Bejul Somaia

The relationships I’ve been able to build are really the most precious part of this business.

To realize your potential, you have to be willing to break with convention. “My journey with venture capital started back in 1999, when I joined a venture-backed startup in the U.S. as an early employee”, Bejul says. “It changed the arc of my career. I was on a really conventional path up to that point; banking, business school and consulting.” Then, serendipity stepped in. While working for a venture-backed tech company focused on the education sector, the company was acquired, and one of the investors asked Bejul to move across to the venture side. He did, but something was missing.

“I was envious of all these founders that were coming in with incredible passion and ideas and energy,” he says of the pitches that came his way. “I would sit there, just wishing I was back on the other side. So in 2003, I started my own company focused on local search.”

Lightspeed presented itself as a rare opportunity; the chance to build and shape a business in India from the ground up, while helping other people do the same. Bejul’s learned a lot along the way, including how to embrace ambiguity and think differently about risk. “It was hard moving from an operating role to a venture one,” he says. “I had to learn to stay focused on the size of the prize, and whether it was really worth winning, rather than the details of what can get in the way.”

Bejul is attracted to founders who play the same kind of long game. The ones who are deeply insightful, have a strong sense of purpose, and demonstrate exceptional clarity about their market and opportunity. In a pitch meeting, one of the first questions he’ll ask of a founder is “Why are you doing this?” and if the answer is superficial, it’s not a great fit.

He’s also invigorated by great design (be it for products, buildings, even the structures of organizations) because it reflects creativity, attention to detail and an understanding of how everything comes together – traits that he looks for in entrepreneurs.

Most importantly, he’s looking to build successful and long-lasting partnerships with founders based on a high degree of alignment and a foundation of trust. “The relationships I’ve been able to build are really the most precious part of this business,” he says. “It doesn’t mean that founders and I will always agree, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t have something to say that might be tough for a founder to hear. But I come from a place of caring, and doing what’s right.”

And a place of humility, as well. “To have the privilege of being able to influence incredibly talented people,” he says, “is a remarkable responsibility and a remarkable gift.”