Manu ‘Swish’ Goswami is a student at the University of Toronto, a recipient of Canada’s prestigious Top 20 Under 20 award, and a member of the Hart House Debating Club. He describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, public speaker, and debate enthusiast.
Recently, he joined JB Fitzgerald Venture Capital Firm and founded a wearable tech startup with his best friend from high school. In an interview with The Varsity, Goswami described how he got started in the field of entrepreneurship and what keeps him motivated.
The Varsity — What do you do and why?
Manu Goswami — I build businesses and I look more toward creating a social impact than getting money — though of course money is nice and I have done this for almost 10 years of my life… Why I do it is because many people find a way of expressing themselves whether it be through music or through art — I express myself best through business.
TV — At what point did it dawn on you that business was a conduit for you to express yourself?
MG — I don’t think it was one single point. It wasn’t like I woke up one day or anything like that. I think for me it was when I was seven years old and started my first business. It was with my dad and I think he was trying to get me into engineering and we were making a hovercraft business and he was trying to show me the beauty of building the hovercraft, but for me, I loved to go out, getting people to buy it. I loved trying to convince people that this was something that they absolutely needed.
For me, writing, reading, and all of these things didn’t come very natural for me. What did come natural was sitting in a room with other people and figuring out a solution and figuring out steps on how to be able to accomplish it… Every day I am learning something about my vision, or more importantly, how to express myself.
TV — You have defined yourself as a social entrepreneur — what does that mean to you?
MG — I think it is hard to define because so many people have different definitions of it. For me, social entrepreneurs balance three key factors: people, planet, and profit. I just think that a social entrepreneur’s underlying incentive is helping people and impacting people.
Two businesses I ran… in the first year I was running losses, I was taking on pro bono stuff when I shouldn’t have… I wanted to help people and I didn’t care if I was running and using my own money and burning my own money. So I think that is the whole mentality of a social entrepreneur, you’re very much toward people.
TV — Where do you see your field in the future?
MG — [A social entrepreneurship model] is very appealing because consumers, at least in my mind, are starting to get more informed with their choices with social media, with all of these various modes of communication. I think it is only going to be 20, 30 years from now where people are literally going to look at the shelves and not only are companies going to have to label where the product is from, but more importantly what you can get when you buy that product.
TV — What you do can be stressful; why do you keep going? What’s your motivation?
MG — I can’t imagine an alternative world where I am not motivated, I’m not ambitious, and I am not looking forward to anything. That world just scares the crap out of me… A lot of people say “Don’t play on fear,” but I do that and I use fear as a great strength for me. I am just scared of waking up one day and not having those dreams and not having those goals. So much so that every day I continue to motivate myself to push deeper and deeper… I think that if you’re passionate about something, motivation comes natural.
When it comes from stress, yeah it exists especially with managing with school, but I think that at least 90 per cent of my day is just me doing stupid stuff, like really dumb time-wasting stuff… I do take time off, but I believe that there is 90 per cent of my day that I can capitalize upon more efficiently. Whenever people say that “I have no time to do this,” I am like, “You are lying to yourself.” Because nine out of 10 times you probably have 10, 20, 30 minutes to spare and use it toward your dream.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.