JOHN SHEGERIAN — Co-Founder, President and CEO, Electronic Recyclers International


Good day, I’d like to thank my friend and associate Dr. Armen Orujyan for this opportunity to share some hopefully inspiring thoughts and ideas with you. The green company I co-founded in 2002, Electronic Recyclers International, is now recognized as having the largest market share in the U.S. We have a sustainable business that makes great profits, so I love what we’re doing and where we’re going. And last year, I was honored by being inducted into the “Youth Pioneer Hall of Fame.”

Here’s some advice I have for young entrepreneurs like you out there. There is just so much more to do and achieve. I was once talking to a group of MBA students. This was shortly after I had sold — that had become one of the largest student loan companies in America — for more money than I’d ever dreamed of having in my whole life. I told this group that I had grown up on welfare, and when you don’t have much, your dreams sustain you and you dream for the stars. But maybe you don’t think you’re going to get there. I told them that through a combination of circumstances I had been able to reach and surpass my dreams. These students were then telling me that they wanted to be like me but they were thinking that everything had already been done when it came to internet innovations.

This was at a time not so long ago when there was no Facebook (which was only founded in 2004), there was barely any MySpace, and there was no Twitter or LinkedIn. And these kids were complaining that everything online had been done already. And I told them then and I tell young people now, they’re wrong. They don’t even know yet what’s going to happen. We’re only at the top of the first inning, to use a baseball analogy, and there’s a green revolution to come. And there’s a technological revolution at the bottom of the second inning also to come. There’s so much yet to be done.

For example, I own about 4000 URLs, and in my mind, when I go to bed at night, those are 4000 exciting business ideas that I don’t have time to work on today. But all of them offer interesting opportunities and potential that I could do something with. There’s not enough time in the day.

Same thing with the green revolution. If I sold ERI today, then tomorrow, there would be new and other opportunities that would turn up for me in other business areas. For example, there’s an idea about creating energy stations to energize cars instead of traditional gas stations. There are just so many cool things that the youth of America and the world can do. So my advice is to keep you eyes, mind and heart open and be a leader because the technological and green revolutions are here to stay and fortunes are going to be made. And yes you can, you can change your world if you so desire. There’s lots of hope.

The young people are the next generation, so I ask, who’s the next Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook? Who’s the next Bill Gates? These new innovators are in college right now somewhere dreaming about something, and maybe not listening to their teacher. We can be the leaders or we can be the followers and the idea is that let’s go lead and do it together.

I’d like to conclude by talking about Armen and Athgo Intenational’s efforts. I am on Athgo’s Advisory Board because I believe in Armen’s mission to engage young people in constructive entrepreneurship to help alleviate global poverty and promote sustainable economic development worldwide.

Athgo’s efforts are so critical because really we’re falling behind as a country, here in America. When you read Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman, we’re miserably falling behind in so many ways. We’ve fallen behind Israel, Singapore, South Korea and China in so many ways, whether it’s education and we used to lead in that. Whether it’s science and engineering, we used to lead in that. Last year, we left a million students, who took the time to matriculate from high school, and yet they couldn’t find the money to go to college. What Armen is doing for the youth around the world is so amazing. Connecting the best ideas and best practices and Athgo, and letting people think, “Yes we can do this together. Yes I can as a person connect with my (social network) friends in England or Armenia or Spain.” UCLA can connect with NYU and then to Oxford to Beijing University. . .and we can connect people who truly all have the same mission to make the world a better place. Not just to make the biggest money grab. What I’ve seen Armen do with the youth of the world is the future of how entrepreneurs and philanthropy has to merge together. So let’s go!