Shruti Gandhi, ’12

General Partner and Founding Engineer
Array Ventures

Shruti Gandhi

Shruti Gandhi is the general partner and founding engineer of Array Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund that focuses on solving pressing problems in large industries using data, AI, and ML. Gandhi has led investments in over 60 early stage companies with 6 exits to companies such as Apple, Paypal, ServiceNow, and The We Company. She has invested millions of dollars and backed many women and diverse founders led startups. Prior to Array she invested for True Ventures and Samsung Next Fund. She is an adjunct CS professor at Columbia University.

She is often featured on media such as TechCrunch, the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, the BBC, Forbes, VentureBeat, and USA TODAY

Gandhi credits her Booth education with teaching her the finance and entrepreneurship skills she needed to transition to a career in venture capital. She also has degrees in computer science from Columbia University and Marist College.  

Starr Marcello:

I am delighted to introduce Shruti Gandhi, Chicago Booth's 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award winner in the Young Alumni category. An alumni of the Booth Class of 2012, Shruti is the founder and managing partner of Array Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund that focuses on solving pressing problems in large industries using data, AI, and machine learning. Shruti has led investments in over 60 companies with six exits to firms like Apple, PayPal, ServiceNow, and The We Company. She has also invested millions of dollars in startups led by women and founders from diverse backgrounds. Prior to founding Array, she invested for True Ventures and the Samsung Next Fund. Shruti also holds degrees in computer science from Marist College, and Columbia University, where she also serves as an adjunct professor in the computer science department. She has been featured in the media in a number of outlets including TechCrunch, the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, the BBC, Forbes, VentureBeat, and USA Today. Congratulations Shruti and thank you for chatting with me today. So—

Shruti Gandhi:

Thank you so much, Starr. I'm so excited to have this opportunity. Yeah, thank you for doing this.

Starr Marcello:

Thank you. So let's just get started. Why don't you tell us a little bit about Array Ventures and your role as general partner and founding engineer?

Shruti Gandhi:

Array Ventures is a B2B SAAS enterprise fund. We like backing founders in their early journeys, as soon as they're thinking of starting a company, as they're leaving their jobs. Array comes in and helps them figure out how to get from what we call the 0 to 1 to 10 journey. When we invest there at 0—no revenue—we help them get to one million ARR. And then from there, we help them set up for a 10 million ARR journey, which is when all the work that is required around that around marketing, sales, and so forth gets happened. And then after that, we help them get to the following round of investors, usually all the top central firms such as Excel, Sequoia, Norwest, and others who followed on after us. So we're pretty focused in our thesis and in the market of where we belong. We believe that as I started my journey, I built and started a company, I wanted that help from a firm like ours and I thought I should go start one.

Starr Marcello:

Thank you. You commented on Booth. So I want to dive into that a little more. You've clearly made huge strides as a leader who is supporting women of color in an industry where women are highly underrepresented. I would love to hear more about your career path, the path that led you to Chicago Booth, and how the time that you spent at Chicago Booth shaped where you are today. So could you tell us a little bit about what experiences and groups played a role for you during your time here at Booth?

Shruti Gandhi:

Yeah, so first of all, I have to give a big shout out to Ellen Rudnick. Ellen, without Ellen, I wouldn't be at Booth. She has been formative in terms of how I got accepted. And also since then after that not only with the classes I took, the first class I took with her was the PE/VC lab which is where I ended up working at a local Chicago venture firm at that time was called I2A Ventures. I believe they're now called Chicago Ventures.

Starr Marcello:

Yeah.

Shruti Gandhi:

So that was my starting point. As someone would never even spend any time in venture capital before, that was an amazing opportunity for me to be able to go work at a firm and learn all the different pieces of what it means to be in a venture business. And then also in the classroom, discuss all that in a safe space and learn from experts, from classmates and my professors too about all the things that I was doing right or wrong. From there on, I worked at Lightbank as well. And that was an amazing time as well. Obviously at that time, Groupon was really, really on the up and working directly with Eric and Brad at Lightbank was also interesting experience.

In fact, one of the deals I actually helped bring on their radar, there I ended up doing that deal and eventually eight years later, I ended up backing that founder again at Array Ventures. So that is how, I guess, this world works. It's a long journey. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And those relationships you cultivate even at Booth and throughout your career are so valuable. And I can continue with the clubs. So then for example, I was a chair of the PE/VC club. And that was obviously how Starr, you and I interacted so much.

