Ep. 38 Hero S2 Ep38 Anarghya Vardhana

Decoding Consumer Healthcare Investing: Anarghya Vardhana on Diversifying the STEM Space

A LIFELONG STEM JOURNEY AND NAVIGATING HEALTHCARE STARTUPS

33 min

Ep. 38 Hero S2 Ep38 Anarghya Vardhana

33 min

“Do one thing everyday that scares you.” This quote drives everything our next guest does. Anarghya Vardhana is a Partner at Maveron focusing on finding the next big direct to consumer business. In today’s episode, Anarghya talks about her lifelong love for STEM and her passion for diversifying this space. She shares why she loves healthcare startups and how doing challenging things positively impacts her self-confidence.

Read transcript

“I was a science fair kid. You know, some kids are athletes. I was a science fair kid, that was my thing. And I always did projects in the field of math, specifically focusing on number theory. I was obsessed with prime numbers. I still love prime numbers and have weird things like I set my alarm to like prime numbers, uh, in the morning for when I have to wake up.”

Quick takes on...

Her Investment Philosophy


“If you invest in one company, it may inch towards something else. So you may be solving the dietary side of things by investing in the women's health business, because sometimes those things can go hand in hand. But I think the best way to think about it is every year there's going to be one to two phenomenal entrepreneurs working in consumer healthcare, building in consumer healthcare. My job is to try and meet them and to get to know them and see if there's an opportunity to partner and be a part of their journey for whatever they're gonna build.”


Doing Hard Things to Instill Confidence


“Some people are just born with confidence. They just walk into the room and they're confident, and it's not that natural or innate for me. I have to work to be confident…Confidence comes from practice and hard work and knowing that I've done something that might be even harder than the thing I'm just about to do. And so that got me into the psyche of, ‘Well, if I just do hard things, then it'll help me be confident.’”

Meet your guest, Anarghya Vardhana

Partner / Maveron LLC

Spotlight S2 Ep38 Anarghya Vardhana

Anarghya Vardhana is a Partner at Maveron who spends her time understanding consumer behavioral shifts, identifying the billion-dollar businesses that will emerge, and partnering with the right founders to grow those startups. After years of working at Google and fintech startups, she entered into the VC space like a rocket. She was named a 2017 “30 under 30” in venture capital by Forbes. Among many other accomplishments Anarghya is most proud of are her relationships and community in and out of work, her solid connection to her Indian roots, and her ability to straddle multiple cultures well.

Episode transcript

[00:00:00] Anarghya Vardhana: Some people are…

[00:00:00] Anarghya Vardhana: Some people are just born with confidence. They just walk into the room and they're confident, and it's not that natural or innate for me. I have to work to be confident. Confidence comes from just practice and hard work, and knowing that I've done something that might be even harder than the thing I'm just about to do.

[00:00:23] And so that got me into the psyche of, “Well, if I just do hard things, then it'll help me be confident.”

[00:00:31] Daniel Saks: That was Anarghya Vardhana. At the age of 17, she published a math theorem, and then attended Stanford University to follow her love for STEM. After working at Google, Anarghya decided she wanted to try something new. She ended up working at multiple FinTech and healthcare startups in the early stages and eventually entered into venture capital.

[00:00:53] In 2017, she was included in the prestigious 30 under 30 list today. She's a partner at Maveron. In this episode, Anarghya talks about her lifelong love for stem. She shares how she finds the strongest leaders through healthcare startups, and how doing one challenging thing every year positively impacts your self-confidence.

[00:01:14] This is Daniel Saks, president and co-founder of AppDirect, and it's time to decode customer healthcare, investing, and diversifying STEM for the future.

[00:01:29] Welcome to Decoding Digital, a podcast for innovators looking to thrive in the digital economy. I'm your host Daniel Saks, and I'll sit down with other founders, CEOs, and change makers to decode the trends that are transforming the way we work. Let's decode.

