In this connected world…we must disconnect every now and then.

May 27, 2013

It is sometimes nice to simply disconnect. It is sometimes nice to be in the woods, by the lake, staring at turtles swimming idly or frogs jumping through puddles. To hear humming birds and to stop and look around when a woodpecker begins its furiously paced pecking. To breathe deep and feel fresh air mixed with wooden scents going through our nasal passages.

I did that today with my two young children. They are 4.5 and 2.5 and we visited the Wellfleet Nature Sanctuary at the Cape Cod. This was their first hike in the woods. We picked up little sticks along the way to move leaves away, recognized poison ivy and learnt to stay away from it, listened to birds chirping/feeding all around us in the trees, ran after butterflies feasting on flowers, stared bullfrogs in their eyes as they came out of the pond, and my daughter is convinced she saw a wolf from far (God bless their imagination!). While we dis this we did not check emails, make calls, answer texts, or worry about what we would do for the rest of the day. And my children didn’t have to call me twice to get my full attention. We walked, talked, laughed, held hands, and held slimy frogs in our hands. All in all just a perfect day! I can’t wait to do more of the same again.

A new chapter in my life – investing in our future.

May 9, 2013

New-BeginningsI spent much of the day yesterday with Salman Khan of Khan Academy, walking around the MIT campus and at events geared towards raising awareness and funds for his amazing effort to democratize education for all people of the world.  It was nice for both of us to walk around the campus where we not only got educated and ‘grew up’, but also found our spouses and some life-long friends. At one point in his talk at MIT Sal said “I am having the time of my life. I am pursuing my passions”. I could not agree with him more. As an entrepreneur and an investor, I have been privileged to be able to do the same for the last 10 years of my life. A new chapter in that life begins today as I announce starting June I will join Lux Capital as a partner in their Palo Alto office to continue to do what I am passionate about: investing in our future.

Lux Capital is a NYC and Palo Alto based venture capital firm focused on founding, seeding and making early stage investments in emerging technologies. I have known Lux for many years, we have co-invested together in the past, and have spent a lot of time learning from each other about ideas, innovations and themes that would be considered extra-ordinary even for our innovative times. My partners at Lux – Josh, Peter, Rob and Adam – are entrepreneurs at heart who share my mission to partner with great entrepreneurs early to help them build great companies. As friends I have found them to be humble and genuinely nice people, and as professional colleagues I find them intellectually curious, rigorous and honest – ready to roll up their sleeves and do what it takes to help entrepreneurs achieve their successes. I am excited that with their help, and with the help of the rest of the awesome Lux team, I will be able to focus on identifying and leading early stage investments across Energy, Technology and Healthcare sectors.

We are living in extra-ordinary times where innovation is happening at an unbelievable pace across so many different disciplines. During the last 15 years that I have spent on academic campuses and then in the startup world I have witnessed ground-breaking work happening in areas such as genetics/genomics, synthetic biology, materials science, data analytics, informatics, communication and energy/climate sciences. As stated above, I want to invest in and build our future, utilizing breakthroughs across science/engineering disciplines, and not just software engineering, and coupling with business and marketplace innovations. I want to partner with entrepreneurs that are tackling big problems in commercially interesting ways. New materials, 3D printing, robotics, internet of things, sensing/imaging, big data, genomics, personal health, security, wearable computing, energy/cleantech and other areas…possibilities are endless. And Lux has a proven track record to think differently and invest in unconventional areas. With a new $245m fund, and now with a new partner, we are ready to double-down.

I have spent the last 15 years of my life in Boston and the transition to California will not be easy. But I also know I will keep coming back here to invest time and again. I continue to believe Boston is one of the most fertile grounds for innovation and startup talent. It has some of the world best universities, a self-replenishing student cohort that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world, and a thriving startup ecosystem in IT, energy and healthcare. General Catalyst is a great bi-coastal firm and I am sure we will continue to partner together on ambitious projects in the future as well. I want to thank GC for teaching me what I know of the VC business, and especially Hemant, Joel, David, Larry and others who have been great mentors and friends. Most importantly, I want to thank all the founders, CEOs, CTOs and other people in GC companies that I have invested in and been a part of at GC. You are heroes and no doubt will change the world! I will also stay involved as a co-founder and advisor to the ‘baller’ students at and StartLabs. They make me proud.