Starr Marcello:

Yeah.

Shruti Gandhi:

And I went in NVC and bugging you all the time. I think you were so amazing at just listening to all our raw ideas and helping us make sense of it. We were sitting in the Polsky Center and you guys were available. I remember so many of those conversations in your office about—even since then, after I graduated coming to your office and saying, "Hey, Starr, I'm starting a fund. Who should I talk to? How do you think I should think about this?" And then you would generously give your time to me. I mean, this is the power of being at Booth.

We're all independent thinkers and giving each other a fair chance, which is still important because when you were about to start something new, there are enough naysayers and enough people out there that look at you and say, "Come back after five years when you have enough experience." And that enough is never enough. But folks like you looked in my eye, including our professors like Steve Kaplan, Mark Tebbe, and so—and Waverly—and many others looked at me and said, "Look, I think you can do this. Here are all the downfalls, and here's why it wouldn't work. But if you do this right, I'm willing to back you." And that's what people did. So I think that's the power of our Booth network. And I can talk about more clubs and so forth, but I'll pause for now and yeah.

Starr Marcello:

Well, I appreciate those very kind words. And I think you inspired all of us as well with your ideas and with your commitment and your belief that you could go ahead and start a new fund and be successful. Your conviction is really inspiring. I want to go back to just one comment you made. And I feel I have to do this after spending 15 years working on the New Venture Challenge. You mentioned that this program for us has been recognized more recently as a leading startup accelerator in the United States. And we've seen many hundreds of companies come out of it. This year in particular is a special year for that program. We're celebrating the 25th anniversary of the NVC. And I am curious if you think back on your time—of course, we're going to talk a lot more about your time now as an investor—but the NVC of course really focuses on the founder and the founding experience and the connection with investors. I'm just curious if you have any reflections on your experience going through that program that would be inspiring for our alumni and also our students to hear?

Shruti Gandhi:

I was so scared. NVC was honestly a time of my life where I thought, you know, I was so scared to put my ideas out there especially in front of so many amazing investors that are out listening for you to pitch something that they could invest in. So when you're in NVC, it's live experience basically throughout as what you would be feeling and doing outside in the real world except the thing I learned halfway through is, they're not judging you. They want to help you. And that's the power of NVC. I remember people filling in forms with copious amount of details on what I should do better in my business model and things. And at that time, I could look at that and say, "Wow, this is scary." Or I could look at that and say, "Wow, these people want to help me." And that was a powerful thing I learned that impressed me so much that people are dedicating their time. They want to help me. And then they are taking the time.

I remember spending time with Mark, and I—These are some amazing successful people that are dedicating their time to someone like me and hundreds of students like me just without any expectation of something back. And that is what has actually helped me create one of the values at our firm, which has always helped people out regardless of their idea and the stage they're in because people in itself have potential that you can never see. Sometimes people amaze you and maybe the idea they're working on right now is not the best idea. That's okay. It's a relationship with the people that matter. And that's what I learned a lot at NVC and at Booth generally. So I don't... There's a lot more to it and the process is amazing as well and it kind of helps you think about every different part of your business, but these are some of the soft things I learned that I have to really—that I can take away for the rest of my life.

Starr Marcello:

Thank you. Yes, and hopefully, they've been helpful as you apply those values and those thoughts to your current firm. So I want to ask you something else sort of inspired by Booth. There is a neon sign in the halls here at the Harper Center that says, “Why are you here and not somewhere else?” And I'm curious to hear from you, what is your why, what do you seek to accomplish and what kind of impact are you looking to make in the world?

Shruti Gandhi:

That is such an amazing impactful sign. You're right. I have since then quoted and looked up that sign many, many times. And that is a simple thought that really if you are actually serious about that thought, and if you take the time to evaluate this, can help you guide every decision in your life. And that helped me figure out why am I here is not somewhere else after business school at Booth, I ended up coming to the Bay Area. At Booth, everyone was doing all sorts of recruiting, but I did not want to do that. I was still very persistent on the venture entrepreneurial path. And beyond there, I think all those decisions have been impacted by “why are you here and not somewhere else.”