[00:01:51] I'm thrilled to be joined by my friend in Anarghya. She's a unique experience and perspective around the consumer healthcare space. So excited to dig in more there and decode. Welcome Anarghya. Thank you. So, I know at the age of 17 you published a math theorem that set you towards a lifelong love for STEM. Tell me about what led you to having that passion for math and STEM, and how did you develop that passion so young?

[00:02:19] Anarghya Vardhana: Yeah, great question. And I think it played such a foundational role in who I am today, and so I love talking about it. I grew up in a household with me and my younger sister, she's six years younger, and my dad is an engineer. My mom stayed at home with us and my dad really just wanted to work on engineering, math, science projects.

[00:02:37] That's what he knew best, and that's what he wanted to spend his time doing those things with his kids. And so that's what we did at home. We built things, we did a lot of math. We explored a lot of science endeavors and projects, and that got me into an early love of just the STEM field in general. and you know, nowadays we talk a lot about getting girls into STEM, getting underrepresented folks into STEM.

[00:03:00] I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where it didn't seem weird to me that I was a girl in STEM. It's just what I did and that love kind of turned into going deep into some specific areas. And I went to a high school called Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, where I grew up. Where I was lucky enough to have some amazing math teachers and you know, these were teachers who were kind of having the skill set to go beyond calculus.

[00:03:22] I was able to take classes like number theory and discreet math in high school, which again just opened my mind to the possibilities and creativity that math holds, which I don't think a lot of people associate math with creativity. And through that I got kind of plugged into the science fair circuit.

[00:03:38] I was a science fair kid. You know, some kids are athletes. I was a science fair kid, that was my thing. And I always did projects in the field of math, specifically focusing on number theory. I was obsessed with prime numbers. I still love prime numbers and have weird things like I set my alarm to prime numbers in the morning for when I have to wake up.

[00:03:55] I got to go really deep, work with some amazing number theorists and, uh, participate in the Intel science press circuit, a couple other science press circuits, and through that research and work, was working with a professor in the Netherlands called Dr. Lenstra. And while I was working on some research projects for him, I came across a pattern.

[00:04:14] That I said, Hey, this is repeating itself. What? What's going on here? And he said, can you prove that this pattern holds forever? And so I was able to provide an explicit proof for it, which then turned into a new theorem in number theory, which was super exciting and was able to publish that as a teenager, which was incredible.

[00:04:30] And I think a big boost for my own confidence in continuing to be in the science and STEM areas in general.

[00:04:36] Daniel Saks: I mean, I can already hear the passion just coming through around STEM and math and I think it is inspirational because we grow up sometimes valuing, you know, athletics or valuing certain things, but the fact that I can hear it in your voice, the kind of cool factor and the fun around STEM is something that is really beneficial.

[00:04:53] And at that age, did you see it as a career path, or did you see it more as just something that you were interested?

[00:05:00] Anarghya Vardhana: So at that age, I actually thought I was gonna be a mathematician or some kind of researcher when I grew up. That was a passion of mine. My grandfather, so my late paternal grandfather was a scientific author and a professor, and so I really saw a lot of exciting things about what he was doing, right?

[00:05:18] His job was to educate young people. It was to research deep problems. It was to think about them, it was to write about them. And he was somewhat of a role model to me. So I thought my career path would kind of move along that direction in some way. And then I came to the Bay Area to go to Stanford for my undergraduate studies and quickly learned that there's a personality side of me that wants to see my work in the real world faster than 10, 20, 50, 60 years.

[00:05:46] And I realized that a path of research would maybe lead me. A lifestyle where the work wouldn't really come to see the light of day until decades after I was doing that work, and for my own selfish reasons, I thought I wanted to do something that kind of came out faster and the timing was perfect, right?

[00:06:03] I was lucky enough to be at Stanford when the iPhone launched the first ever iPhone like I was in Silicon Valley when all of these super exciting things were happening. I remember an alumni coming to some random lunch that they were hosting for undergrads, recruiting people for Facebook, and this was the early days of Facebook.

[00:06:21] And so I just happened to be at the right place at the right time where I started thinking like, Hey, I can work in science and technology, but I can work in a way such that what I do sees the light of day today, tomorrow, like in this really fast iterative of culture. And that's kind of what got me into the tech space.

