10 Questions w/ Arvind Gupta— Partner @ Mayfield Fund
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Arvind Gupta co-leads Mayfield’s Human & Planetary Health practice whose mission is to invest in science based companies that could change history. Ranging from reinventing our food system to stopping climate change to novel therapeutics, Arvind was the first investor in breakout companies such as Geltor, Synthex, Prime Roots, NotCo, New Culture, DNA Lite, Catalog, Prellis, & Memphis Meats.
As Founder of IndieBio, Arvind redefined the pace and possibilities of early stage biotech, investing in over 136 companies in five years, defining human and planetary health, and growing the IndieBio portfolio into billions of dollars in value. Under his leadership, IndieBio expanded to New York and grew to fifteen investment professionals with a world renowned adjunct partner board. He now serves as Venture Advisor at IndieBio.
Arvind is the author of Decoding the World: A Roadmap for the Questioner, published by Twelve Books, a division of the Hachette Publishing Group. He was honored with the F50 Global Award for Impact in HealthTech Innovation. He is a frequent speaker at TechCrunch Disrupt, Slush, TedX and Future FoodTech. His work has been profiled in global media outlets such as Bloomberg News, Forbes, The Guardian UK, Neo.life, Nikkei News, Rotman, The Times of India, and CGTN in China. Arvind has been a guest lecturer at UCSF, MIT and Harvard and is a judge at the annual BIO conference startup stadium.
Prior to founding IndieBio, Arvind was Design Director at IDEO in Shanghai where he earned numerous international design awards and presented his work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He was also a BASE jumper and big wall climber and now fights professional grappling.
Arvind is married to an Icelander and has two daughters.
Arvind received his B.S. in Genetic Engineering from UCSB. He holds 8 patents.
We sat down with Arvind Gupta to ask his viewpoints on everything from top founder portfolio traits, seeking mentorship, to advice on preparing for fundraising…
What are the top 3 common traits of founders in your portfolio?
“- They are mission-driven to get to market
- They see the problem they are solving as a global injustice they are driven to eliminate
- They put the company and their teams before themselves”
How does your investment criteria change in a recessionary environment?
“ It doesn’t. History making problems do not come and go with economic cycles, nor do history making entrepreneurs. However, funding amounts and milestones need to be adjusted for a longer runway (at least 24–36 months) with a clear value inflection point achieved.”
How has your worldview evolved since you first started your VC career?
“ My venture career started by proving that scientists can become entrepreneurs, and that they would have the insights and ability to solve big problems through batch-based teaching. Now the joy of venture is in having the time and focus to help a small number of founders build iconic companies through the sum of my life’s experience and network.”
Outside of operating experience & higher education, what is one seemingly random thing you look for in a founder’s background?
“The founder has achieved excellence in an unrelated interest area.”
Outside of investing, what is one seemingly random activity that helps make you a better VC?
“MMA and submission grappling. It teaches me humility and patience.”
What has been the most helpful piece of advice you received throughout your career as a venture capitalist?
“Take risk, take ownership, and take responsibility for your investment.”
As an early stage investor, we often pick companies whose directions change. Can you talk about pivoting vs. staying the course?
“Product market fit is learned, not divined. Pivoting is a way of finding product market fit through experience. In capex heavy companies, the key is to find ways of discovering PMF without incurring heavy costs. Great founder-product fit results in fewer pivots. This is why we at Mayfield back people first, markets second.”
As a founder building something new in the world, you are often in need of knowledge you don’t possess. How would you recommend founders go about seeking mentorship?
“Find the best people in your field and surround yourself with them. Learn from their experiences. Become their friends. Life is not a transaction and mentorship isn’t either. Great mentor relationships come from two-way streets of inspiration.”
How does your evaluation process change when it comes to backing first-time vs. repeat founders?
How do you advise founders in your portfolio to prepare ahead of time for future fundraises?
“Show the big vision and how an iconic company will be created, demonstrate the value created in this round through execution, outline the value creation milestones in the next round, and finally, emphasize the world class team you are building to get you there. Demonstrate quality and excellence in every dimension, with every interaction.”
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