For me, I was in New York. I'd already had all these degrees and I should have arguably just gone to work, but I knew what I needed and what was lacking in my background, in my experience, in my network and from a point of just knowledge as well. And to me, that was the decision that I made while I had so much angst of I'm losing experience and time as someone who would already worked for a decade. I was feeling that anxiety of why am I here and not somewhere else, but that is a sign that kind of helped me ground myself as to I'm fulfilling the long-term goals for my life of what my mission is. And to me, that is more important than a short-term job that I could be taking right now. And look at me, my career transformed.

Before that, I was an engineer and I started a company, but everyone asks me how one gets into venture capital. And the one single answer for me is Booth, which is not the same answer for everyone else, but for me, that is the one single thing that helped me get there. And to me, I think that sign is a good reminder of that. And so then the next experience of why the Bay Area, at that time, I was in tech. I wanted to be in the Bay Area because I knew that is where all the enterprise data, AI machine learning kind of funds, a decade ago anyway, things are changing in Chicago as well now, but were here.

So I wanted to be here. And despite not having a job lined up or anything else, I moved here, slept on people's couches, and then ended up actually getting a senior role at the Samsung Next Fund, which I helped start in the early days. So that I think is a good reminder of why was I here and not somewhere else. And it was a very thoughtful decision for me that I had to make reflecting on those basically that seed that the sign had put in my brain. So I would say that I want a copy of that sign. I know it's a great amazing artist somewhere, but I want that in my house at some point soon.

Starr Marcello:

Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I would love to hear you talk a little bit more about some of the pivotal moments in your career, because in the roles that I've had here at Booth, I've certainly heard other students aspire to start their own VC fund one day and be able to do some of the things that you have done. But very few of them do it. And certainly, very, very few of them do it in the timeframe in which you did it. And you had the confidence to make your way out into that part of the country that you believed you would be successful. You were willing to sleep on couches. You were willing to pursue the dream that you had. I can't imagine that you got to where you are now without challenges, without some bumps in the road. And I would love to hear if you're willing to share just some of those pivotal moments and how you dealt with them.

Shruti Gandhi:

I'll tell you one moment that is so, to this day teaches me a lesson. Summer between my first year and second year at Booth, I was interning at a fund here in the Bay Area. And that was the first time I ever lived here because that was my journey, I was starting too, after Booth, I want it to be this kind of a journey, and I was working hard and somewhere along the lines, I learned about this program called Kauffman Foundation Fellowship for budding aspiring VCs. And I thought—this is the example of me learning, Shruti learning 100 times. I knew Professor Kaplan was involved and was in the board at one point, but I was embarrassed to ask him. I was embarrassed to say, "Hey, could you put in a recommendation?"

I thought only the best students get picked by the professors and then basically they'll back you in ways that they would want. I never thought it would be something I as a student should ask my professor who was so amazing and so forth. So I did not ask him. In fact, I learned about the deadline after it had passed. And what did I do? I was here in the Bay Area just talking to a lot of venture firms. And I just randomly, I was shadowing someone at NEA, and I learned that one of the partners at NEA, Patrick, was also involved in the Kauffman Fellowship. So I had no relationship with Patrick, but since I was there, and I'd been interning there and he'd seen my work, I felt comfortable of asking a stranger over a professor to put in a recommendation and take my application despite the deadline passing.

I come back and I'm taking this entrepreneurial finance class with Professor Kaplan. I'm sitting there and after class, first class, he comes and tells me, "I'm really upset at you. Someone's calling me and telling me that one of your students has applied to this program, and I have no idea about it. And you did not inform me, and I'm caught in the dark here. And that's embarrassing for me." And I was like, "Well, I'm sorry. I didn't want to take any favors. And I didn't want...If I had one favor to take, I would save it for something really, really important." And he was like, "Nope, that's not how it works. The way it works is you ask. And if people can’t do something for you, they say no, and you don't take it personally."

And that is one big pivotal moment in my life. I still remember that classroom. I still remember Professor Kaplan, you know, in his style telling me, "Look, be out there and do it right, and keep all the people around you informed. You are a part of this institution, and so you should have been telling me." And that lesson is one big pivotal moment of asking first, and not taking it personally and “no”s are not, again, those are not something you should take personally and it's not a permanent no. And keeping people in your journey involved.

