By Scott Meacham
Srijita Dia Ghosh is living her dream of helping other people achieve theirs.
Srijita Dia Ghosh, i2E’s newest venture advisor, was born and brought up in West Bengal, India. Her home city of Kolkata (Calcutta), along the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, is a packed city of millions. Her father is a serial entrepreneur.
“My mom is my role model and my mentor,” Dia said. “She is an established life-insurance agent and has also started an organic soap boutique.”
Dia started playing tennis when she was six years old, and that’s how she grew up.
“I wanted to go pro,” she said, “I was high ranking in India. At 16, I lived by myself in Valencia, Spain, to train for tournaments. My mom got me settled, and then I was on my own. In India, we don’t have college tennis, so I had a decision. Do I forget about competing professionally and go to college or do I give up on my studies and just try to play tennis?”
Dia determined that college tennis in the United States was a way to do both. She sent recruiting videos to a list of colleges. She received an email from East Central University in Ada.
“I did not have any idea of what Oklahoma was,” she said. “I had been to Tampa, FL, for a tennis academy, and I had seen all these American movies, and I thought, how different from that, really, could Ada be? Well, It was the smallest place I ever lived; tiny. I kept saying in my head, I’m going to get out of Ada as soon as I graduate. But soon Ada became home, and I have been happily living there ever since.”
Like everyone who is engaged in the entrepreneurial community, Dia is no stranger to pivots, or to serendipity. In college, she experienced both when, about a year-and-a-half in, due to budget cuts, the tennis and golf programs at ECU were eliminated.
“I lost my scholarship and had to make the decision to stay or go home,” said Dia. “I had credits, liked the professors, and had supportive parents. That gave me the opportunity to explore other avenues and find talent I did not know I had.”
Dia stayed, and Dr. Stacey Bolin, associate professor and director of the Wilburn L. Smith Center for Entrepreneurship, came into her life. Dr. Bolin has long been an advisor to teams that competed in the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup teams. She is champion of entrepreneurship as a career and cornerstone of the competition’s history.
“Thanks to Dr. Bolin, I discovered my passion for entrepreneurship,” said Dia. “I competed in Tiger Tank (a mini-version of Shark Tank), came in second place in Love’s Cup and won the pitch competition. Through Love’s Cup, she interned with and then joined the Ada Jobs Foundation as an entrepreneurship specialist. (In between, Dia graduated Summa Cum Laude Honors and honors valedictorian.)
Furthering Ada’s rich legacy of entrepreneurship, Dia developed The Big Pitch Ada, entrepreneurship meetups, networking events, and ultimately help implement a strategy that resulted in Ada being one of the three participants of the 2020 Rural Innovation Initiative to have been awarded a Build to Scale Venture Challenge grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
“In a rural community, the exciting challenge is that you have to come out and build it yourself,” Dia said. “It is important to help entrepreneurs here believe that you don’t have to be in a certain place to create a technology business. You can do it from Ada, OK. All you need is the internet and a supportive ecosystem.”
Dia Ghosh is definitely one of those resources in the ecosystem that is supportive. In September, she brought her talent to i2E. As a venture advisor, she is on the team that is on the ground stimulating deal flow across the state.
“I encourage any founder working on an innovative business idea to reach out to me,” she said. “I am excited to talk to you and eager to help. I am living my dream helping other people achieve theirs.”
Let me add my voice to hers. If you are an entrepreneur with a scalable business idea, call i2E. Our team can help.
Scott Meacham CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.