Ajay has been a partner at Lightspeed since 2015, but his track record as a prescient investor harks back to the early ‘90s. “I bought $687 worth of Apple stock when I was 11 years old,” he says. “This was back in 1991.”
About 10 years later, as an undergrad at MIT, he was introduced to venture capital. As an organizer for the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, he found himself surrounded by aspiring entrepreneurs, successful founders, mentors, and venture capitalists. But he felt he needed more company-building experience to become a venture capitalist himself.
After MIT, he earned an MBA from Harvard, then worked for and advised several startups, including Sense Networks, a big-data analytics company. After a stint at Microsoft, where he was responsible for product management, planning, and marketing, he spent more than 10 years at Palantir Technologies. There, he helped launch several new companies, including Palantir’s commercial healthcare venture, which he helped grow to more than $100 million in sales.
It was the experience he needed to pursue a career in venture capital. Drawn to Lightspeed’s investing approach and track record, he joined the firm as a partner. “Of all the firms I talked to, I really felt that Lightspeed had the most systematic approach to helping enterprise software companies succeed.”
Since 2015, he’s focused on enterprise applications and infrastructure—from big data/analytics and smart enterprises to security, cloud-based services, and datacenter technologies.
“I’m deeply technical,” he says. “I love to brainstorm product.” And because he says he’s still collecting his “investor scars,” he’s uniquely able to empathize with founders and view things from their perspective.
“I’m way more optimistic than average when it comes to sharing a founder’s vision for the future,” he says. For proof, look no further than that initial investment in Apple. “Throughout the ‘90s, it lost most of its value,” he says. “But look at it today.”