Learning How To Rock The Boat... So I Can Help Others Tip It Over

Learning How To Rock The Boat... So I Can Help Others Tip It Over

To put it plainly, the probability that Kittu and I would find ourselves in the same room was remote. We were born into different generations, raised in different countries, and pursued different career paths. Kittu was raised in India, while I was raised in a small town in West Virginia (current population: 367). Kittu became a serial entrepreneur while I spent the last decade at JPMorgan. And, while I do not know what Kittu’s first car was, I am confident that it was not a teal 1995 Chevy S-10 with a standard transmission.

The odds of us meeting were slim and the chances of us forming a friendship were slimmer. The probability that I would join him at Neotribe was infinitesimal. Luckily, Kittu and I did find ourselves in the same room—a boardroom—where we were working together to help a company sell differentiated technology to car manufacturers. Over the next several years, we learned that while we do not share many of the same interests (sorry, Kittu, but I will never understand cricket), we do share a similar outlook on life and an understanding of the importance of family, friends, and a passion for our work. Now, I am very thankful to sit here as the newest Partner at Neotribe.

If I may continue to speak (or type) plainly, the probability that I would sit in any seat similar to this was remote. I am a first-generation college student from an area where job opportunities are scarce, and for context, my family has lived there long enough to gain the coveted address of P.O. Box 1. In my hometown, men often feel lucky to work in the coal mines, and women typically tend to the home. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to pursue a different path. I sought financial independence, and I understood that this would likely require me to leave the region. I began preparing for my departure at the age of six, which is when I informed my parents that, going forward, I would be imitating ‘TV people’: newscasters who spoke with no discernible accent. I also promptly removed ‘ain’t’ and ‘reckon’ from my vocabulary. My parents handled this better than you may suspect…

My acceptance to Cornell University marked the first step towards my goal, but it did not take long for me to realize that my vocabulary choices were not enough to bridge the gap between my past and my present. I felt this gap on move-in day when I learned that one of my roommates was a multi-generational Cornell legacy and again on day one of Chemistry 101 when I discovered that evolution is, in fact, not a controversial topic to discuss. I felt it often throughout my first few weeks but never more than when I got into a heated debate with a classmate about how to pronounce Appalachia, noting that he was not from the region. I fell in love with so many aspects of Cornell and the opportunities that it offered me, so I made the choice to assimilate, to downplay my differences, and to not rock the boat. I happily traded biscuits and gravy for hummus and pita. I put away my Mountaineer gear. I even switched from saying pop to soda.

I internalized this way of thinking for years, both through my summer internships in New York City and subsequently through the first half of my decade-long tenure at JPMorgan which spanned three teams over two continents. Then, on my first work trip as a member of the Private Equity Group, a stranger helped me rethink everything with one simple, declarative statement. I was in California visiting a growth stage company and happened to also attend a charity event. I found myself in a rented gown at my first black tie event, surrounded by entrepreneurs, operators, and investors. I gave my standard spiel to the woman seated next to me, and then, without hesitation, she noted, “working in finance cannot be the most interesting thing about you.” She was right, of course, but I had convinced myself that no one wanted to hear the atypical things and that fitting the mold was the right choice, the safe choice. This moment was my flashpoint, my catalyst for change, and it was long overdue.

Luckily for me, my job now included meeting founders on a regular basis who believe their job is to, in fact, rock the boat. This only accelerated my changing perspective. I was hooked. Entrepreneurs taught me that you can dream big while being your authentic self. Through them, I quickly realized that if you are always assimilating, you are never creating. Investing in private companies enabled me to meet incredible people, support their dreams, and nurture groundbreaking (or dare I say atypical) ideas. I now find great satisfaction in matching their vulnerability. It is the only appropriate word to describe the act of pitching your life’s work repeatedly knowing you will be rejected more than you will be supported, which I can only do by being myself without reservation. Years later, I am still completely hooked.

I am very fortunate for the life and career experiences I have had thus far. Now, after years of working alongside Kittu and sharing a few glasses of Pinot Noir, I truly appreciate what makes Neotribe unique. For me, Neotribe is a combination of traits as unlikely as my sitting here may be. It is a pairing of intellectual curiosity with intellectual honesty, of hard work with a love of family and friends, and of conviction with humility. While we all have different stories and backgrounds, we have a set of shared beliefs that bring us together to form the foundation of our firm.

If you have ever heard a Neotribe pitch or been to the Neotribe website, you know that one of the key tenets is to nurture the rebel. It is to have conviction in people who are willing to buck the trend. It is definitionally to rock the boat, tip the boat over, perhaps build a new boat, or create something better than a boat altogether. Neotribe was purposely built to be open-minded. It was built to foster authenticity. It was built to bring out the best in me and others who need a little push or a safe place to test the waters. I am overjoyed to be a member of this team, and I cannot wait to meet all of our current and future rebels (while sporting my Mountaineer gear) and perhaps provide a little nudge when needed.