[00:06:39] Daniel Saks: And I noticed on your website you have a big quote that says, do one thing every day that scares you. What inspired that?

[00:06:47] Anarghya Vardhana: I started doing this thing every year where I wanted to do something really hard every year. Something that I thought might not be possible. And it could be anything from running a marathon, which I ran my first marathon,my senior year of college.

[00:07:01] Or it could be doing a very challenging trip somewhere with minimal supplies, whatever it may be. But I got into that because, someone once asked me, they're like, how do you build confidence? And it was such a nebulous question for me because I feel like some people are just born with confidence.

[00:07:21] They just walk into the room and they're confident, and it's not that natural or innate for me. I have to work to be confident and I didn't have an answer for that question. And I thought about it and I talked to many people about it. I read about it and I kind of reflected and I realized for me, confidence comes from practice and hard work and knowing that I've done something that might be even harder than the thing I'm just about to do.

[00:07:38] And so that got me into the psyche of, well, if I just do hard things, then it'll help me be confident. And that could be tough conversations, whether personal or professional. That could be something physical.

[00:07:54] So I've just kind of gotten into that mentality. And Daniel, you'll appreciate this. Right before the end of my maternity leave, we took both the kids, a two-year-old and four-month-old to India and back, and that was hard . We had a 15 hour leg from San Francisco to Dubai, and I was like, this is my hard thing for the year.

[00:08:11] Like if I can do this, I can do anything.

[00:08:13] Daniel Saks: That's impressive. So obviously you've had an impressive career in technology, including Google and now and Venture, but maybe we would love to get a sense of what drove you toward Venture and then maybe kind of share a little bit of your passion areas that you're investing in now.

[00:08:28] Anarghya Vardhana: Yeah, absolutely. So when I left Stanford, I went to work at Google, kind of did the whole campus recruiting thing. Felt like it was such a great transition from college life to Google life, and culturally, they do a lot of coaching and mentoring, and the free food and stuff helped as well to transition into adulthood.

[00:08:45] Learned a ton at Google. Worked on the core bread and butter like AdWords, Google's biggest revenue driver. And worked with some phenomenal talented product folks, business folks, engineers, and cemented my passion to be in technology for the rest of my career. I didn't really know what venture capital was then, so that was still distant for me.

[00:09:05] But what I did see was tons of my friends from Stanford going to startups, including my then boyfriend, now husband, and I would talk to these friends and just see the pace at which they were working and learning and in awe of. 23-year-old at a startup playing such a critical role in the startup success.

[00:09:26] And I caught the bug. I wanted to have that. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to hustle. I wanted to learn. I wanted to move at that pace. And I remember going to one of my VPs at Google and just feeling so torn up about it, and he was, and still is, a mentor and a friend, and I said, look like I could do this whole startup thing.

[00:09:44] And he said, you know what? You're always gonna wonder. I should have done it. I should have done it. And now is a great time. Just like, go do it. And Google will always be here for you, which was exactly what I needed to hear. And so I jumped ship after three years. Tried my hand in the startup world.

[00:09:59] Learned a lot, learned a lot of what not to do. Learned how to navigate really process design is what I call it, like starting from scratch and having nothing. I mean, I did everything from figuring out what insurance people should have to writing the first product specs for different apps, and so it was really cool.

[00:10:17] And in that startup world is when I first got exposed to venture capital, learned about what VCs are, how they fund startups, how they advise them, take board seats, whatever it may be, and was super interested by it. So I said, let me explore what this is. And was lucky enough to have a few friends working in the space, met a couple different folks, and did a few projects with a few different VCs.

[00:10:38] One thing led to another, and I joined the Maveron team in 2015, so I'll be celebrating my seven year anniversary at Maveron this November, which is crazy because I think Daniel, when you and I first met, I had just started, or maybe just a few months into it. So seven years has been an amazing ride. I've learned a ton, worked with amazing partners and entrepreneurs at Maveron.

