Naitik Mehta
Credit: Lindsay Siu

Naitik Mehta, 22

Co-founder and CEO
NEXTBILLION.ORG

Life Story: Making a new friend put student Naitik Mehta on a path to social entrepreneurship. Mehta, who grew up with a single mom in Pune, India, arrived in Vancouver just two years ago for a BA in interaction design at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He met Kartik Sawhney during a 2015 internship at Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Washington. Sawhney, blind since birth, had been denied the chance to take the Indian Institutes of Technology’s entrance exam because of his disability—but attended Stanford University on a full scholarship.

“We talked about how his story is not unique, because there’s more than a billion people in the world with disabilities that face similar challenges,” explains Mehta, now in his final year of studies. In 2016, he and Sawhney launched NextBillion.org, a Vancouver-based web platform that matches students with disabilities to industry leaders for free guided mentorships. The startup also works as a recruiter, finding its mentees job opportunities in tech.

The Bottom Line: After completing 85 mentorships, NextBillion.org has received 300 applications for its next cohort of mentors and mentees. The company generates income from recruitment fees; by 2020, it aims to reach 2,000 mentorships and annual revenue of $2.2 million.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
There’s always someone better than you. Meaning: don’t chase trying to be like someone; focus on giving your personal best.

Your favourite book, album and movie are…
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The 2nd Law by Muse and Into the Wild.

Who is your role model or mentor?
My mom! She’s superhuman.

A little-known fact about you is…
I can eat all the sweets in the world.

#30under30