Alumnus, angel investor visits math and science students

Stepping into Glenbrook North High School nearly 24 years after his 1993 graduation, Spartan alumnus Navin Thukkaram had a story to share with students – something he refers to as the “epic exit.”

Navin spoke to computer science and math team students Feb. 27. He was on the math team while attending GBN, and therefore has been a great supporter of the team, having helped send 12 students to the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament this year though a matching grant challenge.

His advice to students:

“Learn how to code and learn computer science,” he said. “Always think about your ultimate outcome – your exit strategy.”

Navin is an angel investor and entrepreneur who has completed five successful exit plans from business ventures, creating more than $3 billion in value. He was chief operating officer, seed investor and a board member of Qwiki, a mobile video startup that was acquired by Yahoo! for $50 million in 2013. Currently, he’s working with drone technology and cloud-based business services.

“Math and science is all related to technology,” Navin told the GBN students, explaining how their high school courses ultimately build the foundation for tech-heavy careers.

Prior to Qwiki, Thukkaram was a partner at Vulcan Capital, the multi-billion-dollar investment fund of Paul Allen

Navin said he puts 75 percent of his startup business expenditures into engineering.

“We didn’t have computer science when I was in school, so I focused on math and science,” he said.

After graduating from GBN, Navin earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree from Princeton University and his Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School. He was captain of the GBN golf team during his senior year and went on to play at Princeton.

Navin told students that he’s found self-awareness to be the key to success.

“Always ask yourself why you’re doing something,” he said. “Be sure to understand yourself and your own psychology.”

And for the things one might not understand – “always hire people that are a lot better than you,” he joked.