Advice from a Thriving Entrepreneur
In 2007, Karthik Ramachandran graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder. His graduate studies brought him to the University of Kansas, where he found himself engaged with the school’s Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation. Since then Ramachandran has been added to business publication Ingram’s “20 in Their Twenties” list and named a Top Young Entrepreneur to Watch by Under30CEO. Ramachandran is cofounder of Likarda, a Kansas City company revolutionizing diabetes treatment in canine and feline patients.
Ramachandran gets his passion from his dad. “You have to love what you do—and mentor,” he says. “You have to love what you do, or otherwise you shouldn’t do it.” And so his company sponsors its employees to engage high school students and create a bridge of community involvement. He has been speaking to high school and college students for years and encourages other to do the same. He believes this might help remedy the perception that companies only need experienced older professionals to innovate; in the real world, it takes both younger and older professionals to find the passion that leads to inspiration for innovation.
When Ramachandran speaks to students, he tries to define the pathway to employment. It starts by networking long before you need a job and continues after you already have your foot in the door. Most high school students are skeptical—that day is so far away!—but occasionally one or two pick up what he’s trying to convey: He’s trying to give them tools they can use to engage their passion.
Talking to young professionals a little different. Once they arrive at a conference, it can be overwhelming. Ramachandran tries to encourage to them to think beyond the conference, beyond the sales people in the exhibition hall, and think instead about the executives who are meeting just around the corner. It is the connections you can make behind the scenes, he tells them, that lead to the partnerships that foster innovation. Young people can start making those connections now, and plan meetings with those executives months in advance. That is where the real magic happens.
When Ramachandran speaks to students, he tries to define the pathway to employment. It starts by networking long before you need a job and continues after you already have your foot in the door.
Ramachandran did not start out thinking that he would be an entrepreneur. When he was in high school, he wanted to become a medical doctor; never did he think that today he would be a biotech engineer. Circumstance that led him to become an engineer, even as his educational work continued to focus on becoming a medical doctor. Numerous attempts at the Medical College Admission Test and pursuing research with Likarda cofounder Lisa Stehno-Bittel changed his path.
He had always been an analytical and mathematical person, and he built on those strengths while doing research in graduate school. And then there was the transition from graduate student to entrepreneur. One of the things he tells high school and graduate students preparing for the path they choose: “Learn to speak different languages: Talk business and science and engineering.” Entrepreneurs should be able to talk to a variety of customers, he explains. As a young professional or entrepreneur or engineer, you need to be able to find the value and explain that value in the each “language.”