20VC: Khosla Ventures Founding Partner, Samir Kaul on Why Pro Rata Is A Cop Out, Why He Likes Technical Risk and Does Not Take Market Risk & How To Approach Time Allocation Across The Portfolio In Venture
Posted on 13th January 2020 by hstebbings1
Samir Kaul is a Founding Partner and Managing Director at Khosla Ventures, one of the valley’s most renowned firms of the last decade with a portfolio including Square, Affirm, DoorDash, Impossible Foods and OpenDoor just to name a few. As for Samir, he led the firm’s investment in Guardant Health, Impossible Foods, Nutanix [NASDAQ: NTNX], Oscar, among others. Prior to Khosla, Samir spent five years at Flagship Ventures where he started and invested in early-stage biotechnology companies, including Helicos Biosciences which went on to IPO. Samir was also founding CEO of Codon Devices and led the Arabidopsis Genome Initiative at Craig Venter’s Institute for Genomic Research.
1.) How Samir made his way into the world of venture from the world of biotech and came to found one of the leading firms of the last decade?
2.) How did seeing the booms and busts of the last 2 decades impact Samir’s investing mindset? Why does Samir think it is dangerous for a VC to have a “conservative mindset”? How does Samir analyse and think about upside maximisation when investing today? How does Samir think about when to sell your position and how to determine the right time?
3.) What does investment decision-making look like at Khosla? What are the criteria that re-investments are made upon? Why does Samir believe that pro-rata is a kop out? Which should be the core questions that determine whether to double down or not? How does Samir and the partnership think about time allocation across the portfolio?
4.) How does Samir approach the exercise of market sizing? Why does Samir never want to take a risk when it comes to market? Why does Samir want to maximise his risk when it comes to technological risk? How does Samir think through having to carry these deep tech companies for longer? What were his learnings from the clean tech days on this?
5.) How would Samir analyse his own price sensitivity today? What was his most formative inflexion moment as an investor? What did he learn from it? From a people side, who had the biggest impact on Samir as an investor? What were the core elements he learned from them? How does Samir deal with the element of self-doubt? How does he get through those moments?