I am humbly embarking on this journey of investing in big, bold ideas, and backing great entrepreneurs who are not shy to take on challenges worth committing 10+ years of their lives to. I am not looking to make momentum investments, but as my partners say, we want to invest in spaces where when we win, we win big!  I grew up in a middle class family in a relatively poor country. If anything I do can impact those billions of people who have even less than people around me growing up had, I will feel I did a good job. I have lots to learn and I look forward to this new chapter… students make their first investment in a student startup

March 5, 2013

Jack is an initiative that my partners Nitesh Banta, Peter Boyce and I started last year to provide the kind of unhindered financial and other support to student entrepreneurs that we would have wanted when we were students. is a student partnership that invests in brilliant student entrepreneurs in the Greater Boston area colleges and universities.

I am proud that the partnership has announced its first investment. It is in a company called Balbus, founded by a Tufts junior Jack McDermott. John Brennan, one of the student partners at who led the investment along with the rest of the team, has more to say about the investment on blog (and read Jack’s blog post on this announcement here). But it is no doubt exactly the kind of projects that we envisioned backing when all this began.

Over my few years of investing I have come to learn that some of the best entrepreneurs are maniacally product driven. They don’t get into startups because its ‘cool’ or ‘sexy’, but because they simply can’t avoid thinking about a problem they want to solve and then drive hard to bring those products to market. Jack is that kind of an entrepreneur.

He is building a platform to help people with disabilities, learning and developmental disorders. His first set of products focused on speech therapy and already has apps out that thousands of people have downloaded paying him $5-30 per download. He is personally passionate about this space and frankly, would have kept working on this regardless of whether made the investment or not. But with the investment, he can possibly go bigger, better, and faster.

I was lucky to be in the room when Jack pitched the partnership. Most entrepreneurs who pitch generally have demos they show either in the middle or at the end of their presentation. There was this defining moment when Jack started to stutter a bit while speaking and calmly pulled out his phone, turned on an app, put on his ear phones and kept talking, this time without nearly as much stutter. He didn’t flinch for a second while the rest of us went into this deep ‘whoa!’ moment because we noticed how much his speech/stutter improved in real-time as he used his app. There is no better demo than to be the demo yourself. partnership has high aspirations. They want to help student entrepreneurs in as many ways as they can. I am sure they will soon have other investments to announce as well, but they are also extremely active on campuses across the Greater Boston area. Find them at hackathons bringing pizza or espresso, or at college demo days cheering for you. Nitesh and I, on behalf of General Catalyst, are so proud of the team: John, Ryan, Ned, Delian, Emma, Zach and Peter! Onwards and upwards for this awesome student talent that Boston should be so so proud of.

Gun violence and a father’s pledge!

December 16, 2012

I could not run home fast enough this past Friday after hearing what happened at the Sandyhook Elementary School in Connecticut. I felt like crying every time I stopped to think about it. But I contained my emotions. I wanted to hug my kids so much, and so tight. And then, when my two kids, my wife and I were having dinner, my 2 year old joked about something, we all laughed, and then I could not hold my tears back any longer. I cried. I cried like a baby. In front of my kids. And my wife had to plead with me to stop because my kids were confused and getting scared. There were 20 parents and 6 other families that night that also cried. And none of us can even imagine their pain and sorrow.

It’s taken me an entire weekend playing with the kids, and celebrating an early holiday gift opening, to recover and to be able to digest my own feelings about guns in our society.

I did not grow up in this country, but I know the gun culture better than an average American because I grew up in a city that has seen more than any city’s fair share of gun violence and death.

I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan in the 80’s, right after the Afghan civil war erupted next door, and the city got inundated with guns and klashnikovs. Where I grew up, guns were like marijuana – you knew where to find one easily if you wanted one. In some ways my innocence was taken away early in school as I remember hunkering down under the benches in my class while members of the rival political parties shot AK-47s and TT revolvers at each other in our play yard. Yeah I am not joking. Go look up Karachi violence in the 80s and early 90s. The society I grew up in had become so immune to guns that when a fellow high schooler dropped a semi-automatic gun on the class floor, the kid sitting in front of him just picked it up and handed it back before the teacher could see it. No questions asked.