And it takes a lot of work. But it's important because that is why I tell, I email you once in a while and say, this is what's happening. Here's what I'm doing. I'm starting my next fund. It's for someone to call, who was about to make a call to you because they know I went to Booth and say, "Hey, do you know this woman, Shruti?" And you're going to say, "Yeah, but I haven't talked to her in a while." Versus, "Yeah, I just talked to her." And that's the difference. So that was a big moment in my life. Since then, I think I can continue down and I am—sorry. Are you going to say something?

Starr Marcello:

No, no, go ahead. Go ahead.

Shruti Gandhi:

Right, I think since then, I have to think more about the big pivotal moments, but there...I know it's more like people think about the resume has pivotal experience and that is true. That is always true that you want a great experience at a great firm. But for me, it's the softer learnings that I have developed in these moments of: Let's just go for it. And what's the worst thing that's going to happen? I took a lot of classes at Booth. My last two semesters were basically focused on organizational behavior courses under Linda Ginzel and Professor Greg. And the classes were called decision-making and all sorts of different names on decision-making. And when I entered Booth, the two things that softer side that helped me...

So the first story I told you was this, the power of putting yourself out there. Two, was the decision-making and that is what Booth is really good at. Making decisions based on data you have, and you can never have enough data. And there's always going to be more data as time passes on. But the “strike when the iron's hot” is a real phrase. Momentum is an important thing to learn where, you can get the experiences down the road, but you have the opportunity now to do something big. So why did I start my venture firm when I did? I was in venture for about five years by the time I'd left Booth or about four or five years. And I had started getting some really early exits in my career at Samsung and True.

So I was thinking that was something people do years down the road. I was thinking, I was undermining myself, I was thinking that's what you do once you have a lot of IPO's and things like that. So never thought that I would be the one starting a firm. But when I started to, left True to start something else, my founders basically that I'd worked with came to me and said, "Hey, look, we loved working with you. There are not enough investors out there that are technical and also have a venture experience and a good all property background. So if you're investing in things, we liked the way you look at the world. We want to invest with you."

One thing led to another including a lot of our professors like Steve Kaplan, Ellen Rudnick, Mark Tebbe, who said, "Yes, we want to back you. We saw... We want to take a chance on you." Basically, that's all you need. Someone saying that and that gives you the confidence to say, I can do this. I have in me to do this. Even though I thought this was something people, gray haired men do it in their 50s, I can do it now. And there were people who basically enabled me with their words and support and their capital, which is super important. So that's what kind of led me to start the fund.

And honestly, five years in, I still believe that is a necessary need in the market. There are not enough enterprise funds out there. And actually, I feel like I started a trend. There are enough folks now that have started a fund based on no experience, but just different backgrounds and networks and so forth, that I feel like in some ways I felt like I was early in the game, but now I feel like a trend-setter, even though I may or may not have been. But I do feel like my life, I put it out there for lots of people to be inspired by because in some ways, as my last name, a famous person with my last name said, "My life is my message." I tried to live that life because if I do something out and put it out there, then someone, a little Shruti somewhere in the world looks at that and says, "Wow, she just did it and she didn't have that background. I can do it too. I don't have to go to all the top networks and universities and so forth to make that happen." So anyway, it's a long winded way of answering your question, but I hope I did a okay job.

Starr Marcello:

It was wonderful. I think the thing that really struck me hearing those stories that you shared about pivotal moments in your career is really something you said earlier too, the power of people and the power of relationships and asking for favors or asking for connections or really utilizing the community around you. And building on that, I want to ask your perspective about being an alumni of Booth. We have 54,000 plus alumni all around the world and this is obviously a powerful and dynamic network. What does this network mean to you? What does it mean to be a part of this alumni community now?

Shruti Gandhi:

Honestly, I have...This is so cool though. When I came to the Bay Area and as I said, I basically didn't know more than maybe five people even. The people that ended up being part of my close network and backing me early were also Booth alums, which is crazy because as a PE/VC, one of the chairs, I was bringing in speakers all the time. And again, it's about asking, and I know when we have the big conference, I know that it's in January, February, in the middle of winter and I was...One thing could be like, who wants to come to Chicago? But the other thing was like, why shouldn't I ask them?

