Every entrepreneurial journey starts somewhere, and for freshman Aditya Shenoy it began with his exposure to both extreme diversity, and human deprivation, during his time living in the developing world. Aditya spent the majority of his life overseas in Thailand and Malaysia. “I’ve seen so many underprivileged people, how many products and services they don’t have access to,” said Shenoy who attributes his lifelong passion for entrepreneurship to these experiences. “There are countless reasons to pursue a career in entrepreneurship and most of them aren’t about the money. I want to start a business that will bring much-needed products, services, and jobs to the communities of my childhood. I want to help people live better lives.”
Even with his exposure to diversity, Shenoy was faced with extreme culture shock when his family relocated to the United States three years ago. “It was very difficult for me to adjust in New Jersey. As one of only two international students in a high school of 2,000 [students], I felt very isolated and lost motivation.” What seemed like failure at the time turned out to be the spark that lit a fire under Shenoy. “Failure in my first year was the biggest growing experience that I could ever ask for. I learned how to use what I thought were disadvantages to propel me into bigger and better things.”
Today, Shenoy is a resident of Innovate, Virginia Tech’s living-learning community that crosses disciplines and brings together high-performing committed students for the opportunity to learn about, and collaborate on, entrepreneurial ventures and innovative ideas. “I applied to 27 different universities and had a hard time deciding where to go, but when I got accepted into Innovate, I knew I was going somewhere I was supposed to be.” After only two months living in Innovate, Shenoy believes that this has been, and will be, one of the greatest opportunities of his life. “Living in Innovate has been incredible. All of the residents have become a close-knit family. We’ll be hanging out and just starting tossing ideas around and the best part of it is that everyone wants to give you constructive feedback, wants you to succeed. There are no hard feelings when someone shoots your idea down, because they care and you want them to be honest with you.”
Out of all of the opportunities and resources made available to students through Innovate, Shenoy considers the broad lineup of guest speakers to be the most valuable. “I’ve made more connections in two months than I could have ever imagined. You get out of the experience what you put into it. Innovate hosts all of these esteemed guest speakers, but it’s your decision whether you reach out to them or not. It’s on you to maintain that relationship.” It was through one of these opportunities that Shenoy connected with Nathan Latka, Founder and CEO of Heyo, and formed the mentoring relationship he keeps with him today. “We’ll text each other about books and I’ll run ideas past him. Hokie to Hokie. He sees how badly I want to learn about the different sides of the business and he’s always willing to help me. Everyone who has come to Innovate to speak to us wants to help and if they can’t, they connect us with someone who can.”
For now, Shenoy is focusing on making the grades and working towards declaring a major in mechanical engineering at the end of the year, when freshmen in the engineering department are able to formally choose a major. However, this doesn’t mean he has put his entrepreneurial dreams on the back burner. “I’m always thinking about my ideas, constantly modifying and improving upon them. I’m just not in a place financially to commercialize most of them and that’s okay.” Recently, Shenoy has teamed up with others in Innovate to launch a startup they’re calling Milkmen of Tech, a service that delivers milk to the doorsteps of students and encourages them to fulfill their recommended daily intake of dairy.
Shenoy is also using his time as an undergrad to learn as much as he can from those who have come before him. “I’ve been using all these new connections to build a roadmap of ‘to-do’s’ and ‘not to-do’s,” finding similarities in the experiences of successful people and taking from them what I can to help me in my future ventures.” Shenoy has taken a great deal from each of the guest speakers he’s met this semester, but there’s one thing he says every single one of the guest speakers has articulated to him and it’s something that continues to motivate him each day. “Everyone has told me the same thing, ‘You are so lucky to be where you are.’ Being a resident of Innovate has opened so many doors for me and I’m going to work hard to make the most of this experience.”