I have spent almost two decades in Startups / Investments and believe strongly that venture capital is probably the best option as a career. And no it is not the glamour or the usual challenges and interaction with new teams, new ideas day in day out and being in changing landscape every day/month/quarter but the real fun is in the ability to impact the world in a meaningful way.
Despite all the criticism of VC world – about loss-making business models, utopian ideas and the inability of many funds to outperform many indices or even return capital, the fact remains that venture capital industry is one of the finest product of the dark ugly big capitalism. In no other models, interest is aligned so beautifully where motivated founders slog day and night while dreaming of changing the world by bits and pieces and many time succeed as well.
Hence apart from those massive returns, the biggest contribution of venture capital has been its ability to change the world, create hope in society and on top set an example of fairness and equal opportunity where one crazy passionate entrepreneur can change the world and create wealth without resorting to all dirty underbelly tricks of capitalism. Hence I am not only proud of this career but am rather a staunch worshipper at the altar of this VC world which continues to dream big and aim big.
However as I pound the street raising my next fund with a good track record of success and failure, I have much time caught myself wondering about the big goals which drive me and the question which I ask all founders as what keeps me awake in the night. The fact of matter is that the biggest problem which haunt me are no longer next big idea in e-commerce, deep learning, possibilities in B2B space or consumption but rather the large and real problems of declining forest cover, sad state of water / sanitation, environment, polluted & choked rivers / ocean and our ever declining bad air which we are breathing in and out.
Having set up an NGO (SAVEN) to protect environment at age of 18 in 1990s, I probably feel more strongly about it but despite all my hope, energy and commitment, fact of the matter is I am not doing anything real about it and much worse is that all of us who can do something, are busy and excited about bitcoin prices, next food delivery company or doctor discovery app while (secretly) hoping somebody else to appear and save us from the coming catastrophe.
The existing scenario of supercharged investors, euphoric entrepreneurs, and the orgasmic environment was best captured by Adam Smith in supermoney.
“We are all at a wonderful ball where the champagne sparkles in every glass and soft laughter fall upon the summer air. We know, by the rules, that at some moment the Black Horsemen will come shattering through the great terrace doors, wreaking vengeance and scattering the survivors. Those who leave early are saved, but the ball is so splendid no-one wants to leave while there is still time, so that everyone keeps asking, “What time is it? What time is it?” But none of the clocks have any hands.”– From Supermoney by Adam Smith.
Today one doesn’t need to be a climate scientist to figure out that environment is in deep peril. Oceans are silent, choked by plastic. Air is nothing but smog. Poverty is very well alive and kicking and pesticides have infiltrated every food system. However, the response from all of us is more on a confused state where people look at leaders and leaders look at politicians and who only look at short-term voters.
The fact is that we need to solve this problem our selves as it is too important a problem to leave to others and hope for others to solve. Hence at this juncture of my life when I have the luxury to choose, and the choice is available so my thought is as to why I am not solving this and the fundamental question comes as if not now then when, if not us then who?
As humans, we have created challenges for Nature by housing, transportation, and food and now in turn chickens are coming home and we are staring at these big challenges. I believe that if we are able to drive talent, money & networks to solve complex problems, we shall be able to solve them. Google Driverless cars are such an example. To start with, we are looking at opportunities in Agriculture, Electric Vehicles & Storage, Pollution (Air, Water, Plastics), Renewable energy, Sustainable housing, Water & Sanitation and aiming to solve them by using science, technology, and venture capital thinking of scale and disruption.
Hence time has come for me to say goodbye to regular venture investing space and say hello to Massive challenges, Massive efforts and Massive opportunities.