Sandeep Soni: Blank Center Advisory Board Member Profile
Sandeep Soni P’20 is the Chief Operating Officer of Unique Business Systems, a global technology company in the enterprise software space. He is an angel investor and a board member of the Indian Angel Network (IAN). Mr. Soni is a mentor and board member for several startups and now serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Blank Center!
As a Babson parent, what excites you about the entrepreneurship scene at Babson?
In today’s digital world, conventional employment opportunities are shrinking for young people. A lot of college-aged individuals worry about their future prospects, especially because they’ve taken out student loans. Technology is making the world a fundamentally more efficient place. It’s both exciting but also challenging and overwhelming. One way to sort out this predicament is to encourage entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and provides opportunities to risk-takers.
I’m excited that Babson is right in the middle of the entrepreneurship scene. Institutions such as Babson solve more than just business problems. They solve the social problem of people not having as many career opportunities. This waste of human potential is staring us in the face, but can be resolved by simply thinking of business differently. Our situation forces innovation and creativity in the economy, therefore creating jobs.
What is your greatest entrepreneurial achievement?
There are a few that I’m proud of. I was one of the youngest Marketing Directors at CitiGroup. I found early success because I started two companies under the CitiGroup umbrella on the consumer finance side. As part of that transnational setup, I was given the entrepreneurial opportunity to start businesses, one of which was scaled to over $3 billion.
I am also an angel investor and invest in a lot of tech startups, ranging from mobile apps to big data and e-commerce. I serve on the board for several of these companies. I’m also part of an Indian angel investor network, where I am responsible for the deal flow through the network. For example, we recently closed a deal with a California-based social media startup that has over a million customers. 40-50% of their business is in Asia, especially India, so I’m helping them get deeper into those geographies. I find young companies and entrepreneurs to support, invest in, and mentor. In return, some bring me onto their boards.
What motivates you?
The joy of creating companies. I am a business builder at heart- it’s something that I truly enjoy. I feel deeply that entrepreneurship solves real problems in the world. Entrepreneurship is the best way to take care of social issues. There’s still a huge space in the private sector because there aren’t a lot of startups. There is a lot of talk about startups, but there remains a huge gap between the number of people seeking employment and the number of available opportunities. Entrepreneurship has a deep social angle. The social aspect is not always appreciated because people tend to focus on money, but the real story is about innovation, creativity, and taking care of society.
What do you do for fun?
When I get the time, I play golf and tennis. I also love reading and watching Indian movies.
Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate, sincere, honest.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
The act of creation and problem-solving.
What does the world need from entrepreneurs today?
A great entrepreneur understands the true meaning of entrepreneurship. A lot has to do with giving back to society. Great examples include Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. They’ve created fantastic businesses which have commercially benefited society, but they have also gone back to share with society in another meaningful way. They give back entrepreneurially to ensure that their money is productive, so they donate to reputable organizations. Buffet has pledged a significant amount of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The world needs entrepreneurs to share their prosperity, ideas, and their gift of problem-solving.
Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs?
I constantly learn from entrepreneurs. They, too, should be constant learners. There’s no formula for it. Learning is constant and change is constant. Entrepreneurs who know this will succeed.
What excites you about being on the Blank Center’s Advisory Board?
This is a new endeavor for me. It’s been great to gain exposure to the Blank Center because I’ve heard such great things about the organization. I have enjoyed getting to know Debi Kleiman, Executive Director of the Blank Center, and the other board members. There is a long runway ahead for various opportunities that can be leveraged. We plan to take the Blank Center to new heights. I’m happy to contribute whatever I can to this journey.