March 12, 2015
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After spending an hour in the Leslie Entrepreneurs Lab with Samir Goel, I was getting ready to leave when he turned his attention to me and asked me the same question I had asked him a week earlier: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
I tried to come up with something to say, and stuttered something about how I don’t even know where I want to be tomorrow. We laughed, but this moment revealed a lot about who Goel is: a driven individual who takes just as much interest in those around him as he does in his own work.
Goel, a junior in the Stern School of Business, grew up in Niskayuna, a small suburban town in upstate New York. He said his parents, who are both teachers, encouraged him to give medical school a try, but he decided to study business shortly after arriving in New York City. He said the most important thing he realized when he got to NYU was that he didn’t have to wait until graduation to start making an impact.
“I’m an experiential learner, so I learn by doing things, getting involved with things and doing things that actually matter,” Goel said.
In pursuit of this experiential learning, Goel is already putting his future degree to work. Most notably, Goel, alongside his friend Hannah Dehradunwala, runs Transfernation, a nonprofit that confronts food insecurity by redistributing food waste. Their web-startup, slated to release an app this year, connects leftover food from corporate events to social institutions, who can use every extra sandwich.
The duo started working on the project in the fall of 2013, when they entered the Social Impact Business Challenge, a contest in which NYU undergraduate students compete to develop an idea for a socially responsible business. Transfernation didn’t win the competition, but Goel said the opportunity was crucial and gave them a reason to focus on their idea. Two years later, they have distributed more than 200 pounds of food and are planning to expand.
Goel — a self-described “total foodie who loves cooking” — says one of the things that has always bothered him is the concept of food disparity: the idea that some people have better access to food than others.
“There are so many things that I think could change, that could be better, that could be different, and I want to be involved in making that happen,” Goel said.
Dehradunwala, a CAS junior and Goel’s partner at Transfernation, said the two of them work so well together that they more or less know what the other is thinking. She added that one of the first words that comes to mind to describe Goel is “connector.”
“It wouldn’t be enough to call him a hard worker because he’s also an extremely impassioned worker,” Dehradunwala said. “I love building Transfernation with him because, although the way we approach things is quite different, we combine our ideas together well.”
Aside from this work, Goel is also on the executive board of 180 Degrees Consulting NYU, co-founded the Net Impact Collaborative Experience, formed the Social Impact Council and works as a resident assistant at Third North Residence Hall. All this involvement means that some of life’s necessities — like sleep — often fall by the wayside.
“That’s been a problem and I’m really trying to work on that,” he said. “I really have a problem where I struggle to turn things down.”
For Goel, however, being so restlessly involved is like second nature.
“I get really excited about helping people do what they want to do,” Goel said. “There’s a lot of different things that drive me, but at the baseline, it’s the opportunity to really have a positive impact and make a change in the things that I care about.”
Barbara Holt, an adjunct professor in Stern who knows Goel from some of the social impact programs in which he’s taken a leadership role, said she believes it is the small things about him that set him apart.
“He has a lot of emotional intelligence,” Holt said. “He’s got the ability to interact with people, to empathize, to listen and I think he’s not just concerned about his own agenda.”
As for where he sees himself in five years, Goel said he would love to be involved in the intersection of the public and private sector by finding ways to use business to solve global problems, but admits that things could play out any number of ways.
“I have no idea how the next few years are going to look, and that’s exciting,” Goel said. “There’s so many different avenues that I could see myself going down that I really have no idea, and it’s honestly really exciting.” • Alex Bazeley