Gowri brings a deep experience as a leader in payments innovation to his work with the Vision Fund. He was previously a product lead with Apple Pay and VP of Product Management with MasterCard. His current role at the Vision Fund is focused on delivering operational support to the portfolio’s fintech companies.
Who has been the greatest influence in your professional life?
I was born into a middle-class family in India. While all of my friends’ parents wanted their kids to be doctors or engineers, my father always said that he wanted me to be as smart as the kids on the street who sold vegetables all day. I finally asked him why he didn’t want me to aim higher. He said: “Those kids set their prices each day, based on what the market will bear. They negotiate with their financiers each morning. They don’t just sell vegetables, they run their market.” The idea that the market is something that can be understood and mastered has been a huge influence.
What guiding principles do you bring to your work?
Before joining the Vision Fund I was at Apple, and I was really inspired by their culture of focus. It’s one of the world’s largest companies but they’re focused on doing a relatively small number of things exceptionally well. When you work with really smart people who have a lot of good ideas that kind of focus is especially important. You realize that you need to say no to most ideas—even some really brilliant ones—to be able to say yes to the right ideas at the right time. It’s about getting very clear on your core mission and letting that lead the way.
You've spent time at both Apple and Mastercard. How do those experiences inform your work with founders?
With Mastercard, it’s all about scale. Our goal was to leverage their vast acceptance networks by establishing standards to make new digital payment products interoperable with existing products. At Apple, it was about creating products and features that I would want to use myself. It was about the big impact of getting the smallest details right. I think that founders need to be able to think like Mastercard and like Apple, and hopefully my experience with both will help.
Each of the founders you work with is different. Is there a common thread that unites them?
Yes, they all have a clear sense of purpose and an intense passion for their work. You need to have both to navigate the kinds of risks that come with building a groundbreaking business. For entrepreneurs, there’s always a temptation to take the safe path, and that’s fine as far as it goes. But if you want to build solutions and technology that can actually change people’s lives, you need to reject consensus decision-making. That ability is what sets the founders we work with apart from the rest.
What gets you the most excited about your work?
I love that there are no global barriers. My focus is on fintech, especially payments and commerce, and there’s limitless opportunity in that space right now. Imagine making a cross-border remittance in real time, or using mobile technology to provide financial services to an underbanked consumer in India, or serving a digitally savvy consumer in Europe who wants the simplicity and transparency that comes from an open banking platform. Each of these scenarios requires its own distinct set of solutions. Each is a tremendous opportunity—and those are just a few examples of all the different opportunities out there right now.