Priya began her venture career at Microsoft, where she was a founding member of the M12 venture fund. After Microsoft, she joined the Mayfield Fund as a partner, focusing on software investments. At SBIA, Priya specializes in growth-stage investments at the intersection of software and consumer technology. She graduated from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
What were your early years like?
I was born in the Southern part of India, in Chennai. When I was two months old, my family moved to Nigeria where we stayed until I was five years old. Then between the ages of 5 and 12, we moved to 12 different countries for my dad’s job.
While it sounds exciting as an adult, it was quite challenging as a kid – every time I made a new best friend, we’d have to move again. However, being exposed to a plethora of different cultures and personalities equipped me with the superpower of connecting with anyone and appreciating their individuality.
I’m grateful for that superpower as it’s proven to be quite useful as an investor. At the growth stage, in particular, anyone can invest in metrics. But what’s even more exciting – and ultimately more important – is investing in the people behind the numbers.
What made you decide to head down this particular career path?
Because I moved around so much as a kid and had to reinvent myself everywhere we went, I’ve always loved the idea of creating something out of nothing. That’s what entrepreneurs do. They’re passionate about solving a problem, and they create something of immense value that solves that problem.
I also think there’s nothing more noble than quitting stability in pursuit of changing the status quo. Most founders have very stable jobs. By quitting those jobs, they’re putting everything at risk to follow their passion and create something out of nothing. To me, it’s fascinating to back risk-taking, futuristic entrepreneurs — and I’m very fortunate to be able to do that.
When you look at the opportunities out there right now, what gets you most excited?
I love the breadth of our platform, which enables me to make bets on category-defining software and consumer companies that transform the way we work, interact with one another, and live our lives.
On the software side, I’m especially interested in solutions that digitize old-school, manual processes that business professionals used to do with pen, paper, Excel, and a bunch of phone calls.
On the consumer side, I love identifying broad trends that will fundamentally change consumer behavior over the next decade, and then working backwards to see what types of entrepreneurs and companies are going after those problems.
What do you like most about working with your colleagues at SBIA?
I’ve never been at a place where people think as large as they do at SoftBank. The fundamental appetite for risk — measured, calculated risk — and the ability to look beyond the obvious is truly unparalleled here.
When you look at the size of a market and how large an opportunity can be, there’s an obvious mathematical answer. And then there’s a creative answer where you have to expand your mind in different ways to think about exactly what something could become. That’s what I see in every single person I work with at SBIA. And it’s pushed me to think bigger and adjust my approach to evaluating investment opportunities.
What should founders expect when they work with you?
The founders I’ve worked with see me as a confidante — someone they can turn to when they have exceeded all their targets, but more importantly when something terrible happens, which is inevitable at every startup. I take a lot of pride in that.
I’m also incredibly collaborative, and I have a deep appreciation for where the founders are coming from, their mission, and the problem they’re trying to solve.
What’s one value or principle you will never compromise?
Integrity. In this industry, your reputation is what helps you win deals and add value to companies. So if you say a bunch of great things and don’t deliver, it’s going to come back to bite you very quickly. The entrepreneurs I work with can count on me to do exactly what I say I’m going to do, and to always take the moral high ground.
Has there been a particular mentor who has helped shape your career?
One of the reasons I joined SBIA is because of Nagraj Kashyap. I worked with Nagraj at Microsoft when he was the head of M12, and now I’ve reunited with him here.
If you’re lucky in your career, you find people who are unabashed champions of you, and people you completely trust. That’s the relationship I have with Nagraj. I also appreciate the way he evaluates startups, the way he truly partners with entrepreneurs, and the humility that he brings to every interaction. I sincerely appreciate the low-ego, collaborative and intellectually honest culture he brings forward, and I’ve tried to adapt the best parts of his style into my own over time.