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Entrepreneur Profile: Keshav Patel, Merit Booster

Independent’s Entrepreneur Profiles celebrate people out there changing the world every day through their ventures.  We ask each entrepreneur a few questions to give us a little insight into their vision of the future, and their take on building a company.

This month, we feature Keshav Patel, an entrepreneur and middle school student.  His venture, Merit Booster, is a web-based service intended to help youth rally support and funding for their projects, whether they be school related, or extracurricular. Keshav was a participant at Startup Weekend New Haven who along with his father, Rajesh, formed an award-winning team …literally. Merit Booster was awarded second place at Startup Weekend NH, and earned the ‘Team Choice’ award. 

What do they need from you, the community?

Merit Booster is looking for connections to youth organizations (and schools) that have young people who want to test the platform. They are also interested in meeting people with domain expertise in building user communities and working with crowd-sourced funding. If you’re interested in helping, email Keshav at Keshav@MeritBooster.com. 

To learn more about Keshav and his business, visit the Merit Booster website.  You can also connect on Twitter at @MeritBooster.

Questions for Keshav:

Q:  What Does Your Company Do?

A:  We help young people rally support and funding for their projects (school related and extracurricular) by tapping their social networks.  For “Boosters” (project funders), we give them a new way to find and support young people who are going above and beyond what their peers are doing – that’s what we mean in our tagline: “Find and Fund Youth Excellence.”

Q:  When Did You Start Your Company?  Why?

A:  We launched the company at Startup Weekend New Haven in November of 2011.  Startup Weekend was a great experience, and we ended up winning 2nd place and the Team Choice award.  I had to sell candy for a school trip, but I would rather have done some kind of project to raise the funds.  Then I realized that there are probably millions of kids like me out there who could use a new fundraising tool for their projects both inside and outside of school.  Young people have different needs than adults.  I’m 14 and I can’t get a job to earn money, but MeritBooster lets me raise funds by doing a project.

Q:  What are Your Funding Sources?

A:  Until yesterday, we were self-funded.  We just got accepted into the TechStart Business Accelerator program.  This gives us funding from Connecticut Innovations, the State’s quasi-public VC fund.

Q:  What Have the Top 3 Challenges Been in Your Startup Process?

A:  I’m 14 years old and go to school full-time.  Finding time to get my school work done and then work on MeritBooster has been challenging.  I was very nervous about public speaking at Startup Weekend, but as I’ve done more and more presentations that has gotten easier.  There are just so many things I have to learn as I go along.  Sometimes I’m not sure what the most important thing to work on is, but I have so many great mentors.  Between my Dad and co-founder Rajesh Patel, and all the helpful folks at The Grove (a co-working space in New Haven that gave us membership as a one of the prizes at Startup Weekend), they help me learn to prioritize and use my time to get the most done.

Q:  Define ‘Entrepreneur.’

A:  Entrepreneurs make the world a better place by developing solutions to problems, and they (usually) do it in the form of new businesses.

Q:  Read any Good Books Lately?

A:  My Dad and I are reading two right now.  One is “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries; they are giving out a copy to every team at TechStart, so it seems like a must-read for entrepreneurs.  The other is “Start Something That Matters” by Blake Mycoskie, the guy who started TOMS shoes.  It talks about how one should have a story behind a business and to do something that matters.  I think that’s what we are trying to do at MeritBooster.

Q:  What is Your Advice for an Entrepreneur Starting Out?

A:  I’m just starting out myself, so I’m not sure I have anything others haven’t said before, but here are two things:  1) believe in yourself.  There will be lots of times when you’ll doubt what you are doing, but you just have to believe and keep going.  2) Just start – and when you do, go out and find a community to give you help and support.  Startup Weekend and The Grove have been so immensely helpful to us in getting started.  We could not have gotten to where we are without the help and support of others.

Q: What is Your Favorite Entrepreneurship Quote?

A:  Not sure who originally said it but I learned this one from my Dad: “Most people look at the world the way it is and wonder why?  Entrepreneurs look at what’s not there and wonder why not?”

If you are an entrepreneur in the Northeast and are interested in being profiled, we invite you to contact us.

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