So I had some of these people like David Wells who was at Kleiner at the time, Brad Burnham, Union Square Ventures, Phil Black, True Ventures, [inaudible] who was an alum of Booth, [inaudible], I asked all these people to come speak without ever knowing them. And they did come. They came and now they remember me years later. And a lot of these are my backers. These are people like David Wells, 10 years later, just backed my next fund. And he remembered coming to Chicago, and being on this panel that I thought was a small thing, they get invited to do so many big things, but they came. They came to talk to 30 students in a class or in a PE/VC club. And that matters.

And that our alumni...I forgot to mention Prashant Shah. These are some amazing folks who came and what I did was try to make their time valuable. So I would try to find amazing professors who would then spend with them after their talks and so forth or smart students, my classmates, who then would want to have something more to offer than just me. And I did that and I never thought of anything of it. In fact, I didn't even think people would remember. But a lot of these people, most of these people are now backers in my fund, and I never knew that was what it was going to happen. I was going to start a fund and all this other stuff, but this is what the power of, again, the power of our alumni network and also the power of our brand, is what you could take advantage of as an alum. And I always have. All these, you have to...

I also believe in giving back. And so I try to always give back in the ways I can as well—with time, with whatever, coaching. And I've been involved in the global NVC and all the other good stuff we've been doing. But I think that, giving back, and also not being afraid to ask people, and then making it worth their time is powerful. And then our alumni group, I think there was an article that I put out there. I think the Chicago Magazine put out there. I think I put all the people that have always helped me in our community. The cool thing about the alum community is—this is the part I love the most about our students and anyone who's gone through Booth—is, it's like people that are practical, they're transparent, they're straightforward, and they're willing to help. And I think that is unlike any other school and set of folks I meet. There's no, I would say like the BS factor.

And there is this, I've been here, I've seen your journey. We all came out of university that we know what our ethos is. We're all independent thinkers. We don't go based on momentum. We have grounded fundamentals. Those are some of the things that really I value a lot from my education there, but also from our alums that have now, I would say, I can count on a lot of these people as my close confident community of people I go to. As I am building out, I would say I'm still in my early days of building out my firm, my journey, my career. And these are people not just helping me in my fund, but in my career, and helping me be a certain…They're my sounding board. And I literally can call them, text them at any hour of the day and they're everywhere in the world. So they pick up the call at any hour, answer my question, and they do the same with me. And I love the power that community have.

Starr Marcello:

Thank you. So at Chicago Booth, we talk a lot about the Chicago approach and that includes not telling students what to think, but telling them how to think. And I'm wondering if you could talk about how that has played out for you in the things that you have done in your career or maybe as a person, have you adopted that approach? Have you found that to be a useful way of looking at the world?

Shruti Gandhi:

Yes, I think that is what I meant by when I said independent thinkers. I think the how you think is what gave me the confidence because you have this grounding of the three-legged stool, you have the stool legs if you will. What that gives you that confidence of one, there's the fundamental needs in the market. So you validate all that. And two, you are the right person to go tackle the problem, whatever the problem you're tackling. And that framework as you mentioned, of not tell you, but help you, give you the tools is why I am here today. There are many times, as you said, I would have been questioning, even yesterday or the day before questioning my approach, questioning...

Always there's something in the market that is not true to your ethos. And an example of this would be like in my fund, there's always a momentum driven investors, not in my fund, sorry, I meant in venture industry, there's investors who will just go and buy logos and that's how they build their brand. And there are investors who fundamentally spend time with the founders, help them grow their businesses ,the way I talked about the 0 to 1 to 10 ARR approach. It takes time, but I don't know any other way. And I think that is what Booth has taught me to be grounded in who I am.

It may not be the right answer for someone else, but it is a right answer from me to help me figure out what I like to do, what's an impact I'd like to make and why did I start the fund to begin with, which is a big answer of...Actually that clarity I got at Booth. Otherwise, I wouldn't be pursuing a path that most people feel like they can never even get into, which is venture capital, to begin with. So yeah, that's what I have to be really thankful for to be this person...I tell people, I tell my husband, who I met after Booth, that I am this different person than I was before business school. And it is all because of what Booth has taught me, in a good way.

Starr Marcello:

Yeah, that's wonderful. I'm wondering, Shruti, can you tell us what does winning this award, the Distinguished Alumni Award mean to you?