So I have seen what an abundance of guns does to a city and to a people. Dozens of people are killed in that city every day now in gun violence. Yes, every day. Karachiites live in fear, and those who have the heaviest weapons and armed guards, live in the worst state of panic. Young girls are gunned down for speaking about wanting to attend school, and businessmen are routinely killed if they don’t close their businesses when a strike is called. Robbers showed my brother a gun at a traffic stop to snatch his phone and wallet, and one of his friend’s got arrested recently because he was found carrying a gun that had been gifted to him by his political party leadership.

So when I read arguments from the pro-gun lobby in the USA, esp in the light of this Friday’s massacre, I am not only angered, but also deeply deeply saddened. I have seen this story played out and the end is not fun. The high school I attended in Karachi now has armed guards at its entrance gates, the mosque I prayed all my childhood now has snipers posted on the roof, and many relatives and friends can now travel outside their fortified residences only when accompanied by armed guards. And it’s not just due to criminal and terrorist plots. I have seen a sub-machine gun pulled out even when some rich bastard’s luxury car got into an accident with a poor guy’s taxi and the argument got over-heated.

Guns kill people. They are built to do that and the only reason they are manufactured now. And those people killed mercilessly can be young children and teachers too, like those in that school in CT, whose lives were taken for no fault of theirs. Those who died are now gone, and as someone who has seen plenty of people die on the streets in Karachi, let me tell you…it’s not those who die that hurt. They likely go to a paradise unknown to the rest of us. But it is their loved ones who are left with an empty bed, memories and a sorrow that would never go away. They hurt for the rest of their lives.

I can’t even imagine what parents of those 20 kids went through. But I know I would be a destroyed man if I was one of them. I have not done enough in the past to jump into the gun debate, but that changed this Friday. I won’t stay quiet or disengaged. My 2 year old, my 4 year old, and all other kids expect and deserve better from me. I pledge to fight NRA, politicians and anybody else who supports easy access to guns in our society. Join me, listen to your conscience, and do what’s right for our society.

Fuck guns! — Students catalyzing student startups

December 12, 2012

Roughdraft.vcBoston is a very special place with approximately 60+ colleges and universities, 300,000+ students, and a long history of significant companies started by students or student drop-outs from Boston area universities. If there is one thing everyone agrees on is the sheer wealth of student talent that comes from across the country to reside in this short few square mile radius region. Boston is proud of its students founding Microsoft, Facebook, Hubspot, Stripe, iRobot and so many others.

Over the last few years, Boston has seen a renaissance in startup activity, thanks to the efforts of players in the local startup ecosystem: entrepreneurs, angels, VCs, incubators, accelerators etc. But given how many universities and colleges we have in Boston, we should be seeing even more amazing student startups form and prosper than we have seen. We asked students from MIT, Harvard, BU, Northeastern, Tufts, BC, Babson etc, what would be most beneficial to students who were thinking about startups.  And we consistently heard that in addition to continued mentorship, what student community here was really needing was a way to secure early initial investment to get their ideas launched into real world products. At General Catalyst, we were a bit surprised that in spite of the increase in the number of investors, students were having a hard time finding early support. But it is clear to us now that for student entrepreneurs, especially in Boston, finding the first few thousand dollars is even more challenging than raising the next $500k-1 million seed round, and while students hackers are able to turn their ideas into rough product drafts while still enrolled in school, most of them run out of the steam (read: dollars) needed to implement them in a form where they can be tested in the real world. Even the scrappiest of students need money to buy some IPADs for development, running design competitions, hiring part-time expert help, and paying rent during vacation periods. Seemingly trivial barriers can sometimes seem overwhelming for students with a full class load and attractive internship & job offers from other companies.

I can also personally empathize with that need. My first startup business plan (ed-tech for global higher education) died inside a power-point presentation because as a student I did not have the initial few thousand dollars it would have taken to develop a pilot to test in a university I had been working with. But my second startup (materials science) was able to get off the ground because I was able to secure $20k to pay back to my management consulting employer that had given me a signing bonus. A small investment changed my life. Given that history I really wanted to help bring to students what they were so clearly asking us to provide.

