Brandon Henry ’24 on asking good questions and pushing personal limits to become a better entrepreneur

headshot of a student looking into the camera

I am three things, a student, a content creator, and an entrepreneur. I care about personal growth and scholarship. Utilizing my potential and pushing my limits means a lot to me because I learned from playing football in high school that you are either getting better or getting worse.

Being proactive and educating myself is crucial. I recently joined this international student organization known as the Light Group as an executive member. I am currently studying Economics. I speak English and Mandarin. After studying abroad in China, my eyes were opened to the vast array of opportunities abroad and the importance of globalization in the international realm. Building bridges with a culture foreign to me and navigating those spaces revealed to me the power of language as a tool to understand.

I am an avid fan of Malcolm Gladwell, and one thing I took away from his book The Tipping Point is the idea of individuals as connectors. I see myself as a connector who can operate in various social worlds and contexts to coalesce people around a shared vision. Another skill that I believe will contribute to my pursuits is the passion for being a disruptor, a game-changer that entails being creative and thinking unconventionally. My biggest ambition is to one day manage my private equity firm with a global presence.

The Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University recently hired me as a “Launchstar” to work in its new Startup Studios. The most exciting thing about the LaunchPad is that the discovery process is continuous as I work with my peers to bring pen and paper to commercialization. Being a part of an energized, creative, and highly collaborative community is an enriching experience. Tackling problems in any sector is also rewarding because you come across students who think unconventionally, and there is a beauty in bringing that to life.

Financial technology and democratizing finance in emerging markets fascinate me, mainly as globalism contributes to growth within the international economy. Digitizing finance and Ecommerce are two significant trends that will shape the future, especially when you consider the development of online marketplaces. In the case of digitizing finance, blockchain and crypto create a medium for people worldwide to engage in financial transactions as opposed to going through banks. All people need is a device and a connection to the internet, enabling them to contribute to the global economy. These topics push me to consider the context for the future and how I can tackle these issues for the next couple of years.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are a big part of venture capital, an area of finance I am looking to work in. I find interest in ideation and creating because I grew up with an engineer who worked on projects every day. Creating brings me a sense of fulfillment and joy.

I have learned that you will have a failure, which is a part of the process, and as long as you are persistent and believe in yourself, no one can take that away from you. Some of my best friends from boarding school keep me motivated by reminding me of the vision and my mission. When I struggled in my Chinese classes full of native speakers, sometimes some of them would stay behind after class and practice character writing and speaking in Chinese.

I see the world as my classroom where I want to learn from everyone around me, which is what boarding school taught me. Mentors believed in my abilities and worked with me to enhance them. A mentor is almost a parent because they can see the potential that you cannot see. Being a part of a collaborative community will enhance your perspective because there is no dumb idea; everyone has something to share. I gain perspective because everyone has a valuable story.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, I believe that you have to let your creativity and passion curate the vision and lead you along every step of the way. If you are going to take a risk, it has to be calculated. The invention will change, and that is ok; all it means is adapting and never being afraid to back to the drawing board. Having something that catalyzes your idea is an integral part of your success. Finding a stimulus and things that spark your curiosity is crucial. For me walking through galleries and canoeing calms me down because my thoughts are always racing. Building a team around people that have like-minded ideas and passions is integral towards excellent performance. Everyone has an asset, and using each unique asset contributes to the grander idea. Innovation comes from asking others questions such as what you see as wrong or what you are doing can be improved. Asking great questions generates excellent questions. To be an innovator means to be willing to think unconventionally and ensure yourself in deep reflection on the direction you want innovation to guide you.

By Brandon Henry ‘24, Maxwell School of Citizenship of Public Affairs, hometown: Newark, NJ