I recently brought together a random group of talented and open-spirit global personalities. None of them knew – not even I – they all had a significant connection to Cornell.
Good business is all about good relationships and, as founder and host of OFFLINE, 2017 reaffirmed to me the power of giving without any expectation. Give and take is an outmoded phenomenon. By contrast, if you give and then give again, the world will open its arms to you, as it reinforces trust and confidence, each absolutely essential ingredients to business success.
Cornell played its part in this example of global serendipity.
I arranged tea a couple of months ago between Basil, Aradhana and Emre. All friends of mine and all past attendees at OFFLINE, albeit not at the same time. They operate in complementary areas and I had a hunch they would all get along very well. And so it proved. OFFLINE is partly a celebration of the randomness of life as, of course, that is where the juice lies.
The three of them are each engaged in real estate in one form or another. Basil runs a major property fund sourcing opportunities on behalf of a group of wealthy families in US and beyond. He principally invests in UK and Germany so, should you ever wish to learn about the relative charms of Düsseldorf or Cologne, Basil is your man. And he is pretty damned good on the rest besides.
Aradhana is a leading authority in the hospitality sector with a particular emphasis on tourism infrastructure in emerging nations, such as Congo and Rwanda. She has played a key role in a number of hotel developments globally and is a special advisor to the World Tourism Council, among her many talents.
Emre founded a specialist company that focuses upon repurposing embassies and government buildings that need to be modified. Diplomatic requirements are a category all on their own. You won’t find your average ambassador or business consul popping down to the local estate agent. Embassies bring particular demands and Emre understands this market very well.
We all met one afternoon and, amidst the very entertaining and stimulating conversation, Basil mentioned that he had taken his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering at Cornell. Quite how he made the jump from aerospace engineering to real estate was never clearly explained but it prompted Aradhana to state she had a connection with Cornell too.
It emerged that Cornell ran a masters programme in hotel management and that she was an alumnus from that faculty. It was a remarkable coincidence that Aradhana and Basil had attended the same university. I glanced over to Emre. Surely not? No, he said. I went to Cambridge – but I did attend the summer school at Cornell!
Serendipity often sits on our shoulder in surprising ways. What were the odds that three friends of mine with disparate but related interests should be so intertwined? Basil is Canadian, Aradhana is Indian and Emre is Turkish. They all possessed a connection with Cornell, which is based in New York, yet met in London through OFFLINE.
Above all, it demonstrated to me that Cornell had imbued its students with both a wonderful curiosity and worldliness, aside from its obvious academic credentials. This value system is a gift that keeps on giving and marks Cornell as an institution of vision and breadth, past, present and future.