"People with disabilities are an underserved population in universities, companies and even communities. The fact is that they are twice as likely to be unemployed. We plan on changing that.”
Being an entrepreneur is no easy task. But 22-year-old Naitik Mehta took up the challenge and is currently one of Canada’s youngest entrepreneurs. Naitik is the CEO and co-founder of NextBillion.org, an organization that provides mentorship and employment opportunities to students with disabilities in technology. The young entrepreneur describes NextBillion.org as a forprofit social enterprise that connects the top technical talented people with disabilities to inclusive employers in the tech industry. “Hiring people with disabilities is a research-proven advantage for businesses, and we help them actively hire from this talent pool on a success-fee basis,” says Naitik who founded the organization with three other individuals – two of them being differently-abled themselves.
The co-founders started NextBillion.org after noticing that despite 15-20 per cent of the population having a disability, this was not a topic that was being addressed in the tech industry as much as it needed to be. “People with disabilities are an underserved population in universities, companies and even communities. The fact is that they are twice as likely to be unemployed. We plan on changing that,” asserts Naitik, who is passionate about education and social change. Step by step, NextBillion is revamping the face of the tech industry as an inclusive and open sector.
With the help of the organization, people with disabilities have found deserving, full-time jobs as well as mentors from the tech industry. NextBillion.org’s mentorship program comprises of important lessons relating to networking, disability disclosure, personal branding, technical skill development, relationship building, and interviewing in the real industry, among others. Mentors dedicate a couple of hours a week while NextBillion makes sure both the mentors and the students have everything they need. “Our mission is to empower the 1.3 billion people with disabilities to reach their full potential,” adds the determined CEO who has worked with some of the biggest brands in the IT industry – Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, Google and Uber to name a few.
Last year, Naitik graduated from university and transitioned to work on NextBillion full-time. “Since we started, I’ve been putting in time to work on the business outside of university but it feels incredibly exciting and liberating to be able to spend all my time on it!” says the young adult excitedly, who enjoys playing different musical instruments, soccer, board games, and cooking up new recipes in his spare time. A big moment for Naitik and NextBillion in 2018 was getting some of the largest companies in Canada like Microsoft and Hootsuite to become early partners with the organization. “This will open up so many doors for our community as well as driving the disability inclusion/hiring movement forward within the tech industry,” Naitik claims, immensely happy about this development.
Though merely 22 years old, Naitik’s work in social impact and technology has won him over 25 other awards around the world. This young genius has been recognized as a 25 Under 25 Award winner from the founders of the Internet, Canada’s Top 3 Student Entrepreneurs by EO GSEA, and ‘30 Under 30’ Awardee from BCBusiness for driving change in British Columbia. NexBillion was most recently recognized with the ‘Susan Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame’ award from the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) in USA. “The NDMC is a community of all the major disability-focused advocacy organizations in the US, many of whom have been around for 10+ years, so it means a lot for us to receive this recognition as a relatively young 2-year old company in the disability space,” shares the proud CEO, further adding that this is just the beginning and the organization will stay focused on creating impact at scale.
Naitik has also been deeply interested in sharing his knowledge as a mentor by supporting and helping students reach their full potential regardless of their educational backgrounds. He has been a speaker and panellist at various local and international conferences, such as Technology Changes Everything 2017 in New York; and Vancouver-based Learning Disabilities Career Conference 2018, Social Enterprise Conference 2018, Youth Achieving Success 2018, BCTech Summit 2018, and Stanford Honors Academy 2017 (with school students in China).
NextBillion.org aims to focus on targeting the 2.2 million students with disabilities waiting to be part of the tech industry. This year, Naitik’s goal for NextBillion is to support 1,000 people with disabilities and grow that to 10,000 people in 2020. “Gradually we want to scale it up to a place where we are not restricted with numbers,” he states in conclusion.
What inspires you to do better each day?
That every single small task that I do can help drive a positive impact for someone else.
What is your advice for those who wish to follow your path?
Don’t aim to ‘follow’ anyone else’s path – do what brings you the most fulfilment or what you enjoy the most – and you will succeed in your own ways.