You are a doctor by training, have been an entrepreneur, attended Business School at Stanford and now you're an Investor with Lightspeed Venture Partners. What an amazing and unusual journey for someone who started his career in medicine. Tell us all about it!
As I look back on my journey, I am reminded of a quote by Steve Jobs: “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
I started my first business, Prima Clinics, solely because I thought primary care in India was completely broken and I wanted to do something about it. I didn’t quite view it as a departure from medicine – In fact, I thought it allowed me to manage and improve many, many more lives across our clinic network. While the business was ahead of its time, I learned that businesses can bring about change quickly, and reinforced my interest in applying to Stanford to learn more.While I was in the Bay Area, I chose to work on technology startups – including a summer at Stride, a startup bringing insurance and benefits to the likes of temporary workers like Uber drivers. There, I saw how virally technology can grow and transform lives. When both business + technology come together in the right ways, some amazing things can happen! This realization inspires me to be a Venture Capitalist and support entrepreneurs building great things.
I would say the only way to be great at venture is to start in the industry early! When you’re actively interviewing:
- Get a referral; usually the best referrals come from portfolio companies. VC firms would almost never interview unless you come recommended from someone they trust.
- Get to know the person you’re meeting and the venture capital fund very closely. Figure out what do you like or dislike in their portfolio? What makes their investments unique? What do previous employees have to say about them?
But here’s a caveat: When you’re trying to get recruited in an industry of about 100-200 people, it won’t always work out immediately. So, what should one do when things are not working out?
- Build meaningful relationships in the industry, and stay in touch with people about investment themes, market shifts and so on. People with the best information about who’s hiring (usually through friends) often get the first opportunities to interview. So, build your network.
- Write about points of view. This is something many people don’t do in India. Even if its twice a year, make a high-quality effort to research a space/company and publish your thoughts.- Work with great startups and founders to build up your operating experience. If you look at the top funds, most of their recent hires will be operators from top tech companies or previous entrepreneurs.
Personally, the biggest heartache of moving back to India was losing close friends in the Bay. IvyPlus is always buzzing with stimulating individuals and exciting activities – I look forward to meeting many more people this year and hopefully, making a few friends.
Vaibhav Agrawal is a Stanford alum and Associate Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners.