By SGN | 27 Mar 2023
Arvind is, by nature, an introvert. But you might never guess it.
“In my downtime, I love my runs. For almost two decades, I’ve also enjoyed writing poetry,” he shares. “But for work reasons, I’m quite alpha. Over the last 13 years of my career, I’ve been hustling, creating communities, building connections across different geographies.”
Now, as a partner at venture firm Geodesic Capital and the chair of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Alumni’s San Francisco chapter, he’s drawing on this Rolodex of connections to help others.
“I feel energised by bringing people together,” he says. “It’s been a privilege to be invited into communities and shown the ropes along the way, and I’m just trying to pay it forward. Hopefully, through the roles I’m playing, I can help to open up conversations and initiate new relationships.”
Down the rabbit hole
Arvind began building his web of corporate connections when Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) posted him to Mumbai to enthuse Indian companies to engage in innovation and talent development in Singapore.
“I was exposed to the emergence of technology companies – a lot of consumer-oriented and some enterprise-focused solutions that were coming up,” he recalls. “That’s how my interest in the startup ecosystem was piqued, and it was a rabbit hole from there on.”
In 2017, Arvind relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area to co-run EDBI’s (EDB’s investment arm) activities in North America. His six-year stint landed him in 21 investments and on the boards of eight companies.
“We were investing Singapore’s capital in tech or healthcare companies, with the hope of helping them in Singapore and Southeast Asia,” he notes. “Entrepreneurs always desire trusted partners, so I also learned the value of nurturing these links and providing good counsel to founders.”
Now at Geodesic Capital – a venture firm that largely bridges Silicon Valley innovation with the markets of Japan and Asia – Arvind takes on a dual-facing role, investing in startups at the cutting edge of technology while maintaining vast networks across the venture and funding ecosystem.
“When growth-stage companies are scaling, two things they’re thinking about are: How do I expand my business? And how do I hire the best people? So I try to work on those two vectors, connecting these startups with potential partners or talent,” he says. “As a partner, not only do I deploy capital into companies, but I also have to think about raising capital and articulating our strategy to our investors to maintain their confidence.”
3 Ingredients of Meaningful Connections
Based on his extensive experience in building relationships across startup ecosystems in the US, India and Southeast Asia, Arvind offers three aspects to consider when thinking strategically about cultivating your networks and connections.
Having seen first-hand how relationships can pay long-term dividends, Arvind can attest to the benefits of forming lasting connections.
“When I was at a crossroads, thinking about my next steps – Should I be an operator? Join a startup? Carry on as an investor? – I was able to grab coffees with and seek the feedback of various people I had kept in touch with over the years, who had since risen in their careers,” he shares. “That helped me a lot in my decision-making.
“It’s a very simple example, but I think it illustrates the importance of having longevity in mind when you think about building relationships.”
Is it better to form personal friendships or keep relationships purely professional? Well, it depends.
“What I’ve learned over time is that different approaches work for different people,” Arvind explains. “There are some people who are not going to be your best buddies. They’re happy to operate on a quid pro quo basis, and say, ‘Hello, how are you? This is XYZ that I need to solve for. Do you have a solution for it?’
“And then there are others who are interested in learning about your life and having a conversation that may not yield anything. Such people make good sounding boards. So I have learned to modulate my approach depending on how someone wants to be treated or how they want to connect with me.”
When it comes to choosing who to connect with, Arvind advises against narrowing your options. The more varied your network, the greater the possibilities they may create.
“I highly recommend the book Range by David Epstein,” he says. “In my own journey, there was a period of time where I was like: Man, I’m doing so many different things. What this book validated for me is that being a generalist – getting exposed to different fields, figuring out what you like and what you’re good at – is the right approach before going deeper into a specialisation.
“This has informed the variety of people that I connect with. I’m happy to chat with a wide range of folks and cross-pollinate their ideas: investors, founders, industry practitioners. It’s also good to learn about social causes, because I think the world is not just about dollars and cents.”
Connecting for change
As Arvind enters the next phase of his career, he is excited to witness and be part of a new era of innovation.
“Now the talk of the town is how disruptive and pervasive AI can be, especially with introduction of ChatGPT3 and 4 from OpenAI,” he observes. “AI now has the potential to be a foundational technology that is cost-effective at scale and creates defensive moats for companies incorporating it.” AI applications are incredibly varied, across fintech, healthcare, enterprise software, even sales and marketing or developer tools.
Another exciting field is the Internet of Things (IoT). “IoT is a very critical element in driving climate change outcomes, as it allows companies to derive better telemetry on installed assets and power data-driven choices for reducing energy consumption or carbon emissions,” he says.
To realise these possibilities, he’s once again turning to his Rolodex – activating his networks and connecting the right players to create the solutions that will transform our world.
Arvind is a Singaporean venture capitalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a Partner at Geodesic Capital and Chairperson of the San Francisco chapter of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Alumni.
Connect with him here.