Managing Partner, Americas
With a decades-long career in venture capital, Nagraj was most recently global head of M12, Microsoft’s venture fund. While there, he led investment in early stage enterprise software companies and spearheaded partnerships with organizations dedicated to increasing access to venture capital for women and members of underrepresented communities.
- Arkose Labs
- Cityblock Health
- Class Technologies
What first brought you to this line of work?
In a lot of ways, I'd describe myself as an accidental VC. I started out as a software engineer. I enjoyed that work, but came to realize that I wanted to be able to make a bigger strategic impact. So I returned to school, got my MBA, and became a consultant. I loved the variety that consulting allowed and the feeling that I was always learning something new, but I wanted to do more than offer advice. That's when I started to look at venture capital as a way to bring together that diversity of work and the excitement of problem solving with the potential to make a real difference for companies.
How has your investment career taken shape since then?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some exceptionally talented people, both at Qualcomm Ventures, which I founded and led for over a decade, and then at M12, Microsoft’s venture fund. I was able to provide early stage funding for CloudSimple (acquired by Google), Cooler Screens, Go1, Innovaccer, Kahoot! (KHOTF), Livongo (IPO, acquired by Teladoc), Outreach.io, Rescale, WorkBoard, and the first institutional seed round in Zoom (ZM). It’s an incredible thing to work closely with founders and help them build and then leverage mature corporate networks.
How would you describe your investment philosophy?
I look for investment opportunities that have the potential to make life better for the end customer, be it a consumer or an enterprise employee. For example, Go1 provides on-demand corporate training through a dynamic, content-driven platform. This service empowers employees with skill development and allows companies to upscale their workforces and retain their best talent. Ultimately, it improves the lives of everyone at the organization. I've done both consumer investing and enterprise investing, and I’ve discovered that they’re much more similar than you might think. It’s always about knowing who your customer is and understanding how a new technology or service is going to make a meaningful contribution to their lives.
What excites you about the work you're doing through SBIA?
I get to be part of an organization that helps companies build on their strengths faster and more effectively than we could have imagined, even just a few years ago. For me, the excitement of working at this scale is matched by the opportunity to unite the consumer and enterprise investing that I've done at different points in my career. I've been training all of my life for a job where I can bring all these pieces together, so this is a very exciting opportunity for me.
What guiding principles shape your work with founders?
I believe in providing founders with the space they need to do their best work. I'm not there to second-guess them. I want to establish the type of relationship where a founder is comfortable asking for help when they need it. Value alignment is also important. I want to work with founders who truly care for their employees. The way I see it, I can work with someone who already has a generous spirit and help them optimize their internal culture, but I can't instill virtue when it’s not there already.
What about when you're not working? What are your hobbies?
My friends joke that my hobby is travel planning! I have a wonderful family, and we love to travel together, especially to unusual places. I like to start planning trips well in advance. I've been known to book things a year before we leave. The idea is that we don't do the fancy hotels or tourist things—we do homestays. We spend time in the neighborhoods, where the locals live. I love getting to know a place through that perspective.