Babson’s Global Entrepreneur in Residence Program Returns
When Akhil Nair MBA’18, founder of XENA Intelligence, applied to become Babson’s Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GEIR) in 2018, he had no way of knowing he would be one of the last graduates to earn the title for more than a four-year period.
The pandemic suspended the program, but now that it’s restarted, a grateful Nair took some time to share his wisdom about the position and explain why he still loves mentoring Babson entrepreneurs to this day.
“They’ve got all this energy,” Nair said. “It just motivates me looking at how dedicated they are, how they know the challenges, and still decide to continue forward.”
Candidates must have graduated college to apply to be a GEIR, an opportunity which was created in 2016 and involves continuing work on their venture while at Babson College in the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship. Applications to become a GEIR are due by August 2, and candidates will be reviewed and potentially approved for the program in batches.
“There are two sides to the Global Entrepreneur in Residence program,” Nair said. “You need to have a good startup that already has some traction to it. You also will be in a position to give back to the Babson community, something that comes really naturally to me.”
Nair, who secured his green card via the GEIR program, continues to work on his growing startup, Xena Intelligence, which helps vendors who sell through Amazon to better connect with their customer base.
“The position certainly helped open doors to alumni in the startup space. The frequent workshops that I took for current students and alumni also helped me expand my network and reach out to more people,” Nair said. “Without the program, I would have no option but to return to India and not be able to pursue my startup in the U.S.”
The GEIR program is available to international college students who have their bachelor’s degree, even those who didn’t attend Babson. There is a $12,000 fee for Babson alumni and a $15,000 fee for non-Babson graduates. Their startups must be considered well underway, and the GEIR usually holds the position for the duration of their three-year visa.
The program helps entrepreneurs continue work on their startup while devoting 10 to 15 hours a week to mentor other Babson entrepreneurs.
“Essentially what I did was talk to both current students and prospective students,” Nair said.
One of the biggest opportunities of being a GEIR is that those in good standing can qualify for a cap-exempt H-1B visa. The nonimmigrant work visa allows Babson to support foreign workers with specialized skills so they can work on their startup in the United States for three years.
Nair warned that while the visa is one of the most exciting opportunities of the GEIR position, it also requires a lot of work.
“Just to compile the documents and go back and forth with lawyers took about four to five months,” Nair said. He encouraged those seeking to become a GEIR to continue to work on their venture.
“The Global Entrepreneur in Residence program exists to give entrepreneurs an opportunity to stay in the United States and work on their startup, and it’s a great program for that,” Nair said. “But, I think a lot of people can forget to focus on their own startup as they get caught up in applying for the visa.”
There are other opportunities that the GEIR might be involved with, Nair said, and they all helped him grow as an entrepreneur. For example, he got a chance to help judge the B.E.T.A. Challenge, one of Babson’s signature entrepreneurial events. His favorite part of the experience was helping to mentor students.
“They have all these wonderful ideas, and you can see the determination. I think they inspire me more than what I do for them,” Nair said.