02 Jul PeopleWise: Kaz Karwowski
Kaz Karwowski, executive director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL), returns to lend his help to OwlSpark for another exciting summer of entrepreneurship and innovation. Whether it be through lectures, mentoring, or just observing, you can find Kaz helping our founders reach for their goals of creating a successful company. Kaz is a retired soldier and Harvard graduate who previously worked at MIT’s Gordon Engineering Leadership program and brought his expertise to Rice University five years ago. He is also a member of the NSF I-Corps faculty and has worked with startups throughout his time there. His extensive knowledge and background of leadership and motivation allows him to give his professional perspective and advice to the founders.
Kaz considers himself an entrepreneur “in a different sense.” His past experience is largely focused on non-profit startups. Currently, he owns a commercial consulting venture. His consulting is directed at companies that focus on new technology development and also offers management consulting. The idea for the consulting venture came when Kaz realized that there was a huge demand from startups needing professional mentoring. With only a small group of competitors, backed with his experience in management and leadership, Kaz found his niche with Kaz Karwowski Consulting, LLC. Despite his nontraditional route through school and career, Kaz has always had an interest in business. The fast paced atmosphere, paired with the multidimensional landscape and the challenge of creating and managing new things drew Kaz toward where he is now.
Working with young people whose ideas might create new solutions to major societal problems is what motivates me and keeps the excitement going.
For Kaz, the most exciting part of OwlSpark is knowing that someone in the crowd has the ability to make a difference in the world. When a company creates a product or an idea, the main reason is to fix an issue. In some cases, these solutions can fix huge social, technical, or environmental problems. Kaz has been involved with the development of several successful startup companies such as Ministry of Supply, NVBOTS, along with many others, including OwlSpark alumni Arovia and Big Delta. Kaz’s best advice for customers is to stay true to the core principles of the company, listen to your customers, and work hard. He stresses that the most important part of listening to customers is actually implying what they say, and adding value to their lives. Kaz also encourages young entrepreneurs not to be afraid to change paths if the original idea doesn’t go as planned, and to take lessons from that first round and apply them to a new, better idea.
Making sure that everyone understands and agrees with the goals of your organization is critical for success.
Outside of work, RCEL, and helping out with OwlSpark, Kaz likes to think of himself as an “outdoorsy” person. He enjoys being outside and trying new things. He spends most of his time off with his family and dogs, and is always on the hunt for a new adventure. Kaz is looking forward to seeing how much the founders grow over the second half of #bayoustartupsummer, and we are too!