Praveen Loganathan has just graduated with his BBA. During his time at the University of Michigan, this entrepreneur has created a couple of businesses and has begun building an entrepreneurship training program that he hopes to implement at U-M. But first, he plans to serve in the Peace Corps in Botswana, designing programs based off his strengths and the needs of his host community. We interviewed Praveen just before graduation to find out how this go-getter and natural-born-extrovert gets things going.
What businesses have you started, and what are the statuses of those businesses?
When I came to Michigan, I tried to answer the question of “who am I?” I realized that I am that weird guy who comes up with radical ideas. As a result, I’ve spent most of my college career working on my ideas and working with people who were as weird as me, In 2013, I met my co-founder of InFusion Technologies, Alex Cox, in our freshmen year residence. Together we created InFusion Technologies, a green technology company providing a patented hydrogen storage solution that allows homes with solar panels to run on hydrogen technology instead of more costly batteries. Working on InFusion helped me discover potential in me I never knew I had. So in 2015, I had a successful exit and transitioned my passion into entrepreneurial education, with the goal of creating empowering learning environments that help students unlock their best selves. Since then I’ve been designing, launching, and teaching classes in social entrepreneurship and facilitation in LSA.
What entrepreneurship programs have you participated in while at school?
What I love about University of Michigan is how much of a powerhouse in entrepreneurship we are with the third best undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the nation, as awarded by Princeton Review.
For InFusion Technologies, I received support from Innovate Blue, LSA opitMize, Ross School of Business Preparation Initiative, College of Engineering Center for Entrepreneurship, Provost funded Jump Start Grants, 1000 Pitches, and the Ross Center for Social Impact. Together the University of Michigan provided me with over $30,000 in grants as well as mentorship from world-renowned faculty. Thanks to the University, we even made trips to San Francisco, Washington DC, and New York City to talk to alumni and investors about our journey.
Once I discovered all of U-M’s amazing resources, I wanted to help other students unlock their true potential in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. So in addition to the centers above, I have loved working with the School of Music, Theater & Dance EXCEL program, School of Public Health Innovation in Action, School of Information Entrepreneurship Program, and U of M Student Life to provide a campus wide entrepreneurship movement.
What is the most important realization or experience you’ve had in college thus far in the area of social impact?
We are in a world surrounded by problems and concerns, but we tend not to see them because we are too involved in our own lives. So I’ve realized the importance of being quick to listen and slow to speak. Asking good open-ended questions can not only make someone feel valued, but if you generatively listen you can understand how they feel, and the themes of their stories. Mastering these skills can help students deliver on social impact by making them part of their community so they can create real change by working with community members.
Describe the idea behind Change Agents. What are the plans for this going forward?
Change Agents was an initiative started in 2015 by the BBA Class of 2017 because we wanted to embody the quote of Gandhi and “Be the change we wish to see in the world.” During our first semester Junior year, we wanted to foster an environment where business students could challenge the status quo, encourage collaboration, take action in our communities, and create sustainable paths to social impact careers. Our group works with alumni in the social impact field, hosts social gatherings, builds high quality connections through our “snackchat” conversations, and embraces positivity. Overall, it’s a loving, fun, empowering community created by students, for students in the BBA program.
My hope is that Change Agents will become an annual program hosted within the Center for Social Impact. The Center would provide BBA sophomores with funding to work in social impact companies during the summer. There would also be a one-week orientation where student could learn skills in community building, go on learning adventures, and explore how to become change agents. This program would help students explore how to use business as a tool for societal good and find paths to social impact careers after graduation.
Where would you like to see college training for social entrepreneurship go in the next five years?
I would like it to focus on empathy-driven leadership. Colleges could provide more opportunities for students to answer “who am I?”, learn from collective differences, and focus on people as the center of social entrepreneurial initiatives. I want to see colleges for social entrepreneurship be places where we go on adventures, become aware of social identities, have time to share our stories, learn how to create in classes, and have fun learning with our peers–because at the end of the day I believe college is meant to challenge you but not stress you out. So that’s why I went to the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. I wanted to learn how to use business to make a positive impact on our society.
What is a question you always hear?
People always ask me, “How do you come up with ideas and be creative?” I just tell them everyone is creative, but it is not a switch we can turn on and off, we need to live the life. So in essence, I tell them that I just accept who I am. Some of my ideas are really weird, but I’m surrounded by people who embrace who I am, so I share them openly. Today, I am the guy who calls himself a hopeless romantic, weird idea guy, who loves to wear pomegranate shirts to important meetings and watches TV and movies to come up with radical ideas.