GlobalJax Profile: Yash Nath
WJCT is beginning a new series of profiles of First Coast residents with international roots who make positive contributions to our community. We begin with the story of the man behind the non-profit organization iStart Jax.
Since it opened two years ago, iStart Jax has helped launch 32 technology based startups in Jacksonville.
It will help even more entrepreneurs at its 2014 Jacksonville Startup Weekend that begins Friday, January 24 at the University of North Florida.
Sixteen years ago, Yash Nath, 41, first came to Jacksonville when he was recruited for an information technology job. By day he works for Acosta Sales and Marketing and in his free time he volunteers to help entrepreneurs launch technology-based start-ups as President of iStart Jax.
“I really feel our community is primed for growth and the more we can do to provide them with the opportunities, the better it is for Jacksonville and Northeast Florida,” he said.
The desire to give back was sparked by a bike ride to Calcutta 21 years ago.
"There were six of us from different countries we were playing different sports and we were watching TV and said ‘hey we should do something which will help the community' and it started like that and we didn’t have a notion of what we’d be doing,” Nath said.
Along with his college classmates, he decided to raise money for the Mothers of Charity, run by Mother Theresa. They biked 266 miles from their college in Ranchi, India to Calcutta on bikes with no gears.
"There was a lot of anxiety," he said. "But there was a lot of hope in what we were trying to accomplish."
They raised money by soliciting donations on campus and biking to several other universities along the way.
"Just imagine — we're on a bicycle 200-240 miles," he said. "Nothing wrong went with our mission. Cycles did not break, none of us fell sick. We reached where we wanted to reach. It was magical — all of it was because we were trying to do the right thing and service the community.”
After six days they made it to Calcutta where Nath hand delivered the donation to Mother Theresa.
“I cannot put it into words. I was just in awe," he said. "She was small in stature, but just standing behind her it was an amazing feeling. Even now, whenever I talk about it I get emotional.”
The message Nath took from that experience: Give back. He found his cause in business school at the University of North Florida where a friend hatched an idea to launch iStart Jax.
"I immediately said ‘yes’ because this is where my heart lies," he said. "I know I wanted to do something to give back to the community. I have done that in the past and this was one unique opportunity that came my way and I didn’t want to miss it.”
So far iStart Jax has helped 32 technology start-ups launch, and will help even more open their doors this year.
“I have been blessed — we have been blessed — two kids, a great wife," he said. "I just love Jacksonville. I know my friends call me to different places but this is where my heart lies.”
You can follow GlobalJax on Twitter @GlobalJax and Karen Feagins @KarenFeagins.