Naren Gupta, a venture capitalist who co-founded Nexus Venture Partners to help plant Indian SaaS startups on the world map, died on Saturday. He was 73.
Gupta, who moved to the U.S. to pursue higher education in late 1960s, co-founded Integrated Systems, a software firm that was ultimately sold to Intel. After leaving the firm, Gupta began exploring investment opportunities.
“My introduction to venture capital and investment was really accidental,” he said in a podcast last year. “I really had no plans to do it. But the opportunity seemed good, and I met lots of entrepreneurs and once in a while, I made investments.”
One of the earliest investments Gupta made was in an Indian startup, which against his urging, agreed to an acquisition offer. The deal made Gupta realize that if he had a formal venture fund, his portfolio startups would be in a position to take longer-term bets.
“That’s why I got interested in venture in India. In 2005 and 2006, I made a number of trips and met hundreds of companies,” he recalled in the podcast.
It was a bold bet. There were very few startups in India at the time and far fewer investors willing to back them. Nexus, additionally, was focusing on startups that solve problems faced by large enterprises. Its bet was that enterprises across the globe would find the solutions relevant.
“Technology really does not follow any political boundaries. What we were able to do early on was bring the U.S. norms and approach to building companies and mix that with the Indian talent and Indian capability to get things done. India is very entrepreneurial at getting things done,” he said.
The fund he co-founded in 2006 was Nexus Venture Partners, which today operates over $2 billion assets under management. Nexus has backed several promising startups including API platform Postman, online classifieds platform Olx, coding platform WhiteHat Jr, and edtech Unacademy.
Gupta also served as a chairman of the board of Red Hat prior to the firm’s acquisition by IBM.
Sumanth Raghavendra, a Bangalore-based entrepreneur, said in a tweet that several generations of Indian startups owe Gupta “a debt of gratitude.”
He embodied everything positive that a founder looks for in an investor, always backing founders unconditionally, especially when they were in a tough spot.
— Kunal Bahl (@1kunalbahl) December 26, 2021
“Naren was a stalwart in the global technology and entrepreneurial ecosystems and a pioneer of Indian venture capital. He was a mentor and a close friend to all of us at Nexus and we will miss his passion, caring nature, and towering intellect,” a fund spokesperson said in a statement Sunday evening.
“He is survived by his wife, Vinita Gupta, and two daughters. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family in this very difficult time.”
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