…As I mentioned, the company should have a positive impact on society. When we invested in Columbus-area restaurant chain Hot Chicken Takeover, we were extremely impressed with how the founder was passionate about employing people who were previously incarcerated or homeless. The food is great, to be sure. To go out of the way to employ a population that was looking for work without previous success while creating a loyal customer base is a win-win.
Asa part of our series about “Social Impact Investors”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Navin Goyal, MD, CEO and co-founder of LOUD Capital, a Columbus, Ohio-headquartered early-stage funding firm dedicated to empowering young startups that show promise in leaving a positive impact on their communities. Before making his foray into venture capital, Navin was a longtime practicing anesthesiologist in a large hospital-based practice and a medical director in a community hospital. Straddling his work with treatment and with startups, Navin is a co-founder of SmileMD, a mobile anesthesia company that is improving access to care and minimizing costs for dental practices. Nearly half of LOUD’s portfolio companies are either woman- or minority-owned.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Iwas practicing as an anesthesiologist when I started angel investing in various early-stage companies. I got to know the founders and was extremely inspired by the sacrifices that were made, their determination to fulfill their vision, and being in the position to pave their own pathway. I also learned how hard it was to get capital and help to grow their business. In 2015 I co-founded LOUD Capital with Darshan Vyas. From that point forward, we committed ourselves to be LOUD and active, differentiating ourselves from historically silent investors who take a more passive approach.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?
When an entrepreneur found out I was a physician after a meeting, he said “you don’t even speak like a doctor!” I learned that most physicians aren’t in the entrepreneurial space outside of healthcare and that I should emphasize the professional attributes of a physician whenever I can.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I feel the tipping point for me was about a year ago. I realized that my team, which had come together organically over the past few years, was not just diverse in experience and talent, but also completely aligned with the vision of the company. My partner and CMO Brian Penick calls us a “super team”: individually accomplished people who slowly came in our pathway and decided to join on this journey together. I realized this internally but I feel it was being recognized externally. Things then really started to fall into place.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person or mentor to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with my co-founder Darshan, who has been influential in me pursuing this journey. When I was practicing treatment full time, Darshan got me involved in the entrepreneurial community and helped me realize my value outside of treatment. It helped me develop the confidence to ramp down my clinical hours over time to sharpen my entrepreneurial skills and ultimately, I left my medical practice this past December. He also encouraged having a job you love. Together, we ended up building a company that is now our dream job.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but are afraid of the prospect of failure?
I have been blessed with the chance to start a venture capital firm from scratch. This being said, we had no idea it would be this hard or take so much effort from the whole team. My advice is to keep believing in yourself. It sounds simple. But hitting setbacks and finding yourselves in stressful situations aren’t exactly the sexy entrepreneurial journeys that tend to get glamorized. Rather, it’s a frequent test of your resolve to keep reaching for your goals and milestones.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our discussion. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share a few things that need to be done on a broader societal level to expand VC opportunities for women, minorities, and people of color?
We need to expand VC opportunities for historically underserved groups such as women and people of color to support their entrepreneurial endeavors. By dedicating resources to invest, educate, and empower these communities, we will only benefit from the value that these groups’ perspectives lend to society. Now is the time for companies to take an inventory of their teams’ diversity and take action as needed. On this note, in order to achieve a more equitable and sustainable future for all, we don’t just need to act — we also need to listen.
You are a VC who is focused on funding that are making a positive social impact. Can you share with us a bit about the projects and companies you have focused on, and look to focus on in the future?
We feel there is a lot of capital and time invested in companies solely for profit, even if there isn’t a societal benefit coming from those companies. We feel there is a way to utilize time, resources, and capital to help companies provide a positive impact, a sustainable solution to a broad problem, and perhaps influence other funding firms to see the profit that can be realized with impact.
What you are doing is not very common. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were going to focus on social impact investing? Can you share the story with us?
There wasn’t an “aha moment,” per se, but I realized that I had much higher interest and passion for businesses that provide a positive impact. I feel my physician background guides me via the Hippocratic Oath: “first do no harm.” Accordingly, the time we spend should have a component of helping people. I went into treatment with that goal and I wanted to continue that same philosophy within the venture capital space.