[00:10:58] We're a consumer only fund, so we only invest in D2C businesses. That's a pretty broad mandate. That's everything from e-commerce, FinTech, health tech, social apps, education, technology, and I focus entirely on our consumer healthcare. So I started off as a generalist. Over the last couple years have focused entirely on healthcare and absolutely love it.

[00:11:18] I love, love what I do, love who I do it with, and it really does come full circle because selfishly, there is nothing more gratifying than investing in something and seeing that thing in the real world, making a positive impact on the lives of hopefully tons and tons of people.

[00:11:34] Daniel Saks: Yeah, it's interesting and a lot of the listeners here have spoke to and heard from a lot of B2B people, you know, AppDirect is a B2B company.

[00:11:41] So there's a ton of focus on decoding digital around B2B, but I thought it would be really interesting to get your perspective on the consumer landscape. And I think a lot of it is that there's obviously been, proliferation of consumerization of the enterprise and you know, the demand for better product experiences.

[00:11:56] I think one of the things I would love to get a sense of, and I find this, and it's hard for people to describe, but as an engineer, I think so many people have pride in what they're building. And what I've always found is that when you're interviewing engineers, a lot of the excitement that they have is knowing that a friend of theirs, you know, uses their product or understands the brand or affiliates with it.

[00:12:13] Or knowing that a certain number of people, you know, like a million people have used AdWords or you know, whatever it might be. Yeah. But there's that passion, which I assume leads to being able to recruit top talent and innovate.

[00:12:28] And I think even more so, you know, healthcare, oftentimes people have a very personal attachment to it through their families and their own health. So wanted to kind of start on the softer side of consumer health and the areas in which you invest, but tell me, how much does like the initial vision of that entrepreneur that you're talking to matter, and how powerful are the stories that drive those visions?

[00:12:51] Anarghya Vardhana: Yeah, that's a great question. And I'll start off by saying, you know, the consumer healthcare mandate that I cover is huge, right? We're a small team, we have a lot to do. So within consumer healthcare, I'm looking at everything. And let me clarify a little bit what I mean by consumer healthcare. So, in healthcare, ideally the payer is paying.

[00:13:12] Ideally, the consumer is not paying out of pocket for whatever treatment they're getting or whatever service they're getting in the healthcare system. But what I mean by consumer is that I want consumers, so regular people, to say, I love blank. I use blank, blank helped me pay my healthcare bills or you know, whatever it may be.

[00:13:32] And so there's a couple different interesting flows for customer acquisition in the consumer healthcare world. A lot of it is that B2B acquisition. So the company may acquire a provider and acquire users through a pediatrician, for example. So a pediatrician may say, I'm getting a lot of children who are coming with pediatric anxiety.

[00:13:50] Sadly, there's a rise in. I don't have the bandwidth to take that on, or I don't have the skillset right now to take that on. Let me refer you to a startup that is offering a service that is gonna give you immediate access to someone who can support you and your family with pediatric anxiety. So we're seeing a lot of those models, but at the end of the day, the consumer does know that they're using the service and they talk about it.

[00:14:10] So I'm looking at companies across the spectrum in healthcare. I have investments in mental health, like I just mentioned, rare disease, women's health, and then within women's health, kind of some different subdivisions. Everything's from IVF and fertility to menopause and everything in between. And I have an investment in the kind of intersection of FinTech and healthcare.

[00:14:31] So think about healthcare billing and sadly, the number one reason why Americans go into bankruptcy is because of a medical bill. So are there ways to prevent that? So pretty broad mandate in healthcare and the exciting thing is that there is just so much we can do to make the experience even marginally better for people.

[00:14:49] And it can be actually life changing, which is quite inspiring. It's an awesome time to be in this space.

[00:14:56] Daniel Saks: Incredible. And like when you meet those initial entrepreneurs with ideas across the spectrum. What are they excited about, especially these days? Like what's the next frontier?

[00:15:05] Anarghya Vardhana: Yeah, and I just realized after you said that, I didn't answer one part of your question, which is like, what are these entrepreneurs talking about?

