2020 Best & Brightest: Abhishek Balakrishnan, Northeastern University (D’Amore-McKim)

Abhishek Balakrishnan

Northeastern University, D’Amore McKim School of Business

“Suave and coffee-loving, with an international flair and a penchant for launching concepts.”

Fun fact about yourself: Was in the movie Syriana with Matt Damon and George Clooney

Hometown: Dubai, UAE

High School: American School of Dubai

Major: Entrepreneurship and Marketing

Minor: Business Analytics

Favorite Business Course: Lean Design and Development for Entrepreneurs

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • Awards: BostInno 25 Under 25
  • IDEA: Chief Executive Office (2020), Operations Director (2019), Investment Analyst (2018)
  • Huntington Angels Network: Associate (2018)
  • Emerging Markets Club: Special Projects Director (2017)
  • Co-founder – Valery – Experiential Marketing Platform (2016-2019)

Where have you interned during your college career?

IDEA Venture Accelerator – Boston, MA, USA – Chief Executive Officer (2019-Present)

Direct incubation and launch of 350 industry-agnostic portfolio early-stage ventures through the management of a 45-person cross-functional team, partnering with 250 industry experts and oversee $250,000 Gap Fund and $150,000 Prototype Fund. In addition, spearhead strategy around 10-year anniversary growth initiatives to sustain scale over the next 5 years by fundraising campaigns, organizational transformations in data analytics, network management, implementation of eight new incubation programs, and enhancing branding strategies.

L.E.K. Consulting – New York, NY, USA — Market & Strategic Research Analyst (2018)

I provided administrative and analytical deliverables to case teams. I was in a role in the management consulting profession. I worked as part of the case team that was responsible for ensuring that the team meets its objectives, providing key support to the team and driving case team efficiency through associate-level work. The insights that L.E.K. develops to help our clients win are based on each team’s strong research, modeling, and analytical skills, and are ultimately facilitated by the support of Market & Strategic Research Analyst.

Red Bull – Mumbai, India – Brand Management Coordinator (2017)

I supported the Brand Marketing Team in building the local face of Red Bull in their field in line with the global and national strategies and priorities to increase brand love within the Indian consumer. I helped to implement marketing initiatives in the key pillars of the marketing mix (Consumer Collecting, Brand, Sports, and Communications). Gave support to occasion campaigns and event activations and developed new strategies and creative ideas for Brand Marketing. Worked closely with related departments to provide the inter-departmental collaboration between the Field Marketing, Consumer Collecting, Brand and Sports & Events teams.

Endeavor Global — Dubai, UAE – Venture Associate (2016)

I conducted high-level research and analysis of entrepreneurship communities in the UAE region. Worked with the team to interview entrepreneurs involved in the region, organize and facilitate networking and selection panel events. In addition, I assisted with reporting on administrative tasks and mentor and board member relationship management. Provided insight during key team strategizing sessions and conducted stand-alone research projects to aid the Endeavor team in scaling up high impact entrepreneurs.

Where will you be working after graduation? My near future is yet to be defined, but I look forward to supporting entrepreneurs who aspire to make an impact and learning from a multi-faceted career.

What company do you admire the most? Red Bull – Red Bull is one of the best marketing companies in the world. They created a whole culture and brand around a new product. When I was working with them in India, I thought it was really interesting to see how an energy drink company was able to enter the Indian market. It was awesome to see how Red Bull becomes one of the best marketing brands by localizing with wherever it’s going but doing it in a Red Bull way. Working there really taught me a lot about starting a good company and creating a great brand and culture around it, in order for it to last years.

Who is your favorite professor? Cheryl Mitteness – Cheryl Mitteness, is a great role model! Her class has inspired students to launch their own successful businesses like Eat Your Coffee. She is a professor who really pushes her students to go beyond what they can achieve inside and outside the classroom. It was awesome to travel to Sicily with her to get to know the startup ecosystem there and get her guidance during my time as IDEA CEO. I have enjoyed every piece of life advice, brainstorming session, and the opportunity to work with her over my time at Northeastern and I am grateful to have a mentor for life.

What did you enjoy most about your business school? I enjoyed how the D’Amore McKim School of Business really pushes its students to be ready to enter the workforce for not just tomorrow, but for the future. There are many programs that push students to take up leadership opportunities with real risks like a manager would. We have opportunities to learn about how the business world is evolving, by getting involved in entrepreneurship programs like IDEA or taking classes about FinTech or Marketing Analytics. It was great to learn about what will be happening in the world 10 years from now and how to prepare ourselves.

