Not many of us can say we are CEOs and full time college students. Chisa Egbelu, a passionate senior here at Rutgers, is one of the few who can claim just that as the CEO and co-founder of a new non-profit called PeduL.io. Chisa is a Journalism and Media Studies major with a minor in Digital Communication, Information and Media. He is originally from Louisiana and certainly hit the ground running (sprinting maybe?) as soon as he came to Rutgers. On top of juggling academics, a bunch of extracurricular activities and finding time to sleep, Chisa still found time to let us interview him and talk about his accomplishments thus far and his plans for the future.
What are you involved in outside the classroom?
I’m the executive producer of Rutgers Recess, the number one student-run show on WRSU, the radio station here. I am also the programming manager at RU-tv, and a host for Wake Up Rutgers. I’m a member of an organization called the Collegiate 100 of Rutgers University. I was previously the president and captain of the Rutgers Quidditch team. I’m still on the team, but I’m currently injured. I also intern at the Eagleton Poll…I miss Netflix a lot.
I work for R vision which is the in house sports production company here and I’m in the Student U Crew for the Big 10 network. Every sports team gets some sort of coverage; if you go to the website, you can see every game that’s broadcasted. We do the re-plays, graphics for games, camera, sound, etc. We also do our own highlight tapes. I was most recently the reporter for the tennis team.
This semester I’m interning with Google in their Community Leaders Program, which thus far has been a wonderful experience.
I do Rutgers Night Live too, which is like the Rutgers version of SNL. I’m a writer, director and I act for them. It’s really fun! We have three shows per semester in Cabaret Theatre and we will probably have more this semester.
Lastly, I’m a co-founder and CEO of a non-profit organization called PeduL.io which should be online at the end of October. It’s a higher education crowd-funding platform, so it’s like a Kickstarter for your term bill, but there are a lot of different stipulations; for example, what sets us apart from any other crowd funding platform is that we facilitate the money directly from the campaign to the University. So someone raises their money on their campaign and we make sure it goes directly to the school they’re committed to. This provides a little bit of security for donors as well. Also it’s a non-profit which means that donors receive tax-exempt benefits for participating, so that’s more of an incentive for them to participate as well. It’s really cool. There are about five or six of us on the team now: 3 programmers, 2 on the business side and then a web designer.
What inspired you to start PeduL.io?
I rarely do things just for money. Even now, I can’t just do things for money. I like to do things with substance. I like to do whatever I want to do and in regards to PeduL.io, we saw a need for it in the market and that’s why we think we’re going to be successful in it. We wished there had been something like this for us when we were in high school, or even now. It would still be relevant and that’s why we started making it. It didn’t come easy and it’s still pretty difficult. We have run into a number of roadblocks through our journey, from poor servers to malaria. Despite the challenges we really hope that by this time next year we are commercialized and functional, or failed fast enough to move on to the next project, and I mean that in the best way.
You are involved in a ton of different projects and activities. How do you balance your time?
I’m not very good at time management. Something I’ve been doing recently is figuring out what helps me and what hurts me, and I realized that my environment and my atmosphere are really important. I literally won’t go home unless I’m ready to halt all work. I live with six other people and they’re all my best friends, so if I go back to the house, it’s too fun. I get back to my house everyday at about 2 or 3 am.
So you don’t sleep?
I sleep way more this semester than I did last semester. 5 hours per night.
What would you say is your biggest passion?
Honestly, the thing I’m most passionate about is communicating with people, because that’s a huge influence on whether or not I have a good day. I started a journal, some people might call it a ‘diary.’ Everyday I write the thoughts that I had that day and stuff like that. It usually ends up being 2-3 pages. My good or bad days are literally based off of my positive or negative human interactions. Human interaction and talking to people really drives me. If I had to imagine my own version of hell, it would probably be being alone on a deserted island.
How has Rutgers influenced you?
There’s this Drake line that I think about all the time. He says something like ‘you didn’t make me what I am, you just found me like this,’ or something like that. So here at Rutgers, did they make me who I am now or did I already have this passion and want to do all these things? I think it’s a combination of both. I always wanted to get involved. Even in high school, I was really involved, but Rutgers gave me all the opportunities in the world to express my outlets and for that I’m forever grateful. I can do whatever I want; if I wanted to start tap dancing, I can go find that club. Like I’m a Quidditch player. Rutgers gave me all the outlets to further mature and grow, like Rutgers Night Live – I had never tried acting before, but this organization allowed me to follow that random pursuit and got me out of my comfort zone. I came to Rutgers for opportunity. This is a place where you can really be whatever you want to be and it’s not like that everywhere. You can really obtain anything you strive for and that’s how I feel here; that I can really do and be anything I want.
What are your plans for the future?
This past summer I interned in Hong Kong and it really made me want to see the world and further explore the east. I plan on traveling, and while I know this won’t be constant, I hope I can do so for the rest of my life.
Ideally, in my long term plans, my dream job is to be a host of a nationally syndicated talk show. I’d also love to continue with tech startups. I don’t plan on PeduL.io being my only project. In the end I just want to make people’s lives better, whether that be through entertainment, journalism, or tech. I want to improve lives.
Do you have any advice for students who want to be as involved as you or are pursuing similar passions?
The only words of wisdom that I would give to anybody here is: don’t be afraid to go against the grain. Don’t be afraid to be different. Everyone is looking for their way, and whatever the trend is today will definitely change in the future. There are many opportunities for individuals to be leaders or to help people around them. Don’t be scared to be that individual. Just do what you want to do and you’ll find your way.