I am proud to announce today that my firm General Catalyst Partners has decided to fund and support, a student partnership from across the Greater Boston area colleges, that will fund student startups at the earliest stages to turn students’ rough projects into products and companies. The investment committee is composed of dynamic students from several local colleges and universities, and these are highly networked, passionate and driven individuals that have already demonstrated an ability to catalyze startup ecosystems in their own college environments. This partnership will identify student entrepreneurs they would like to fund and will make the investment decisions. The investment will be made on simplest possible terms, and there will be no follow-on funding from

This team has already enlisted an amazing set of Advisors and a group of experienced engineering, design, business, sales/marketing, legal & other mentors to provide support to student entrepreneurs. I really believe that this group can catalyze the next generation of great Boston student startups to build products and grow their businesses regardless of their eventual geographical location. While I am proud to also serve on the investment committee, my primary role will be to guide, advise, and mentor these young investors, rather than influence the investment decisions.

Many of my partners at General Catalyst also started their first businesses when they were still in college, and as a firm, we have invested in many student startups that have been among some of our best investments, e.g. HubSpot, Stripe, WarbyParker, Visible Measures, Locu, etc. This is near and dear to our hearts. We are proud of our long association with the Boston area college/university eco-system, and we look forward to continuing our support of the next generation of student entrepreneurs, now also via If you are a student or a student team, working on a rough draft of a product, I hope you will reach out to the partnership at, and find yourself a great first investor and partner. team photo below:


MIT Startup Bootcamp: story of a student-led effort that kicks ass!

October 9, 2012

StartLabs.orgI attended the annual Startup Bootcamp at MIT yesterday. It was the best thing I could possibly have done on the Columbus Day holiday. Kudos to the amazing group of students at StartLabs who put on the show. If you missed it, visit their website and you can watch the recording.

I have been attending the Startup Bootcamp for the past several years since Michael Grinich started it as an undergrad student, and have been fortunate to be among its sponsors. It is always an energizing experience. Tons of raw student talent in the audience listening intently to founder stories from some of the most well known names in the startup land. Founders of DropBox, Stripe, Kayak, HubSpot, Digg, Reddit, A123, Equallogic/DataGravity, FourSquare, Github, Quora etc have all spoken there.

But what is most interesting for me is that they don’t give canned speeches touting their company. Its almost as though they show extra respect to the technical/nerdy/startup audience and provide a real insight into how they built what they sit on. Startup Bootcamp speakers tell the real story of how their startups happened, and what they were like before we learnt about them on TechCrunch or NY Times. Founders may be mission-focused and insanely insightful, but the founding of a company event is usually surrounded by uncertainty, risks, humility, and often unsolicited advice at a time of near poverty. Best startups often don’t have elaborate business plans, or if they do, they are modified overnight as new information validates or refutes assumptions. I love hearing about this early part of the startup journey – when there are no image consultants, adult supervision, or financial backers to help create a story that would sell well. Student entrepreneurs are also, I imagine, most influenced when they can relate to a successful person.

Yesterday’s event was special and I hope you will get to watch at least some of the videos. I loved the practicality of advice from Brett van Zuiden who is still early in building his company, Christine Corbett’s talk from her heart on why she built her company after a personal episode, Paula Long on leading with your strengths (in her case, an engineer founder/CEO), and Leah Busque on taking advice whenever and however you can find it. I happen to be on the Advisory Board of StartLabs and cannot but feel proud of their student leadership that also kept its promise of making sure 50% of the speakers were women. They brought on some powerful women speakers and founders. As a bonus, I also got to see a group of MIT students play Quidditch outside. Only at MIT :).

Congrats, StartLabs. And onwards to your mission of creating the next generation of technical entrepreneurs!

The EnergyMakers Show

September 20, 2012

Paul Dickerson, former COO of Department of Energy’s EERE program, is a friend and a strong supporter of advanced energy for the USA. Paul has been active in this field for a long time and I am glad that his voice has been heard all the way from Texas to Washington D.C.

Paul has been hosting a regular local TV show called The EnergyMakers. I was recently in Houston for a Cleantech conference and Paul asked if I would be able to join him for a few minutes to be interviewed on the show. It was a pleasure to join Paul, to do the recording, and to just catch up on what exciting stuff each of us was seeing in our respective circles.

Here is that show’s recording. You can watch me talking about General Catalyst’s background as an entrepreneur focused firm, some of our global energy related investments, how we see ourselves as partners to early stage entrepreneurs, and some themes that I am currently most interested in. The edited version appears to be some what of a commercial for us, but maybe of interest to you.


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