Can you share a story with us about your most successful Angel or VC funding? Or an funding that you are most proud of? What was its lesson?
While we have many exciting companies across industries in various stages of growth, we are extremely proud of Hyperion Motors. We invested back in 2016, right after we founded LOUD Capital. When the founder Angelo Kafantaris told us he would build an electric car that goes 1,000 miles without a recharge, we have to admit that we were skeptical. Yet after more discussion and a thorough diligence process, we invested and got the momentum for Angelo and his team to raise and invest more capital; work on strategy, including legal and IP pathways, and helped with the PR/marketing aspect of his supercar launch. I feel like this example validated our philosophy at LOUD: we helped power someone’s dream.
Can you share a story of an Angel or VC funding failure of yours? What was its lesson?
Absolutely. Several years ago we saw a lot of potential in an AI company. After we funded them, we helped them get sales and clients. The technology was impressive; but the founder was going through a few life changes and needed to leave the company. We brought in one of our own members of the team to help run it and in the meantime, continued to fund the project. After about two years, we decided to discontinue. Although it was a disappointment, we are proud to have tried multiple strategies to keep it going and not just give up when the founder left.
Is there a company that you turned down, but now regret? Can you share the story? What lesson did you learn from that story?
We have turned down a few companies that seemed to be a bit later-stage for us at the time. Soon after though, a couple of them got acquired and created a win for the investors. Since the VC world and fund managers are judged on wins, that would have provided a track record but not necessarily a lot of money. The silver lining is that the wins will come soon and with it, a solid record and history of wins.
Super. Here is the main question of this interview. What are your “5 things I need to see before making a VC funding” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. An open mind: The founder or team needs to be malleable. There are crazy obstacles and changes that they will face. Thus the ability to adapt and put ego aside is a must. We have said “no” to founders because they were too confident and not willing to hear our advice. That was a big flag.
2. Opportunity: Is there a problem you are solving that has a potential mass scale? When we invested in fetal health monitoring tool Raydiant Oximetry, we saw huge potential to reduce the high C-section rate around the world. Raydiant’s technology goes beyond legacy tools in providing information in utero to prevent unnecessary interventions. At the same time, however, this medical device has broad applications and feels much less niche than many other medical devices I’ve seen.
3. Impact: As I mentioned, the company should have a positive impact on society. When we invested in Columbus-area restaurant chain Hot Chicken Takeover, we were extremely impressed with how the founder was passionate about employing people who were previously incarcerated or homeless. The food is great, to be sure. To go out of the way to employ a population that was looking for work without previous success while creating a loyal customer base is a win-win.
4. Goals: If the goals of the founder/team are to exit or get acquired, we can consider it for funding. We have met founders who are doing their new business on the side and slowly trying to grow it so that they can leave their primary job at some point. If you seek funding, it’s a must to be full-time committed to that project. If not, you probably aren’t ready to take in capital from a firm.
5. Personal interest: Since we are hands-on and strategic in our funding, we have to be excited about the goals of the company and have some knowledge in the space or have access to talent that can help. For example, when we invested in Xaptum, a cybersecurity company in Chicago, we brought in a few cybersecurity folks to help us understand the opportunity and pain points.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I feel like I have started a movement with the LOUD Capital team! We feel that building and investing in businesses that have a positive impact on people and society is not only financially rewarding but a responsibility that funding firms should hold themselves accountable. We are a smaller firm but nonetheless, we have a big vision.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I would say that with anything you do in a career, hobby, or entrepreneurial journey, make sure it is helping people or society along the way. People will be watching you and it’s never too early to be a role model and help influence others to think of each other.
We are very blessed that a lot of amazing founders and social impact organizations read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂
I would love to have breakfast/brunch/lunch with Malala. She is such a courageous activist and role model for women. I would love to dive deeper with her and discuss ways to be more impactful.
How can our readers follow you online?
They can follow me on LinkedIn, which is my main platform: www.linkedin.com/in/ngoyalmd
They can also follow LOUD Capital on the following social links: https://www.linkedin.com/company/loud-capital, https://www.instagram.com/loudcapital/,