Afari co-founder Avthar Sewarathan '18 is only one year out from graduation and he is already giving back. 

The Keller Center recently caught up with Avthar at the Princeton Startup Immersion Program (PSIP) NYC’s internship host dinner and brain storming session held at Serendipity Labs in the heart of the city’s Financial District. Program manager Lilian Tsang led the group of nearly 30 founders and company reps in a conversation about the internship experience from the employer’s perspective. Part of the PSIP mission is to build community among students and startups. The gathering was a chance for the host companies to meet and share their successes and challenges in hosting summer interns.

KC: Hi Avthar!  Tell us a little about Afari and what you’ve been up to since gradation?

AS: During my senior year, I co-founded Afari with two friends, Felix Madutsa ‘18 and Richard Adjei ‘18. Afari is a group-based social network that empowers users to own, control and monetize their data, through blockchain and cryptocurrency technology. I’ve been working on Afari ever since graduating from Princeton in May 2018.

KC: Did you take any Keller course while on campus or participate in any of our programs or offerings?

AS: Yes! I took 6 or so KC classes during my time at Princeton, culminating in receiving the Entrepreneurship Certificate! My favorites were Prof Lidow’s class on Entrepreneurial Leadership, Prof Kuenne’s class on High-Tech Entrepreneurship and Prof Hejazi’s class on Venture Capital. I also really enjoyed Prof Pontis’s class on design and learning about design thinking, a practice which has deeply influenced the way I solve problems involving people.

I also participated in the PSIP NYC program during summer 2017 and in the eLab Summer Accelerator during summer 2018 with Afari.

KC: Wow! You could be our poster child! So how did your time at Keller influence your career choices or how you work today?

AS: Through the Keller Center programs and classes, I built valuable relationships and gained confidence that helped me take the leap to start a startup while in college and pursue it full time. I’m grateful to all the professors and staff involved in the Keller Center programs for all their mentorship, guidance and for believing in me, my co-founders and Afari from day 1.

KC: Why did you decide to participate in our PSIP program? As an intern and a host! What did you gain as an intern, what do you expect to gain as a host?

AS: As an intern: I wanted test out if I enjoyed working in fast-paced startup environment and learn more about the tech scene in NYC. I was fortunate to learn a ton about marketing, business intelligence, and project management during my summer with Andela. Moreover, l enjoyed organizing and learning from the professional development events with founders and VCs in NYC.

As a host: PSIP is a great opportunity to give back to the Princeton entrepreneurial eco-system from which I've benefited so much. We hope to help inspire the next generation of Princeton entrepreneurs by giving them a taste of life and work at a real startup. I’m excited to work with our two interns on some interesting problems this summer!

KC: How supportive were your family and friends when you decided to enter the entrepreneurial space?

AS: I’m super grateful to have extremely supportive parents and friends, who were accepting of my decision to pursue Afari after graduating and extremely supportive during the inevitable ups and downs that followed (and continue to occur). 

KC: Any advice for current Princeton students?

AS: Take advantage of all the amazing Keller Center resources (eLab, PSIP, classesTiger Challenge, etc.) to help figure out where your passions and interests lie and how you can create the network and create opportunities to pursue a life that’s meaningful to you! This applies to all students, from those who want to start a billion dollar company or those interested in a lifestyle business or a non-profit. I'm also happy to advise individual students on how they can pursue their entrepreneurial path during or after Princeton. They can reach me at avthars@alumni.princeton.edu.

KC: Thank you Avthar.  You will indeed be a great resource to Princeton student entrepreneurs.  See you in the Big Apple over the summer!