[00:15:11] What's the passion and the mission that's getting me excited? And you actually hit it on the head when you asked the question, which is like, for so many of these folks, the story is really, really personal. And it's personal for me too. When I invest right? After my first baby, I had a C-section, and then I got a $135,000 bill that they said I have to pay.

[00:15:29] And I was like, wait, hold up. I have insurance. What's happening? And of course, they'd made a mistake. They hadn't billed my insurance and billed my husband's insurance and this and that happened and it got resolved, but. You know, even just through the experience of being pregnant, having a complicated pregnancy, having a complicated delivery and recovery, you begin to see all these areas in which the healthcare system, the American healthcare system, has cracks and opportunities for innovation and for making it better.

[00:15:54] And that's usually the story that comes through with the entrepreneur. They are deeply committed to filling some crack and realizing that that could be a huge business and impact hundreds of millions of. And areas in which people are building. I mean, it's huge. Sadly, the pandemic showed a very massive gap in mental health, and this is for children, adults, everyone.

[00:16:18] Loneliness, which I think people were already identifying before, became even more pronounced with the pandemic that has taken a deep toll on mental health. And then you add on the layers of children not going to school, having to learn through Zoom, not being able to make friends, bullying increasing online.

[00:16:34] So mental health is a massive area in which we're spending a ton of time in at Maveron. Not just me, but some of my other partners as well. And we're looking at it across the spectrum. And then I think another really interesting area that people talk about all the time is like primary care, the basic entry point to healthcare.

[00:16:51] There's the ongoing joke of like, millennials don't have a primary care physician. I don't think we do, but where is the entry point for when something slightly is wrong? Who do you call? Who do you talk to? For a lot of people it's the ER, it's urgent care. And that's not good for the system. It's not good for the load of the ER.

[00:17:09] They should be solving actual, real challenges, not just, I think I have the flu and I need something, but it's not largely solved for, and everything about it is a pain. Everything from like, I can't schedule anything for like four weeks out and it's Tuesday at 2:00 PM like, how's that gonna work? So there's a lot of cool places that founders are building in that are really gonna flip how healthcare is in the next couple years.

[00:17:33] Daniel Saks: It sounds overwhelming. There's so many incredible problems out there to solve, and it seems like you're looking at all these problems and how do you choose between one or the other?

[00:17:42] Anarghya Vardhana: It's a great question. What I like to do is I like to have a point of view on a couple different subsets, like some pillars that I'm excited about.

[00:17:49] I shared a few mental health, primary care. Some others include, you know, the idea that, you know, we can do really complex brain surgery, really complex heart surgery, but we are really, really far behind on preventative. How do we keep someone from needing that heart surgery or that brain surgery, whatever it may be.

[00:18:06] So kind of the diet side of things, the nutrition side of things. But you know, I identify a few verticals I'm excited about, dive deep into them, have a point of view, have a thesis on them. And then map out what that space is like and try to find the best early stage. So I invest in Seed and Series A, so try to find the best early stage entrepreneurs working in there and meet people.

[00:18:26] You're right, there's a lot happening, so it can sometimes feel overwhelming. What's also exciting is that some of the entrepreneurs will end up coming together into one specific space. So if you invest in one company, it may inch towards something else. So you may be solving the dietary side of things by investing in a women's health business, because sometimes those things can go hand in hand.

[00:18:45] But I think the best way to think about it is every year there's gonna be one to two phenomenal entrepreneurs working in consumer healthcare, building in consumer healthcare. My job is to try and meet them and to get to know them and see if there's an opportunity to partner and be a part of their journey for whatever they're gonna build.

[00:19:06] Daniel Saks: And at that seed stage, it's so early, it may be hard to know where they are and who they are. What do you do to find them?

[00:19:15] Anarghya Vardhana: You're asking the sourcing question, which is, uh, core part of our job, and I think an art and science that is ever evolving. You know, how do we source everything from relationships with other investors who are earlier in the funnel than us?

[00:19:29] Our own founders, our own own entrepreneurs in our portfolio are often generous and kind enough to send us other entrepreneurs with who they think are awesome, other folks in our networks such as, you know, someone like you who are really plugged in with Silicon Valley and founders and entrepreneurs, and people come to you for advice and say, Hey, I'm building a consumer company. Give me a call.

