Arnav Chakravarthy, 15, and Arvind Kumar, 16, co-founded SciLynk while still high school students. Arnav, CEO and an avid tech and science enthusiast, and Arvind, COO and a tech and business enthusiast, aspire to create and innovate in the scientific industry with SciLynk, a scientific social network which aims to revolutionize and simplify scientific communications.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Arnav Chakravarthy: To me, entrepreneurship is the filling of a gap, the capability of seeing a problem and finding a solution, and the willingness to go beyond what you think you are capable of to solve it. As an entrepreneur, only you can bring the passion and dedication to the cause you are working towards. Once you have that passion, the skills, the steps, the development, and all these things fall into place, as long as you have the grit to be willing to do it.
How did your company come to be?
AC: SciLynk came to be through a conversation Arvind and I were having during the summer of 2020. Both of us, being heavily interested in science (my interest being biotech, and his being neuroscience), were bouncing ideas on how we could get lab experience. I got this idea of a messaging platform where students could subscribe to professors from nearby universities and message them. That night, however, the idea evolved into a huge social network, where every single dynamic piece of science content could be hosted. Students could seek internships, researchers could share papers, and every science enthusiast would have a place online to call home. I set out on immediately developing the idea and showing it to Arvind, and we both in a way set out to take this new company to the moon.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Arvind Kumar: SciLynk actually started in the pandemic, and I think the fact that the pandemic existed has played a major factor in SciLynk’s progress to date. This unique challenge shaped us, teaching us resilience, organization and fueling us with a hunger for success. Throughout the pandemic, we have grown not only as a company but as people as well.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far?
AC: There have definitely been some negative moments for us, however, one takes the cake. The development of the site had gone super smoothly, however before we launched, we needed to develop a certain research analytics feature. Unfortunately, Arvind and I were getting stuck at every approach we used, and none of the online sites had resources that could support us. This was probably our most crucial feature, and it has taken us the most time to get done, but thankfully, after almost a month and a half of problem solving and debugging, we finally got it to work out!
AK: We had been quiet for 8 months, silently working, putting in countless hours. After 8 months we decided to make our idea public through a podcast. The reception afterward was overwhelmingly positive. We got so many positive comments, which really inspired us as people we didn’t know at all were cheering us on.
How is your company changing the landscape?
AK: Science in itself is revolutionary. But there’s no adequate tool for scientists to meet and network with each other. We plan to change that. Through a plethora of features, designed around scientific networking, we plan to not only aid scientists and researchers, but also inspire and nurture the next generation of scientific minds. Our forums, groups, connectivity, 1 on 1 chatting features, messaging and more are designed to aid scientists and students alike. Science is the future, and we are pushing the boundaries.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
AC & AK: When we first started, our organization skills and our communication was all over the place. We kept on throwing ideas at each other and created documents that we weren’t able to find. Looking back on it now, our organization and planning skills have grown exponentially. If we were to go back right now, we would have created a timeline board with to-do tasks, items in progress, and links to documents and emails that we created, rather than just do everything spontaneously. The flow of work after implementing these changes has become so much quicker and more efficient than when we first started.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
AC: I read a quote from Robert Iger a couple of years ago, then CEO of Disney, where he said, “The heart and soul of a company is creativity and innovation.” I hadn’t started a company yet, however, this quote has stuck with me in almost every project I do, especially SciLynk. While there are thousands of business operations and development worries constantly on our minds, the essence of our company will always boil down to our abilities to innovate and express science communication in creative ways. Even if we have perfect fundraising, financials, and management, our company will die out if we don’t focus on innovating – which is really the core of the company itself.
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
AK: I find inspiration from my parents. My parents constantly push me to be the best I am and when I’m faced with a challenge, my parents always manage to motivate me to do better, which shaped me to be the person I am today.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
AC & AK: Success is to set an outlandish goal, working hard to reach that goal, and eventually reaching that goal. I believe first and foremost you must like what you are doing, if you do not enjoy your work, you will not be able to attain success. Secondly, you must have grit, you must keep hurdling, and getting over every challenge.
Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
AK & AC: Since we were founded during the pandemic, nothing has changed despite time management. At the beginning of our journey, working with each other remotely was a huge challenge, however with time, we have organized our schedules to synchronize our work times. We believe this efficiency and adequate use of our time has set us up for success in the future, giving us a very solid foundation to launch off of.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
AK: Working with Arnav has been a blessing. He not only inspires me through his impressive work ethic, but we have built a close personal bond outside of our professional life, which I believe works in our favor.
AC: I completely echo Arvind’s thoughts, the thing I cherish most about the whole lockdown/shelter-in-place was meeting Arvind and starting SciLynk. Arvind and I complement each other’s personalities which often leads to deep discussions about almost every aspect of work. I think this allows us to see all sides of the picture, whether it comes to simple things like UI and design or more complex debates about company ethics.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
AC: For sure! As a student, I focus my morning to afternoon on getting my assignments turned in, usually days ahead of time, and try to avoid online distractions like social media and streaming. Right after I finish my schoolwork, I take an hour of break, and in that break, I get a breath of fresh air, either biking or jogging. This break plays a huge role in shifting my mindset from school to working on SciLynk, all while keeping me relaxed. After that break, Arvind and I work together in what we like to call “grind” time, which can last up to a couple of hours a day. At the end of the day, I usually have 3-4 hours of free time, which gives me time to spend with family and lets me take a break from work and school. I believe this routine has not only allowed me to become more efficient in time management, but also helped me produce better quality work all while maintaining my mental and physical wellbeing.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
AK: Scilynk does. Creating a network where every scientist, those who want to talk to scientists, and more all on one social network, all while of communicating and advancing science. That idea motivates me beyond anything else.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
AC: I would want to be known as someone who revolutionized the way scientists connect and grow; as someone who created a massive accessible hub of science that led to the collaboration over a plethora of breakthrough discoveries. I want to leave behind a legacy of a person who really aided students in building their scientific careers and as someone who has been a key contributor to building a better tomorrow.
AK: The guy who helped shape the future. Science is one of the most innovative, interesting fields out there. From advancing the human condition to discovering ways to beat previously unbeatable diseases. I want to be known as someone who created the future. I want to advance science, I want to aid the next “big thing” and allow humanity to keep chugging on.
What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
AC: “If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” This quote has kept me grounded throughout the entire journey of building SciLynk. Even though some people have told me I am wasting my time, and that a student can’t scale a company, I brush it off remembering the night I had the vision of SciLynk. Every time I think of the potential of SciLynk and the boundaries it can cross, it motivates me and drives me to achieve that, and the outside world becomes a quiet hum in the distance – that can never affect my drive to make SciLynk the world’s largest science social network.
Have you experienced mentorship in your career? Do you feel it was easily available to you?
AC & AK: Yes definitely, as students, several adults have given us valuable insight we would never have gotten ourselves. Listening to professionals’ advice on building a company, specific management, research features, and other science-specific ideas has helped shape our vision of SciLynk and expanded the possibilities of what it could be. Again, as teenage students, mentorship wasn’t easily available to us as several people didn’t take us seriously – which isn’t their fault, we may have not taken two teens seriously as well in their positions!
Who are the people who have mentored or influenced you in your life or career? How has their influence changed the trajectory of your entrepreneurial journey?
AC: Someone who has completely influenced and provided insight during the development of SciLynk was Dr. Rahul Zaveri. He gave us a researcher’s perspective of what our platform could evolve into and has been a huge encouragement in our progress. At first, I had a completely student-first approach to the way I wanted to develop SciLynk, however valuable insights from Dr. Zaveri shifted my vision to a balance of both student and researcher collaboration; where professionals in the science industry also had a motive to sign up for our platform. Without his time and advice, I think SciLynk’s whole mission would have been a very one-sided platform, not catering to scientists and professors – which is something we cannot overlook! I am so grateful to Dr. Zaveri for even taking us seriously, let alone providing us with so much information from a professional’s perspective.
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