As part of our Active Intros series, we speak to a different member of the Active team each month to find out what’s keeping them busy, which consumer trend they’re most excited about and the one brand they couldn’t live without.
This month we chatted to our Head of Origination, Anshul Gupta. Anshul joined Active in March 2020, bringing over ten years of experience working with high-growth consumer businesses. He is responsible for shaping the firm’s investment thesis, identifying evolving consumer trends to spot visionary founders and sourcing investment opportunities. He also helps diligence future investments and supports brands once they join the Active family.
We caught up with Anshul to find out more…
You’ve been at Active for nearly three years, tell us a bit about your career path to date.
I’m originally from Delhi and since the early days of my career, I’ve been passionate about entrepreneurship and looking at the world of finance from an entrepreneurial perspective.
My first job out of university was at an M&A and strategy consulting firm, which is where I really saw the emergence of eCommerce and digital media in India. I was advising one of the largest media companies in India and they were launching eCommerce and online news which was in its nascent years at the time. Through them, I got exposure to how the internet and tech could disrupt categories, shape consumer habits and give rise to new business models.
After a few years, I moved to the US for six months to qualify as a chartered accountant, alongside a short-lived attempt to pursue one of my biggest passions in life, basketball. I quickly realised I couldn’t compete with the basketball players there, so I swiftly reverted to one of my other passions, supporting entrepreneurs.
Subsequently, I started working with a London-based boutique investment bank and an early-stage fund where I worked with high-growth businesses in the consumer internet space with a strong focus on tech, e-commerce and brands. I advised founders on raising capital and selling their businesses at the mid-market stage. We also invested personal capital into early-stage businesses alongside top VCs. At first, I was flying back and forth between Delhi and London however since 2013, I’ve called London home. I also briefly joined the Consumer M&A team at Deloitte London in late 2019.
I finally found my home at Active three years ago working with founder-led consumer businesses and supporting founders on their growth journeys.
What does a typical day look like for you at Active?
My days are almost never the same but there are a few things that I spend lots of my time doing.
A huge part of my job is having coffee chats with founders and operators and building our network of interesting people, funds and C-Level execs who could be a value-add for us as a team and for our portfolio. A section of the day will also be allocated to analysing companies that we’re excited about and qualifying these opportunities alongside the investment team.
I’m responsible for shaping the direction of investing for Active alongside the team so I spend a lot of time reading up on the news to find out what’s happening in the consumer space and the latest trends we should be tracking.
Playing ping pong with the team always factors into a day too!
You meet hundreds of consumer startups and scaleups in your role, what do you look for in a founder or brand?
My biggest driver is finding an underdog story. That founder with a unique perspective which is driving them to build a superior product or service and take on a huge category with the ambition to fundamentally change it.
When I look at a brand, it’s all about the why. Why does it exist, what are the values it stands for, is its storytelling authentic, is the product amazing, does it have high levels of customer engagement/ advocacy, are the founders obsessed with the product and vision of the business? Fundamentally we want to back founders who are changing the fabric of consumer categories.
You mentioned you spend a significant amount of time tracking consumer trends in your role. Which trend are you most excited about right now and why?
I think one of the most interesting trends right now is the rise of Gen Zs. We’ve been talking about Gen Zs for a long time now, but it feels like the market conditions today make it more relevant than ever. Gen Zs are growing up and entering the prime spending decades of their lives. They are always online and how they interact with brands and the values they stand for are completely different to millennials and the boomer generations. It’s a huge opportunity that is ripe for entrepreneurs to create products and services that meet the demands of this audience base.
What do you love most, and least, about your job?
The thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is finding interesting founders and spending my time supporting them. The process of discovery is fascinating and constantly challenging too. I love keeping a pulse of the market, where are consumers going and what trends are gaining momentum.
I don’t think there is really a downside to the job, but it can be challenging when you consume so many products and services, to make a quick judgement call around what we say yes and no to and decipher which brands are interesting and which are not at pace.
Name one brand you couldn’t live without
For work it’s LinkedIn. And on a personal level, it’s Spotify. And if I had to name a tangible product, one that I’ve loved since I was young is Air Jordan. That’s not one, is it?
The A16Z podcast.
Top book recommendation
I don’t tend to read much fiction, but I read quite a few business books. My top recommendation would be Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. And for fiction, it’s got to be Harry Potter. All of them are brilliant but if I had to pick one, Prisoner of Azkaban is the standout.