The son of an Indian immigrant and a Brooklyn-born mother, Ravi Mhatre lived in four different states and on three different continents before turning 18. This, he says, allowed him to interact with diverse personalities and experience the world from different perspectives. But it’s only one of the elements that have contributed to his success. A founding member of the firm, Ravi has dedicated his life to hard work and hard tech. At Stanford, he earned a BS in electrical engineering, a BA in economics, and an MBA. Before entering venture capital, he ran a product management group at Silicon Graphics, worked in management consulting at Booz Allen, and worked as a software engineer for BDIS, a Silicon Valley biotech instrument manufacturer.
How did you get started in this business?
I had a terrific mentor who really took me under his wing early in my career. At the time, I had no experience–he really had no reason to give me the opportunity. But he did, and I learned so much from him, but most importantly I learned that venture capital is where I wanted to spend my time and do my life’s work. I knew this was my destiny, and I was determined to build something. So, I got together with a few like-minded students from Stanford and never looked back. That was the beginning of Lightspeed.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Absolutely, in the beginning, there were many times when we weren’t sure if this was going to work. But you know, we saw the opportunity for what it could be, all of the success and positive impact we were going to make. We never sat around thinking about how terrible it could be if we failed. That wasn’t an option for us. I think that is what pushed us through the uncertain times and helped get us to where we are today.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
You are your best advertising tool. You cannot rely on referrals and your existing network and expect to grow your business. You have to do the work. This industry is built on networking. If you are looking to tap into a new sector but don’t have the connections – do the research, find the key players, and learn about those people. A fundamental value at Lightspeed is relationship building. We look for long-term partnerships, and founders who want to go on this journey with us.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think there are a lot of things that contribute to success. I think my story starts with my parents. They were both immigrants who came from humble beginnings. My mother had to work her way through school, and my father traveled to the US on a boat to chase the American dream. Both of my parents were educated and successful despite some of the challenges they faced along the way. I think they ingrained that determination and work ethic in me from day one. As I got older, I faced my own struggles. I didn’t necessarily feel like I belonged, you know I always felt like I truly fit in. Looking back, maybe it was that feeling that pushed me to work hard and be successful like I had something to prove. Now, looking specifically at what has made me successful in this industry. The best advice I can offer is you can never stop learning. Get mentors, and learn from as many people as you can. But learn not only by doing but by listening too, both are equally as important.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Technology and science, specifically in the areas of life science and computing and robotics, have me very excited right now, in addition to opportunities in blockchain and Web3. We’re at the very beginning of a new technology wave and just learning what that really is going to mean for the future of our world and for society. Think of what technology has allowed us to do in recent years that were seemingly impossible 20 years ago. COVID-19 is the perfect example. It would’ve taken 10 years to develop a vaccine to fight this virus not long ago. I know this is where the gains that are going to be made are going to be, so it’s worth investing.