Sandeep is the glue at Lightbox. Having pulled together the team over the last five years, he’s the one responsible for keeping the machine moving as one.
As an early investor in InMobi and InfoEdge, two of India's billion dollar technology companies, Sandeep Murthy is one of the builders of India's Internet economy. And he hasn't just seen the highs and lows play out as an investor, but actually roughed it out in operational roles including one as the CEO of Cleartrip in 2006 for three years.
A dreamer from the start, who doesn’t believe in choosing between “this or that” he did his undergrad in both business and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Like all good Penn grads he dove into investment banking. However, since it was the height of the dot.com boom, he did it a little differently by moving out to Palo Alto, California to join CSFB Technology Group.
After teaming up with a friend to build a digital music company that was incubated by Sony Music – 10 years too early. He ended up selling the company to Sony after the Internet bubble burst. After a few years of living the Bay Area dream, he moved to New York to join InterActive Corp (IAC) the owners of Expedia, TicketMaster, Home Shopping Network where he helped launch Gifts.com. He started to explore the India technology opportunity and ultimately moved to Mumbai to manage investments for Sherpalo Ventures, a fund based out of Menlo Park in California.
Sandeep has raised over $400M from leading investors. His most recent investments include Droom, Faasos, Furlenco and AI-platform Embibe, which got a $185MM investment commitment from Reliance, India's internet super power. This is the largest AI investment in edtech any where in the world.
In a somewhat unpredictable market, Sandeep’s investment success stems from a combination of deep product instinct and unconventional thinking, that has been the basis of all his investments — from pre-revenue startups to multi-billion-dollar businesses.
Most of his time is spent figuring how to make something unprecedented happen. With an all-in, nothing-held-back style, he loves diving in, getting to the heart of a matter, trying new things and getting as many people involved as possible. This approach helps to find multiple solutions: some surprising, others straightforward. If you want to hear some stories of what it takes to build a consumer technology company in India, just pull up a chair and buckle up... it’s been a rocket of a ride.
What does failure mean to you?
Failure is a painful learning opportunity, without which, success would never be as sweet.
What’s your superpower?
Which is your favourite city in the world?
Welligama on the southern coast of Sri Lanka… great waves, cool beach shacks and amazing people
Favourite books this year
AI superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee and Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen
If you weren’t a venture capitalist, you’d be..
As citizens of our planet we all need to be worried about what fashion is doing to our world. The fashion industry is considered to be the second most polluting industry globally. Bombay Shirt Company is synonymous with custom shirts. and going forward they have the opportunity to build a personalized men’s lifestyle platform that is financially and environmentally better. Technology will be central to facilitating this evolution with data being a key driver to understanding customer preference.Read More
Chronic patients have no source of reliable information or network to rely on to help them manage their diseases. Doctors are short on time and pharmacies operate like dispensaries, dolling out pills alongside shampoo and mosquito patches. This is where Generico steps in. Generico currently runs a network of 40 pharmacies. These pharmacies sell pills but also provide a suite of preventive health services that give patients the solutions to managing their conditions.Read More
Experiment, fail, learn and repeat. Try things at a small scale and at a low cost, and quickly assess if they work or not and then take a call on what is worth scaling up. The experiments should either stop or continue based on consumer feedback.Read More
Entrepreneurs and investors are jointly trying to imagine and create a new world. There is no straight line to this process… it is a series of assumptions and iterations – a process of Experiment, Fail, Learn, Repeat.Read More
What started off as a simple goal to make the world a better place has turned into a race to make it happen within a certain time. Once you are sure about that, take a deep breath and get ready to jump on the treadmill, because it will definitely be an exciting run.Read More
Handling a downturn has little to do with what you do when the downturn starts, but more to do with how you built during the boom. At the start of a downturn, if you’re asking “What do I do now?” it’s probably too late.Read More
Sandeep Murthy talks to Abha Bakaya on Bloomberg TV about building sustainable businesses that can weather inevitable downturns in the economy. By optimising business operations and putting frugality at the heart of the company, a startup can accelerate faster during up-cycles.Read More
In this investment we are doing our small part in affecting the consumption patterns of our society. Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson claims the earth can support 10 billion people – a number others predict may be hit by 2100.Read More
Taylor Swift demonstrates that while Spotify has 40MM users, she has a direct connection with 46.3M followers, known as the Taylor Nation. As a brand, her direct connection with people is so strong that she controls the balance of power in the distribution chain. This is a very strong statement and a real truth that all distribution businesses will quickly need to come to terms with.Read More
Tech companies are nothing without growth. The real value creation will take place in companies that are able to demonstrate differentiated growth by taking advantage of the imminent technology boom (a result of the explosion in data & apps).Read More
Those that make it through are not unscathed – they have battle wounds. The challenges of the first year take their toll… emotionally, organizationally, culturally. While the first year has likely felt like a sprint, it is important to remember that this is a marathon and it is impossible to continue to run a marathon at a sprint pace.Read More
It’s really hard, but so powerful. The "hack" culture of Facebook or the "do no evil" approach of Google or the "respect everyone" culture of the Mahindras. It is amazing to see what great things can be accomplished when a founder drives core values effectively through an organization.Read More
Hitendra and I discovered this opportunity through an iterative set of conversations that took place prior to funding the business. It was this deep engagement and exchange of ideas, even before there was an economic incentive that allowed for a strong relationship with an open exchange of ideas to develop.Read More
It’s not the size of the Indian market but the immensity of the aspiration across income levels that businesses need to take into account. Products that deliver aspiration at value bargains is where the game gets exciting.Read More