[00:19:47] And then a lot of it is thesis based work, like I mentioned, kind of mapping out with the spaces saying, Hey, I would love to see a company that's doing this, this, and this with this type of go to market. Let me go see who is close to building that. And also the beauty of this is like, maybe someone's not building it, but I know a great healthcare operator and I can partner them with this other, you know, maybe doctor who's working in the field.

[00:20:10] Can we put those two folks together and can we, you know, incubate something, can we seed something in that way? Sourcing is always evolving, and I think the big change from 10 years ago, which I was not in venture 10 years ago, but speaking with my partners who were, is that, you know, there's not as much information asymmetry as there was then.

[00:20:29] Like the internet exists, tons of information is out there, A lot of companies are known. So you kind of have to go earlier and earlier to figure out like, Hey, this person is leaving this company and they have an idea on this. I think they may build this. Like, let me go talk to them now. So it's an evolving thing and I think that's part of what makes this job fun.

[00:20:46] You have to be creative.

[00:20:48] Daniel Saks: Yeah, really exciting. And I've been really passionate about mental health for quite some time, and I think with the advent of social media, there's a realization to me about the potential for addiction and as you mentioned, all other things like anxiety and bullying, and that definitely became more pronounced during Covid.

[00:21:03] But I definitely think there's an introspection, uh, probably many technologists, particularly in social media about some of the negative impacts of what we're creating. And what's your view as you're looking at the mental health space on the balance between some of the challenges that exist in the technologies we create versus some of the opportunities for technologies to solve those problems and new problems?

[00:21:26] Anarghya Vardhana: Yeah, it's something I think about a lot and the best analogy I can share is, you know how with smoking cigarettes, it'll have something that says nicotine is hazardous to health. And then if you're buying a bottle of wine at the grocery store, they have the sign with the pregnant cartoon saying like, don't drink alcohol if you're pregnant or whatever.

[00:21:46] There is knowledge and awareness that smoking cigarettes could be hazardous to your health. There is knowledge and awareness that alcohol comes with its risks, and I think even in the US and, and certainly in other countries that are LA have been later to adopt technology. We are just in the early innings of understanding how technology can be hazardous to our health.

[00:22:07] Yeah, we talk about it. Yeah, we talk about. , you know, social media can make you feel worse about yourself, especially for young girls when it comes to body image and things like that. Yes, there are studies that show that the more time you spend on social media, the more it's associated with depressive and anxious thoughts.

[00:22:24] But it feels like we're still in the early days of doing something about it. It doesn't say, using this social media app could be hazardous to your health. We wouldn't let our five year old kid smoke a cigarette. But might we allow them to post something on social media or use a face filter?

[00:22:42] Yeah, sure. A lot of people do. And so I think it's just early days of really understanding that. And as technologists, as investors, you know, educators in the field, I think we all have a responsibility to think deeply about it and push for, whether it's policy or some kind of corporate social responsibility to talk about these things and to say, Hey, there are associated risks with using this.

[00:23:03] Use it wisely. Use it knowledgeably. Use it with a level of sophistication and savviness, and that education has to. I mean, I remember like the DARE, don't do drug campaign, in fifth grade that we did. Maybe something like that needs to exist for technology awareness and savviness and, and maybe it does.

[00:23:19] I'm not in elementary school, but it's especially interesting for me as a parent, right? And as a parent of two female children, thinking about how do I want them to interact with technology, how will that evolve over time and what role can and should I play as someone in the field to push it towards a more positive experience for everybody?

[00:23:38] Daniel Saks: Yeah. And I think it's something that everyone struggled with in the pandemic. You know, definitely on a personal level with the kids, we have a philosophy of like, let's try to minimize screen time. And yeah, it's something that's a challenging balance because my parents just, all they wanna do is see her on FaceTime and we just don't want her to look at her screen.

[00:23:53] So there's always that, what is the right balance? And then even on the personal side, I noticed in the pandemic that I was using Instagram a lot more and started caring more being on it and it's something that didn't bring joy to me or you know, one of the values that I have is like being positive and another is being present.

