Note from NVCA: As part of NVCA’s VentureForward initiative, this ‘Spotlight on Rising Stars in VC’ blog series showcases individuals in the venture industry from different backgrounds and across the workforce to share experiences, spotlight their journeys and successes, and educate the next generation of people considering a career in venture capital.
Spotlight on Rising Stars in VC: Nikhil Basu Trivedi
Name: Nikhil Basu Trivedi
Location: I grew up in the United Kingdom, moved to the United States when I was a teenager, and currently live in San Francisco, which I think of as home today.
Years of VC experience: 8 years – 6 years at Shasta Ventures, 2 years at Insight Venture Partners.
Position description: I am a partner at Shasta Ventures, an early stage-focused venture capital firm with more than $1B under management. I focus on consumer businesses, looking for new investment opportunities, conducting due diligence on potential investments, and taking the lead on investments that are right for our firm to invest in. Currently, I am a board member or observer at several of our portfolio companies, including ClassDojo, Frame.io, Hinge, Imperfect Produce, Plays.tv, Tally, The Farmer’s Dog, and The Pill Club. I also led Shasta’s investments in Athelas, Atrium LTS, Color Genomics, Cover, FlyHomes, Kapwing, Let’s Do This, RDMD, and Second Measure.
Q. Who are a few of the individuals in the industry that have been the most critical to your professional journey?
My partners at Shasta Ventures have been fantastic mentors to me. I met Tod Francis, one of our firm’s co-founders, when I was still in college, and he made an instant impression on me as a uniquely kind and generous person who I’d love to work with some day. We kept in touch over several years, and he became my mentor well before he offered me the chance to join the Shasta investment team. I have learned a lot from my partners in my six years at Shasta – Jason Pressman and Ravi Mohan have really pushed me in my investment judgment, Rob Coneybeer has encouraged me to develop theses for new sectors and Doug Pepper has been a huge advocate for my instinct on entrepreneurs. Our culture of openness, excellence, and work-life balance has enabled me to thrive. I also have been mentored by my peers in venture capital, and by many of the entrepreneurs I work with. Founders like Sam Chaudhary of ClassDojo, Ben Simon of Imperfect Produce, and Jason Brown of Tally have proactively sought out my guidance on key decisions and have acted as references for me with prospective entrepreneurs. You need entrepreneurs who are equally willing to take a bet on you as you are with them – especially when you are early in your venture capital career.
Q. How did you get into the VC industry and what were some pivotal programs, events, and/or organizations that helped pave the way?
I learned about venture capital when I first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as a teenager from England. But my exposure to the industry came when I was in college. I re-started the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club in 2008 and began cold-reaching-out to venture capitalists to judge our events and help entrepreneurs on campus. I think of the club as my first entrepreneurial endeavor – one where I learned how to build an organization but also where I developed a great network (it was how I met my current partner at Shasta, Tod Francis, for instance!). I was also lucky to work on a few technology startups of my own in college. These projects, such as Artsy, gave me exposure to life inside of a tech company, and to the VC industry when we were looking for funding. Finally, everyone needs a lucky break to get their first job in venture, and mine came when Insight Venture Partners offered me a summer internship. I took that job and have never looked back.
Q. What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Looking back, I’m so glad I worked on my own ideas and entrepreneurial projects when I was in college. I would tell my younger self to keep doing that and to follow my interests, as well as to follow people I admire. I would also tell my younger self to not care as much about what other people think… you do you. Finally, take time to enjoy yourself. You only get to be a kid once, a teenager once, a college student once, and live your twenties once. These are the best times to have fun, make friends, and see the world.
Q. Which books, articles, podcasts, and/or reports would you recommend for someone interested in learning more about the work that you do?
Since the time when I started out as an entrepreneur ten years ago, and in venture capital eight years ago, there’s been an enormous amount published about our industry that makes it much easier to understand and much more transparent. A few of my favorite resources: Fred Wilson and Bill Gurley’s blogs, Paul Graham’s essays, the Twenty Minute VC podcast, and daily newsletters by StrictlyVC, Dan Primack (Axios), and Polina Marinova (Fortune Term Sheet).
Q. What qualities do you appreciate in the people you’ve worked with?
A few qualities that I appreciate in my colleagues at Shasta are openness, trust, and the encouragement of risk-taking and boldness. To succeed in venture capital, I believe you must possess all of these traits within your partnership. One key quality that I look for in founders I invest in is whether the business seems like it is their life’s work. The best entrepreneurs are hungry, incredibly driven to succeed, have a deeply rooted need to win, and can break through and around wall after wall to make their dreams reality.
Q. What impact do you hope to make on the venture capital industry?
Like everyone, I hope to become one of the best VCs ?. I hope I get to do this for many years and invest in a handful of generational companies in the process. But I also hope to do well by doing good. I get most excited about companies that are on a mission, like Imperfect Produce which is helping to fight food waste, or ClassDojo which is making every classroom a happier one (and thereby improving education), or The Pill Club which is democratizing access to healthcare for women. Finally, I hope to impact the industry by mentoring the next generation of investors, and in the process, have a hands-on role in increasing our industry’s diversity. We recently added Rachel Star and Natalie Sandman to the Shasta investment team and mentoring them has been very rewarding. I hope to give back to many more people as I grow in my career, and nothing would make me happier than seeing a mentee go on to become one of the best venture capitalists of her or his generation.