Commencement

Speakers

Commencement Speaker

Ankur Jain (CS ’03)

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, B9 Beverages/Bira 91

Ankur Jain

Ankur Jain is the founder and chief executive officer of B9 Beverages, the maker of Bira 91 beers.

Born in New Delhi to an architect-urban planner father and an author-interior designer mother, Jain is a serial entrepreneur who moved to the United States in 1998. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree from Illinois Institute of Technology in 2003. After a brief stint at Motorola, Jain co-founded a health-care revenue management firm in New York that was sold to a large health-care provider network in 2007.

More importantly, during his time in New York, his startup was down the street from Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg, where he spent many Friday afternoons sampling a wide selection of beers. Jain then took a trip to Belgium, backpacking to villages and sampling beers in local breweries still run by families that had owned them for generations. Inspired by the American entrepreneurship in craft beer and the love of traditional beer in Belgium, he decided that it was time for a craft beer brand “Imagined in India” for the urban, millennial consumer, and created Bira 91.

Bira 91 launched in early 2015 with a flavorful portfolio of essential beers and its playful monkey mascot. The brand quickly went viral in India, becoming the largest draft beer brand in the country and gaining leadership in the premium segment in its active markets. In 2017 Bira 91 begin its campaign in the United States in New York. And in 2018 the brand started on its wider expansion in the Asia-Pacific market by entering Singapore.

In less than three years Bira 91 became one of the top 25 craft beer brands worldwide by sales volume, and is “the fastest growing beer brand in the world, growing five times in 2017,” according to Jain.

In late 2015 B9 Beverages raised a round of investment from the Silicon Valley-based venture firm Sequoia Capital, making it the fund’s first investment in a beer company globally. In 2018 Belgium’s Sofina Capital made an additional investment in Bira 91, bringing the total capital raised by the company to more than $100 million.

A fellow of the Disruptor Foundation, Jain was included in Fortune India’s 40 Under 40 (2016, 2018, and 2019); GQ India’s 50 Most Influential Young Indian Innovators (2016); and in The Economic Times’s Hottest Business Leaders (2018). He has been invited to speak at various industry forums including the 2018 Milken Institute Global Conference.

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Student Speaker

Priscilla Akpabio

Candidate for the Degree of Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering

Priscilla

As a young girl growing up in Nigeria, Priscilla Akpabio says that she ­­spent a lot of time with her father and bonded with him over their love of technology. He enjoyed reading vehicle and household gadget fix-it manuals and then shared much of the information with his inquisitive daughter.

“He taught me to read engineering drawings, showed me how to change the spark plug in our backup generator, and always had me at his side as an apprentice handing him tools,” says Akpabio. “I remember tagging along on our trips to the mechanic; we discussed whatever he learned on our way home. He had an innovative and curious mind that inspired me and made me want to understand how things really worked.”

Akpabio visited Chicago during high school and fell in love with the city, so her parents allowed her to attend college here. She transferred to Illinois Institute of Technology from Harold Washington College, where she earned an associate degree in engineering science and became a vice president of the Mu Pi Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

At Illinois Tech Akpabio has worked as a peer career coach for the Office of Career Services, advising fellow students on one of the most important aspects of their university experience: finding a job. She has served as a senator of the Illinois Tech chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and is also a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Last year she had a co-op with Cummins Inc., where her projects included serving as a project manager for the repair of a test electric vehicle.

A recipient of the Illinois Region of Phi Theta Kappa Hall of Honor Officer Award, Akpabio was also on the Dean’s List in fall 2020. Her community service includes volunteering for both the Saint Columbus Church Soup Kitchen and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. While her father served to inspire her, Akpabio looks forward to one day mentoring other women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

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