I also really enjoyed the benefits of the school pushing the business students to be more interdisciplinary and branch out and engage with other students in different disciplines at Northeastern. It was great to be involved in programs like IDEA or MOSAIC, our Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. With MOSAIC, you get a chance to take what you learned from the classroom and your work experience and apply it in these organizations and work with others who come from different backgrounds to innovate and explore.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? I have three pieces of advice:

  • Learn to be in the middle: With tech and data becoming more common within the business world, a good place to be where you have some expertise in analytics. However, you should also add some experience and skill in strategy and working with upper-level management. This shows you are able to think high-level for business decisions, but also be able to execute and work with others in ops.
  • Learn from others who have done it before: One thing I have learned recently from being in business is that there are so many people who have gone out and gained experience. You should go out of your way to talk to them and get advice. Learn about what to do and what not to do. Building your personal network in business is really important and especially as a student. D’Amore McKim has an incredible network and it was amazing to get so much from people who were either recent graduates or experienced professionals.
  • Best way to start is to start: The best advice I have gotten from entrepreneurs out of IDEA and Northeastern alumni for starting a business is to just start. A lot of people spend time planning and thinking about big ideas without actually doing anything. The only way to start a startup is to get right to your customers and talk to them and build something they want. Taking time to understand your customer is the easiest way to start a business and all you need to do is just got out and do it.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? I think the thing that has surprised me the most about majoring in business is how the world is evolving so fast with technology and how important it is to not only have a strategic mind but also an analytical tool kit. The world is more data-driven – which is great – but you need both to make good business decisions where you can see the bigger pictures but also understand the details involved and be able to communicate it to all types of stakeholders.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? The reason why I came to Northeastern was because of IDEA. I thought it was incredible that Northeastern put so much faith in a 40-person student team to support a mission of launching 350 impactful ventures and giving all members of the Northeastern community a chance to be an entrepreneur and innovate.  I just didn’t anticipate how hard and rewarding it would be to be CEO of IDEA. You really get a chance to see how you good at are at developing strategy and being a leader in running a team to meet deliverables. This year was the 10-year anniversary of IDEA. I am proud to have gotten this incredible opportunity to take a 10-Year-old gorilla of an organization and set it to scale. I loved working with my incredible team and leads to develop a strategy to set up IDEA for the next 10 years and then getting the job done throughout the year on setting up programing, projects, and initiatives to meet that vision. I am humbled and proud of the opportunity that IDEA has given me at 23 years old where I got to manage over a quarter of million dollars and a community of 500 stakeholders to incubate, educate and launch 350 ventures. Having the chance to serve as CEO, during the 10-year anniversary no less, has been an incredible honor and privilege. I have learned so much–not only about managing peers, executing strategy, running an organization, and fundraising, but also about myself and the career path I see in front of me. I am fortunate to have an incredible team and getting the very rare experience of being one of 10 IDEA CEOs.

Which classmate do you most admire? Rohan Soorabathula – This man right here is the hardest-working person I know. I am always inspired and amazed of how Ro works on all aspects of his life – career and personal. It’s been amazing to have a brother who pushes you to be the best version of yourself for yourself and also gets the job done in good times and in bad times. I have enjoyed all the memories we have been through together, such as getting up at 5 a.m. to work to taking a chance at startups.

Who would you most want to thank for your success?

My mother. My whole life my mother has pushed me to follow my own path and pushed me to be a better person in my work, goals, personal life. She has inspired me by giving me opportunities to explore my interest and also widen my horizon with some of hers, like getting involved in the startup world. I would not be the man I am today without a rock of mother and I hope to continue to make her proud.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

Start my own VC or venture accelerator, I want to be the Jay-Z of startups, launching companies that will hopefully last a long time.

Have a global career. I love traveling and want to get a chance to work with businesses and cultures from around the world.

What are your hobbies? I really enjoy making specialty cold brew. Coffee is such an interesting drink and product with a lot of history behind it and the everyday social culture around it. The cold brew my roommate (Nick) and I make is like a side hustle for us and the people’s favorite is our lavender blend! I love coffee and know all the best coffee spots in Boston.

What made Abhishek such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?  

“Abhishek Balakrishnan serves as the IDEA Venture Accelerator’s CEO for the D’Amore McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. Not only is he a stellar student, but he also has extensive volunteer experience supporting young entrepreneurs and valuable work experience leading a team of 40 to further the accelerator’s mission. He is a deep thinker, thoughtful leader, can think about the big picture (as well as the details), and has made an immense impact during his time at Northeastern University. He’s dynamic in that he can professionally present to university leadership all the way to building a community amongst students, faculty, staff, and alumni. He constantly challenges the status quo, is fiercely loyal to his friends and colleagues and incredibly supportive of all that he interacts with. I have no doubt that he will continue to make waves in his future career and will continue to lead his class of 2020 for years to come.”

Gwen Corner
Program Manager – IDEA Venture Accelerator


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