‘Enthusiasm for innovation’: Meet Stanford’s budding entrepreneurs

Feb. 12, 2024, 1:08 a.m.

It is not unlikely that frosh are already talking about the startup they want to create, even on the first day of the new quarter. Outside the hustle and bustle of academic life, many students are pursuing business ideas in various phases: from far-off dreams to multi-million dollar social networking sites. Through developing innovative ideas, these budding entrepreneurs aim to find personal meaning and fulfillment.

Aadi Nashikkar ’25 is one of these start-up-starting students. 

“Entrepreneurship is simultaneously the best way to push a vision you have for how life should be into the world,” said Nashikkar, who co-founded a recommendation engine and web app called Plava, that matches user preferences with customized vacation plans.

Owing to its close proximity to Silicon Valley, a strong gravitation towards entrepreneurship has been present at Stanford for decades. Students often have diverse motivations in founding startups, though almost all are centered around solving an identified problem in society.

“Startups are exciting, and Stanford’s various courses, clubs and communities stoke that feeling. It feels good to be involved with all the new technologies and companies that are being built,” Nashikkar said.

Many entrepreneurs look to Stanford’s long list of successful startup stories (Google, Nike, Doordash, Netflix) as inspiration for creating new products and idea

“[Entrepreneurship] is known to be popular, but it’s more hidden than you may expect. You gotta snoop around to find the folks who are going all in, but they’re here and they’re the next big things,” said AdmitYogi co-founder Atman Jahagirdar ’26. AdmitYogi allows prospective college applicants to view the applications of accepted students.

Similarly, FluxWear founder Nadia Ansari ’26 said she and her brother often encountered skepticism because of their age and their proposed product. This “made it difficult for others to immediately grasp its potential and value”, she said. FluxWear is a wearable tech startup whose main product, SHIFT, uses neuromodulation to reduce chronic pain and lower stress levels.

The entrepreneurial spirit on campus is fueled by supportive environments provided by business-focused organizations and teachers. The Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES) is one such organization. 

BASES is vehicle for business learning and development on campus and focuses on programs that allow students to “inspire, create, and launch.” Throughout the year, the organization hosts interactive summits, workshops and competitions for anyone interested in entrepreneurship. These events allow students to network with other businesses, chat with industry experts and build skills alongside like-minded peers, according to Michael Sun ’26, BASES Vice President of Startup Development.

In recent years, the rise of business-oriented courses has fueled the growth of startup culture on campus. These classes are targeted at a wide range of majors and encourage students to find opportunities for startups in new areas, like the Sarafan ChEM-H Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Program and the GSB Pathfinder Program.

The growth and expansion of entrepreneurship on campus have contributed to a multi-faceted culture for student entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and interests.

Ansari pointed to student-driven initiatives such as Wristband and Fizz, adding that “The enthusiasm for innovation and desire for contributing positively to the campus environment is inspiring.” 

Others, however, have expressed concern that the startup culture today is veering towards unbridled status building and the pursuit of an “entrepreneurial” image over genuine passion.

“I think the recognition and resume-building aspects of a startup encourage more people to call themselves founders, look for funding and even receive funding than should earnestly happen,” Nashikkar said. 

Stanford students have also observed how new startups feel compelled to pursue rapid growth and quick acquisition. Some attribute these shallow priorities to Stanford’s history of startups which went “viral” and were subsequently acquired by large corporations. Ansari explained this rapid development and acceleration towards sale can overlook the importance of crafting a product that is impactful.

As the startup culture at Stanford continues to evolve, student business leaders hope to heighten the popularity of entrepreneurship, emphasizing its measurable impact towards improving society. 

“[With startups,] you are breaking from convention to take a risk and make things that are useful for people, and I think we could do with more of that,” said Nashikkar.

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