Shruti Gandhi:

I don't think it's a Booth-level answer honestly. Sorry, it's an answer that is a personal journey answer for me. I don't know if most people know this, but I couldn't even get into a college in undergrad. I came here after my high school and my parents decided to kind of like...We immigrated here as a family, and they left me in a month. And they said, figure out everything, including getting into a college somehow. And I didn’t have—we didn't know about SAT scores or anything like that. So the power of getting into a college and the way I did that by the way quickly is was I taught myself how to code. I got into Marist College by basically showing them the work I was doing already at the university in the computing lab, because I taught myself how to code and joined their lab.

And then yeah, they took me in without the SAT scores. But to that day, I was like, wow, what would my opportunity have been if I actually had a fair chance to everything? So then after that I went to Columbia and got my Master's there. That was an amazing moment as well. And I was working throughout all of this, undergrad too, by the way. But then when Booth ended up accepting me, I think from there till now, from 20 years ago till now, this journey kind of in some ways, even though we should not be looking for validation, validates me as to, the hard work has paid off. I'm here today. There are people who care about my journey, and Booth cared about my journey.

They accepted me first of all, based on I was not a typical background. I was never a straight shooter, because I didn't know how to be one. I just didn't have that coaching and mentorship—before Booth. So then I just was figuring it out on my own, and Booth took a chance on me. And now you're taking a chance again on me by giving me this award and having me represent Booth in the world out there. So I feel like that kind of support means a lot for someone like me who had not even a penny in my pocket at one time and people who only want to back you on until you become something big. But what the Booth community has done is said, I know I see something here, and they see it before I see it in myself sometimes, which is a powerful thing.

So this award means to me kind of a validation, a checkbox which again, most people shouldn't look for all this. But for me, it means a lot from one of the top universities in the world that people try to get into is recognizing someone like me for all the work I've done. That means that you—and you see a lot of students come through every year. So for me, the way I took it as you're validating all the things I'm doing, and you're saying go Shruti, go and make it happen. We're here for you. And that community and the village behind you is powerful, because marching alone, you can only get this far, but marching together, you go very, very far. I don't know. It's a very famous proverb from somewhere. I did not make it up. But that's the belief I have. Yeah, and this award means a lot to me.

Starr Marcello:

It is remarkable hearing your journey, how strong your entrepreneurial spirit has been from a very, very young age. And incredible that you were able to navigate your way to college with very little resources and then to graduate school at Columbia and of course graduate school here at Booth. Thank you for sharing those comments. I would love to hear maybe just based on your extraordinary journey, what advice would you have for our students today? They are the future leaders in the business world and in the public sector world in some cases in many different ways on many different paths. And they are very keen of course on making an impact on business and on society. Do you have advice that would be helpful to them as they embark on careers as future leaders in the world?

Shruti Gandhi:

It's a big question. I mean, there's so many things that come to me. Again, my advice is going to come based on my experiences. So I think everyone should take it lightly and make a sense of it in their own ways. But to me, I think there's a big lesson I've learned along the way. It’s that you have the power. The power is within you. And I'm going to pause for a second for us to register this a little bit because I did not know that. And when you are already at one of the top schools in the world, you have the power. You have the power of the brand backing you, you have the power of your community supporting you, you have the power of knowledge that you're getting there that you wouldn't get anywhere else.

You're around these, I mean, Nobel Laureates that have achieved so much. And even if you don't take classes from them, you know that the air around there that your being, has this knowledge and you're immersing yourself into it and you should. The power is, though, being able to recognize that and then translate that into anything else you're trying to do with confidence. And what that means to me particularly is I use that power to go reach out to all these people. But not just say, not just randomly calling out on these people and saying, give me your time. But more importantly, I took that power to create all sorts of analysis in my industry at that time. And I validated it in my classes with my professors, in the case studies I was learning from, all the venture and classes I was taking.

And I basically from there on use that as a...Because I think when you are as a student and in that environment, you think you have nothing to give. And what I learned was I had the power of knowledge that others may not have because not everything is equal. Others are successful for different reasons. So I use that. I packaged it. And when I reached out to these people, I said, here's what I have to offer. And that is what I keep telling people. You have the power within you to give at whatever level you're at. Even if you have no education, you can give your time, you can give your resources, you can give your hustle.

There's a lot you can give. People want to recognize good potential in other people and help. And I think you just have to show that you have it in you. So that is the biggest lesson for students to say that you have the power within you to one, show what you have and then be useful to someone else. And that is how you get opportunity to connect with some amazing successful people who see that potential in you through your work. Otherwise, how are they going to find you? And so that is the biggest lesson and advice to give back. Do the work, share it, and don't be hesitant to make a community out of it.