[00:24:09] And I felt that it was actually totally contrary to my values. So I did the whole full-on delete and I feel so much better for it. But I think there's surprisingly not a lot of dialogue out there around, maybe there's somewhat of awareness like with Facebook and Congress, but I think, yeah, there's not enough of awareness at the ground level of like what are gonna be the impacts of some of the technologies we create?

[00:24:30] And to your point, what are those potential risk factors and how do you get on top of that earlier?

[00:24:36] Anarghya Vardhana: Yeah. I've heard Brian Chesky talk about stakeholder capitalism and conscious capitalism, and I have hope because I do think that leaders such as yourself, and by the way, you are such a positive and present person, so you're nailing it.

[00:24:51] But you know, the more people in power and people in influence think this way, give this way, act this way. I think we can really change it. I mean, you know, for instance, a couple months ago I saw that one medical was acquired by Amazon. And that's really interesting, right? Because Amazon is on so many people's phones and their homes, and what is the corporate social responsibility to now have your healthcare tied in with your Amazon account?

[00:25:20] What do they know about you and what can they use or what should they not use? And if the main goal is to drive profits, you could argue that they could use healthcare data to give you recommendations that might be addictive to you based on your healthcare, or you could think that, the goal should not be to drive maximum profits, but to create a sustainable humanity. .

[00:25:39] And then of course that sustained humanity can then go buy more products on Amazon. But it's something I think about a lot and I think it's exciting to see that like conscious capitalism is coming forth. In fact, I'll show you this Maveron hack that we have, which says “Do good.” I love it.

[00:25:57] And our Maveron values, you know, one of our values is profit and purpose. And we really do believe that you can fund, create, build companies that drive purpose and also have purpose and also push the world forward in a positive way. And we have a number of B Corps in our portfolio such as Allbirds and Loveevery that are B Corps.

[00:26:17] And we ourselves are also a B Corp after seeing our own portfolio companies go in that direction.

[00:26:23] Daniel Saks: And one of the things that I definitely find with VCs is you really have the potential to make the future. And when you think about some of the challenges out there, if you just procure selection bias, right?

[00:26:32] Who you decide to invest in could ultimately change the lives of not only the founders and the employees, but the customers of that business. So how do you think about that? Like how do you think about, particularly when it comes to healthcare in some impactful areas, what are the trade offs and what's kind of the thought process, whether it's an art or science, and thinking about who you're selecting?

[00:26:54] Anarghya Vardhana: Yeah. You know, as a part of our diligence process, and especially in healthcare, we wanna understand like what are the goals here and what are the ramifications for the consumers or, you know, in the case of healthcare, the patients, and is this company, you know, truly focused on maximizing someone's health and making them feel better and helping them accomplish their healthcare goals?

[00:27:15] And. Most often it's pretty clear to understand from the business and from what the founder is hoping to accomplish, and we've certainly come across businesses where we feel like our values are misaligned with what those business goals are, whether that is something you know specifically like prescription medication, which is very nuanced and you have to be careful with or something around pediatrics and you know, what is the protocol for this pediatric case?

[00:27:35] And we've, you know, politely declined because it has not felt completely values aligned for us. You know, and we're lucky enough to have LPs who are also mission and purpose driven. And so that's also something we think about, which is, you know, we're this triangle of, there's the BC and our entrepreneurs and also our LPs, and we wanna make sure that we are aligned from a values perspective with both of those parts of the pillar.

[00:28:03] Daniel Saks: Amazing. And I keep coming back to the quote that you have, right? To do something every day that scares you. When you look at like entrepreneurs and people you're selecting have these kind of vision and values and very strong morals and purpose, do you kind of notice a pattern that, Hey, look, I see that these people are pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.

[00:28:19] I see they're doing something that's scary, and one of those things might be starting their business in their own, right?

[00:28:24] Anarghya Vardhana: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. You know, I am just eternally grateful for entrepreneurs because, you know, I'm in business because of the founders that exist and the founders who are doing something really scary.

