Aanikh Kler will be gracing BCIT’s IxL conference this spring. He talked to Link about his plans to promote entrepreneurship among young people across Canada.
One of the first things that people will find out about Aanikh Kler is how he became a successful entrepreneur at age 15. In the years following his meteoric rise, Kler has since spent time studying at Stanford University— an institution renown for its proximity to the heart of Silicon Valley. While there, he made a keen observation about his peers: none of them were interested in establishing start-ups in Canada. The Canadian students, in particular, did not want to return home post-graduation; they opted to stay in American tech hub cities like San Francisco and New York. Kler recalls, “I’ve realized that, unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of pull factors (to go back) to Canada once you leave to go to the U.S. in terms of high-profile companies.”
Yet Kler did just that—return home to form his start-up. He serves as the co-founder and COO of Trufan, a ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) web platform that connects influencers and public figures with their most integral fans. Trufan is currently based in Vancouver, and one of the company’s goals is to promote entrepreneurship in Canada. “We really want to encourage that young entrepreneurs who have maybe gone to college in the U.S. to see that you can come back to Canada and have a successful start-up.”
To promote Canadian entrepreneurship, Trufan partnered with Canadian firms like Hootsuite and Round 13 Capital. He and his business partner, Swish Goswami, became involved with The League of Innovators—a charity initiative by Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes to harvest entrepreneurship in Canada. They intend on changing the dialogue surrounding tech start-ups, asserting that you don’t necessarily have to set up shop near Silicon Valley to be successful.
“At the end of the day, I think anyone can be entrepreneurial,” imparts Kler. “I think entrepreneurship comes from a curiosity of wanting to solve a problem.” He says this is what he wishes to impart on BCIT students at the IxL Conference this spring.
With Trufan, he and Goswami sought to fix the problem of influencers failing to give back to their most loyal fans. “We realized that one of the best ways to actually advertise and to build brand recognition and awareness is through the people that care the most about your brand.”
If you’ve watched your fair share of Dragon’s Den, you may recall Aanikh Kler as the young ingenue whose pitch for a charitable ringtone app earned him a business partner in Venture Communications CEO, Arlene Dickinson. He successfully pitched his first app, UndrTheRadr—an app that provides ringtones that are only audible to users under 21 years of age. A portion of proceeds from every ringtone download went to the Save The Children foundation. This innovative idea positioned him as a role model for young entrepreneurs.
Fast-forward five years, UndrTheRadr is now in Kler’s past, and he says he’s done his fair share of growing since then. He recalls how he possessed a tunnel vision in terms of how the app is performing on the iTunes charts. “I was so focused on the destination that I really didn’t enjoy the drive or the road to the destination,” he admits. “I try to now, with everything that I do, try to enjoy the journey as much as, if not more, than the destination itself.”
At IxL, Kler will be participating in a panel discussion about how to turn ‘soft skills’ into ‘power skills’. ‘Soft skills’ refer to personal traits that enhance relationships with other people, such as leadership and teamwork. “One of the things I want to talk about in running a start-up is that one of the most important things is the ability to communicated effectively and with empathy to your team all the time.”
Following his involvement with Trufan, Kler and Goswami found success in luring $500,000 worth of funding from a big-name angel investors. These include Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets, Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers and Davon Reed of the Indiana Pacers. Some of Trufan’s clientele includes the likes of Ludacris, Kevin Hart, and a number of influential sports teams.
This is a testament to Kler’s networking skills, or rather, the ‘soft skills’ he plans to address at the IxL Conference. Kler attributes successful networking to curiosity and openness. One tip he would like to share is to be confident about your skills and what you have to offer.
“Everyone has an expertise in something,” Kler assures. “I know it’s hard for young people to feel accomplished or that they’re an expert in something, but even just being super plugged in (to social media, music, or entertainment) can be super helpful for people and you never know when that’ll be useful. And even just offering it goes a really long way.”
Aanikh Kler will have more to say when he graces the IxL Conference in the spring. He was 15 when he first made a name for himself in Canadian tech circles, but now at a more worldly 21 years-old, he says he still continues to grow. He has dedicated significant parts of his career to encouraging innovative ideas and actions out of young people, and there are no signs of him stopping.