Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Anand Rajaraman was recorded in October 2019.
Anand Rajaraman, Founding Partner at rocketship.vc, was an early investor in Facebook. Among other things, we discuss how the quality of startups from India has been improving.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to you as well as to your two venture firms. You have a pretty interesting entrepreneurial journey. Give a bit of context of what path did you come through to reach this point. Let’s get you introduced to the audience.
Anand Rajaraman: I’m from India. I grew up in Chennai. I went to IIT Madras for my undergraduate, and then came to Stanford to do my PhD in Computer Science. This was back in the 90’s. I came to Stanford just as the internet was getting started in 1993.
I got bit by the entrepreneurial bug. I dropped out of the PhD program and started my first company. It was called Junglee. We were among the earliest companies in the online e-commerce space. We pretty much invented the idea of online comparison shopping.
The company got acquired by Amazon in 1998. It was Amazon’s first public acquisition. It was a $250 million acquisition. I ended up joining Amazon in the very early days. We were just selling books. But Bezos, even at that time, knew he wanted to sell everything under the sun. Amazon created the marketplace.
I left Amazon with one of my co-founders for Junglee. We got together and started a venture capital firm called Cambrian Ventures. Cambrian started in 2000. It was one of the earliest institutional seed capital firms. We primarily backed companies with deep technology. That fund ended up being the top-performing for vintage.
Post-Cambrian, I started another startup called Kosmix. It was in the AI space. It was around 2007 before deep learning became a big thing. We wanted to commercialize those. We applied AI and ML to the web. We were one of the first to do sentiment analysis of social media.
Kosmix was acquired by Walmart in 2011. It was a $300 million acquisition. Walmart wanted to figure out how to compete with Amazon. To do that, you need to build a big team in Silicon Valley to build the digital capabilities. We created a new unit within Walmart called Walmart Labs. I headed that for a year.
The Walmart Labs team is now over 7,000 people globally. I left many years ago. I took some time out and then started my current capital firm rocketship.vc together with my partners. At rocketship, we are doing global investing using data.
Milliways Ventures, the other firm, is more of a family office where we make investments in companies that are not necessarily for financial reasons.