By Christian TeBordo
In more than a decade-and-a-half working in the IT space across the globe, Anirban Banerjee ’22 noticed a recurring problem. Technology service was a big business — he estimated it to be worth around $5 trillion worldwide — but technology partnerships were often inefficient, time-consuming, and more expensive than necessary, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). A company could spend a fiscal quarter, sometimes even a whole year, reviewing bids and contracts from providers, only to end up with poor or mismatched services.
Banerjee enrolled in the MBA program at the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall of 2021 with the problem statement in his mind, and the school gave him the spark he needed.
TekForge aims to use self-learning artificial intelligence to connect SMBs with technology providers and other service providers, including designers, hardware vendors, accountants, and human resource professionals. Once a potential partnership is identified, it will build smart contracts and monitor risks in real-time to close the procurement cycle as quickly as possible. It will also co-create content for training, issue resolution, and program delivery, and offer additional services like contract management, global brand promotion, and facilitation of strategic partnerships.
At Lally, Banerjee conducted more than 100 interviews with potential customers across seven industry segments and six countries to see what kind of market there might be for his venture idea. He received strong confirmation that he was onto something.
“There seems to be genuine demand,” he said. “But I want to start small and validate further before going full throttle.”
For help refining his idea, he turned to the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship, which offers resources and competitive opportunities for student entrepreneurs. In November of last year, only a few months after enrolling at Rensselaer, he pitched TekForge in the “Problem Competition” and was chosen as one of three winners.
The winners of the fall challenge earned prize money and bragging rights as well as the ability to enter the spring Change the World Challenge, during which Banerjee pitched the idea of TekForge before a live audience of judges and student entrepreneurs. He not only won the Change the World Challenge in 2022, but also received the “Best of the Best” award for 2021-2022 academic year.
“The encouragement from the Severino Center to participate in the first entrepreneurship challenge in November 2021 was the best launching pad for my idea,” he said. “The Severino Center helped me shape the idea from a one-minute thought to a viable business concept. Now I need to convert it into a successful venture.”
Banerjee also recently won the 2022 Albany Capital District Association for Supply Chain Management Forum Scholarship for his essay, “Offshoring vs. Onshoring: Strategic Business Considerations.” In addition, he was part of the Rensselaer team that won third place in the 2022 Global Scaling Challenge organized by the University of New Mexico.