to figure out “How can I do what I love? I’m not loving what I do.” It’s just a simple way: “If you want to love what you do, you need to do what you love.” And every day is a celebration whether it’s a milestone or not.
Kidpreneurs: What kind of feedback have you heard from your customers/clients/community and how does this make you feel?
Kunal: I remember I had this one experience of the most brutal feedback I ever got. I was on a flight and I had these two gentlemen beside me. They had a discussion with me about a few complaints about Kstar, my company. Without letting these gentlemen know that I was the CEO of Kstar, I decided to take complete clear cut feedback. I just spoke to them as a fellow and got their honest feedback. It was a valuable experience.
Because you put in a lot of sweat and hardworking to where you, you really hate hearing bad stuff about it and it offends you. But don’t get offended. Never be too proud to take feedback.
Kidpreneurs: Can you tell us about one of your proudest moments as a Kidpreneur?
Kunal: When I was 11, I got disqualified from a competition because my application had seemed too good to be made by a child my age. And that was a disappointment because I had worked for three nights on it.
But fast forward to where to another competition that I was judging at that same school (the one where I got disqualified for being too good and having something that they couldn’t believe was done by me). That was a really proud moment, to be in the position of judging.
And then the competition where I got disqualified, the two judges were from a local university. Now fast forward a few more months, I was invited to give a keynote speech at that university about starting an internet venture. And those same individuals who disqualified me for being too good at the local school that I judged to sometime back, were the ones who welcomed me. That was also a proud moment.
That reminded me of how important it is to be authentic to yourself. Do not try being another second Steve jobs or pretend to be someone you aren’t. For the first four years of my journey, I hadn’t given one single keynote speech. I had no media attention at all, but I was never looking for media attention because I was doing something I love.
Kidpreneurs: What advice would you give to a young person who has the Kidpreneur spark and wants to start their own business?
Kunal: I think the only thing I can say is: do it. Don’t wait. Just do it. People will always ask you “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But what do you need to ask yourself is “What do you want to be now?” And now is the time to do it. My second piece of advice would be to get on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is such an amazing platform. It helped me connect with such amazing like-minded individuals.
Kidpreneurs: What three words describe you and/or your work ethic?
Kunal: One is going to be innovative. Society says that some things are completely innovated and cannot be taken to another level, which I don’t believe. Secondly, I’m always trying to change things, innovate, and do something new. Another one is that I’m learning all the time and always reading. The knowledge books have is amazing. The beauty is that anyone can be your mentor. Even someone who isn’t alive anymore can be your mentor through reading.
Kidpreneurs: Who is another (or more than one) Kidpreneur whom you admire?
Kunal: I would recommend Harsha Ravindran. I met her at IMU in Kuala Lumpur when I was doing my second TED talk in Malaysia. She’s doing some amazing work on this project called the New Age Learner’s Conference. It’s very impressive what they’re doing.
Kidpreneurs: What’s next for you in terms of your goals, projects, and bucket list?
Kunal: So the next thing that’s really on my mind that’s one of my more ambitious concepts is about changing the education system. It’s the most cliche topic and everyone is talking about how the system is sick and how it needs to change. But the biggest thing is the effort is very low, especially in developing countries and this education system needs to be completely uprooted and changed. Schools and teachers are equipped to teach things like = physics, chemistry, and biology.
But then the school really has no idea how to teach anything outside of those subjects. And that’s what we’re trying to enable, which is to get nano courses that can be completed in 90 minutes to anyone. We are not trying to replace the teacher, but we’re trying to enable schools to do what the teacher cannot do. We’re trying to get experts in their field, like photography, cinematography and game development, to be part of these nano courses.
Another thing on my bucket list is what I like to call DCFA, or Digital Citizenship for All. It’s basically this smaller project that I started to promote digital citizenship, a concept which is growing in developed countries but is not yet touched on in developing countries. It’s something I’ve been investing a lot of time into a completely nonprofit basis.
Something I recommend to all Kidpreneurs, apart from working on a major company or venture (which probably something you’re giving a lot of your time to) is to give back to society and your community.
The journey of entrepreneurship is an amazing experience and I highly recommend it to anyone.
You can read more about Kunal at his website here: kunalchandiramani.com