Babson reinforced my entrepreneurial aspirations. All the businesses I started as a kid were fun, but at Babson I realized I could do something much bigger. Not only were the classes focused on entrepreneurship, but everyone at the school was talking about starting a business.”
E-Tower and other Babson student organizations provided resources for entrepreneurs including networking, conferences, speaker series, and mentorship. A key event that helped shape Gupta’s experience was the annual rocket pitch where students and alumni gave a three- minute business pitch in front of interested investors and collaborators. Gupta described the presentations. “We called it pitching to the bullpen. It allowed you to present ideas and get feedback from fellow students, professors, experienced entrepreneurs, and investors.”
At his first rocket pitch, Gupta formed a connection that altered his path. A partner from the venture capital firm General Catalyst was judging pitches that day. While Gupta was not pitching at this event, he was helping with logistics and happened to strike up a conversation. The partner was so impressed by his conversation with Gupta that he invited him to intern at General Catalyst. From his junior to senior year, Gupta interned part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer. Upon graduation, he received and accepted the offer of a full-time position with General Catalyst, where he was exposed to numerous startup enterprises.
It was 2007 when Gupta stepped into this first full-time position with General Catalyst. Things went well for him and for the company until the economic crash of 2008. General Catalyst became very conservative in their approach as many businesses were struggling. Gupta noted, “There was a sense of fear that had come over the firm and the venture capital industry as a whole. Every investment decision was met with questions building on more questions.”
During 2008, VC firms were reluctant to deploy capital into new investments and started “pruning the bush,” meaning they cut follow-on investments to all but the most promising of their portfolio companies. However, General Catalyst persevered and in 2010 decided to expand operations beyond Boston. Gupta was given the opportunity to move to Silicon Valley and open a new office for General Catalyst.
He embraced this experience as the sole employee at this new location for about six months. During this time, he was tasked with developing the West Coast brand of General Catalyst. He found potential investments that focused on e-commerce and software as a service (SaaS). One company left an impression on Gupta, The Honest Company, a direct-to-consumer (D2C) company focused on baby products and founded by the American celebrity Jessica Alba, among others. The D2C business model intrigued Gupta. A D2C company formed a strong relationship with the customer. The Honest Company did not rely on distribution channels such as Walmart; such channels often had too much power in the relationship. D2C companies did not have to fight for shelf space with competitors. Instead, their direct connection to the customer allowed them to understand customer desires and modify their offerings accordingly. Gupta wanted to explore this business model more deeply.
For the exclusive use of H. Akdemir, 2018.
This document is authorized for use only by Hasan Akdemir in New Venture Fall 2018 taught by GEORGE CHRISTOPHER NAPOLITANO, SUNY – New Paltz from Aug 2018 to Jan 2019.
Balanced Snacking BAB242 / SEPTEMBER 2016