Starr Marcello:

Thank you. Shruti, when you were a student, is there anything looking back that you would have done differently or do you have any favorite memories of your time at Booth that you could share with us?

Shruti Gandhi:

What would I have done differently? So many things. I think there are things that when you're in the journey and especially not many people who are doing venture capital as a career at the time, it was hard to be in the groups like consulting, banking, where you just get to really meet a lot of people and get to know them at a very different level outside of the cohorts and things, the LEAD groups we have. And so I think I don't know what I would have done differently other than the fact that I think I would have maybe created more of a community around my work to enable, so people understand because the funny thing is to this day, my classmates reach out to me and they still don't know what I really do.

Then I know. But these are folks that are successful in so many other things they have done. So I think that community would have really been... And again, you guys have created that community at Polsky, but I would have done a better job of doing those kinds of like bonding sessions that the consulting and banking other groups have, which is like a case study preps and things like that. So that's one thing. I don't know if it's a...That's just a personal thing. And what else would I have done? I don't know. I feel maybe I would never...I don't think anyone should ever feel like, I would have said I would have had more fun. I would have gone to more TNDCs.

But which, at that time looking back, it was like, oh my God, I have to go do this interview and do talk, create this point of view for this [inaudible], trying to talk to this partner and before that I want to share this data, big data, and SAAS and all these other industry point of view and…All that takes time. And that comes with a sacrifice of all the social things that you might want to do and you should do because that is what business school is all about. So that's I guess two things I would do a little differently.

Starr Marcello:

Yeah, do you see yourself as a lifelong learner? And I'm just curious how your time since you were here at Booth, how you continue to learn at the stage in your life that you are in now?

Shruti Gandhi:

I think your life ends, your career ends I should say, not life ends, career ends, if, the minute you stop learning. I think the power of being a good investor is the ability to learn as fast as you can from a meeting or two. So I think I would not claim that I'm the best technical person out there today. If I am talking to a founder and if I know more than they do, I do not invest. So the fun of my fundamental life rules is when I take a meeting, I want offer one thing that they can take away and say, I learned it from this meeting and I want to learn one thing that I would have not learned somewhere else. And that is why those pitches are so fun for me because I'm learning. So that's one medium for me to learn.

The second way of learning is actually, believe it or not, publishing a lot. I publish, write a lot and there is inherent fear we all have, which is, oh my God, I don't want to put something dumb out there. And that makes you want to go research a little bit more and read more and see what others are publishing. And so you end up being very knowledgeable just by the fact that you have this fear of not producing something where your peers are going to laugh at or feel like you're not innovative enough in your thinking. So that's the two ways I would say in my pitches and make sure I learn a lot. And those are the kinds of founders I back where I know I'm going to continuously learn for the next 10 years. And then in through the writing I'm doing, it brings the clarity of thought into my thesis, my approach I have in what I want to invest in and things like that.

Starr Marcello:

That's wonderful. Thank you. I just can't help, but think back to the time that we spent together when you were here as a student and what the Shruti then would think about the Shruti now and as the recipient of this Distinguished Alumni Award. And I just marvel at all the progress that you have made and can't wait to see what the next 10, 20, 30 years look like for you. Thank you so much, Shruti for sharing your thoughts with us and congratulations on this wonderful award. Thank you.

Shruti Gandhi:

Okay, before we close, I want to say, thank you, Starr. You have been personally so impactful to me in my journey. And as I said, you have a lot of students asking for your time and help and you have been phenomenal with being that comforting room that I could go, close that door and just sit down and tell you all my fears and struggles at the time. And you not looking at someone like me and saying, one more student asking for my help, but more like, what can I do to help, which as I said, empower someone like me. So thank you so much for that.

Starr Marcello:

Well, if we get more Shruti’s here with brilliant ideas and the commitment to change the world through entrepreneurship venture capital, it will be wonderful for the school. And I hope that your story and everything that you have shared with us serves as an inspiration to many, many people. Thank you.

Shruti Gandhi:

Thank you so much for the award, and I really appreciate you guys recognizing all the work I've done.

Starr Marcello:

Thank you. Wonderful.