[00:28:35] And building a company is hard and you're sacrificing so much. And any of these entrepreneurs could go get an amazing job and make good money anywhere, pretty much. All these people are super smart, but they're choosing to do something difficult. They're choosing to pave a path that no one has done before, but they're doing really, really hard things.

[00:28:52] I think it is overlooked how difficult it is to be a founder and the people dynamics that you're navigating. You're hiring people, you're inspiring people. Sadly, you have to fire people. You have to help navigate the interpersonal dynamics between the people in your organization. You have to have tough conversations.

[00:29:10] I mean, I think people think the hard part about being a founder is like coming up with a cool idea and driving revenue, but sometimes that may be easier than navigating some of the emotional and psychological things that you're dealing with everyday. And also like how hard you have to push yourself, right?

[00:29:25] Like nothing is ever, ever up and to the right. And having the perseverance and grit and tenacity to navigate those ups and downs and not let the ups speak, make you super egotistical and think you're, you know, king or queen of the world, but also not letting the downs making you feel like you just can't go on.

[00:29:41] So yes, I think founders are doing multiple hard things every single day and you know, it's a privilege to be a part of that journey. And when founders are pitching us, like you said, we're investing really, really early. Oftentimes we're betting on a human and an idea, and we would rather take market and product risk than person risk.

[00:30:01] So when we're getting to know a founder, we really want to get to know them. You know, I may go back and say like, what was some activity you did in high school? Tell me about a time you failed in high school. How did you overcome that failure? You know, what is your biggest accomplishment to date and how did you get to that accomplishment?

[00:30:16] Who helped you accomplish that thing? Just really wanna understand who they are. As a person because you know the market's gonna change, the product is probably gonna change, and I wanna make sure that this person can navigate those changes and have the grit and tenacity to keep pushing.

[00:30:30] Daniel Saks: Super inspirational.

[00:30:31] And I think we did an analysis on what we call digital heroes, but people who are truly innovative. And what we found is that it's actually characteristics that include grit, perseverance, tenacity, ision, foresight that really develop and enable the innovators. And it's not, something in their background or an experience.

[00:30:49] Those things are great, but if you have this certain set of characteristics that in many cases can lead to your success. And a lot of what we're focused on in App Direct is figuring out from an impact perspective, how do you provide equal access and equal opportunity for people to access the technology so they can make this transformational change?

[00:31:07] And I think that we still have a ways to go at being able to enable those who seek the opportunity to realize like, Hey, I could be that 17-year-old who could then end up, you know, founding a mental health startup that's gonna change a lot of people. And unfortunately, I find that the access to that, not just the education or the technology, but really to that confidence, and we're bringing it full circle to the beginning of the conversation, right?

[00:31:32] I think so many people just don't have access to feel confident or to feel supported. To do something, you know, as crazy or inspirational as things that you're doing or your founders are doing. So what advice would you have to that person who may be in high school or even earlier that may have an idea, but may lack the connectivity or the confidence to be able to make it happen?

[00:31:53] Anarghya Vardhana: That's a tough question, and I can totally empathize that people are coming from so many different backgrounds, so many different resources, or lack there of at their disposal and you know, what can they tap into? Which makes me say like, at the end of the day, it's tapping into yourself. You know, everyone's gonna have a different set of resources.

[00:32:14] I was lucky enough to have incredibly supportive parents, a really good high school, and the opportunity for all these things to really come together to make me who I am today. But unfortunately, not everyone has that, but that belief in yourself and your own capability, doing small things every day that push your capability a little bit more can make a huge difference.

[00:32:37] Daniel Saks: Incredible. Well, super inspirational. I can only imagine traveling to India with two kids and then setting the goal of the marathon and must have felt great to complete, but I really appreciate the time. As always, incredible connecting and thanks for sharing your passion with all of our listeners.

[00:32:53] Anarghya Vardhana: Thank you so much for having me. This was awesome.

[00:33:00] Daniel Saks: Thanks for listening to Decoding Digital. Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast player. To learn more, visit decoding digital.com. Until next time.