Take Risks And Trust Yourself, Teens Tell Entrepreneur Summit

Photo by Philip Joens/Missouri Business Alert
Columbia's #Boom conference drew about 150 high school and college students. | Photo by Philip Joens/Missouri Business Alert

College freshmen Vikram Arun and Nahush Katti sounded like veteran business developers when they spoke to participants of an entrepreneurship summit about their telemedicine app for smartphones.

After all, 3.5 years have passed since the teenage duo began developing the app before the start of their sophomore year at Columbia’s Rock Bridge High School.

“Nothing comes easy, absolutely nothing,” Arun said via video feed at the #Boom conference Feb. 21 in Columbia. “If you really believe in your idea, you should do whatever you can to make it happen.”

About 400 people, including 150 high school and college students, attended the summit sponsored by Columbia’s Regional Economic Development Inc., or REDI. Another 100 or so watched the live stream video.

Vikram Arun spoke to the #BOOM summit during a Google Hangout
Vikram Arun spoke to the #Boom summit via a video feed. | Photo by Alyssa Strickland/Missouri Business Alert

Arun and Katti’s mobile app, called DoctorOn, is being field tested in India as an inexpensive way for rural residents to get eye care, particularly for diagnoses of cataracts that can cause blindness. The app would allow anyone with a cell phone to send an image of an affected eye to an ophthalmologist, who could then make a diagnosis and recommend treatment.

“We’re using smartphones to get into the populations that do not have access, targeting developing countries and even rural parts of the United States,” said Katti, who is now studying biomedical engineering at Purdue University.

Katti, now 19, and Arun, 18, said their age has actually helped, not hindered, their success within the business world.

“We were helped a lot because of our age,” Katti said. “We were able to take risks that many people couldn’t take. If we made a mistake, we had time to correct it.”

Arun and Katti, the sons of scientists at the University of Missouri, volunteered in eye hospitals in India, which inspired them to focus on eye care for India specifically. Katti advised summit participants to take every opportunity that is given to them, even if it’s just for the experience.

“Once you get the ball rolling, it becomes much easier,” said Arun, who’s studying biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. “I wish we would’ve known to just jump on the opportunities and to not be afraid of talking to people just because we thought they would say no.”

Katti agreed and said entrepreneurs should develop thick skin while working in the business.

“You have to be able to say, I’m pretty sure I can do something with this idea,” Katti said. “And then move forward.”

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