June 13, 2024
How Urvashi Barooah broke into venture after everyone told her she couldn’t


When Urvashi Barooah applied to MBA programs in 2015, she focused her applications around her dream of becoming a venture capitalist. She got rejected from every school, and was told she was being unrealistic about her prospects in the venture industry — but she didn’t let that deter her.

Now, nine years later, Barooah, 33, is getting promoted to partner at Redpoint. She joined the firm as an associate four years ago, and has served as a principal since late 2021. Silicon Valley-based Redpoint is currently investing out of its $650 million ninth fund. Barooah is now one of the firm’s three partners focused on early stage.

Barooah told TechCrunch that in some ways those business schools were right to tell her she was being unrealistic about her goals. She knew it would be hard to break into the relatively small industry with no network or contacts in Silicon Valley, but she’s glad she didn’t listen to them.

“I wasn’t deterred, but it did feel kind of impossible at one point,” Barooah said. “I was so removed from it. I didn’t know the reality on the ground. I just knew what people wrote about in the papers.”

Barooah grew up far away from Silicon Valley in Guwahati, a small city, by India’s standards, sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh. Both her parents ran their own businesses. Her dad ran a chemical business, while her mom designed and sold furniture.

“My parents, growing up, asked me, ‘what kind of business do you want to start?’ That is what the most successful people in India did,” she said. “They always encouraged me to forge my own path and start my own company. I thought about that for a long time but there was nothing that excited me. If there was no idea that I was passionate about, the next best thing I could do was work with founders.”

In 2017, Barooah applied to U.S. business schools again after working as a consultant, and had better luck. She landed a spot at Wharton and said she catered all of her classes and extra curriculars around learning everything she could about the venture industry. She started talking to entrepreneurs, developing an investment thesis and cold-calling VCs to pitch it.

After an estimated 50 cold calls, she landed an internship at New York-based Primary Venture Partners in 2019. She got another at Redpoint shortly after and was able to convert that into a full-time role and has been there ever since.

While growing up with entrepreneur parents didn’t introduce Barooah to venture capital, she thinks her upbringing makes her a better VC. She said seeing their day-to-day triumphs and failures helped show her just how hard it is to run a business and how to roll with the punches when things do go wrong.

“They always fought against the odds and did what was necessary to keep their business going,” Barooah said. “[They taught me] this idea that you have to keep moving forward despite all odds and that it was supposed to be hard. If one of my companies has a setback, I know that it is just par for the course and something that can be overcome.”

Barooah’s portfolio includes Dune Analytics, an Ethereum-focused platform for making on-chain data accessible; Offchain Labs, a startup that helps companies scale with Ethereum; and The Rounds, a delivery service focused on sustainability, among others. She has two new investments that have yet to be announced where she’ll be taking board seats too.

The first few years as an investor taught her that the best VCs are flexible and willing to follow where the market is telling them to go. She spent her first few years backing blockchain and crypto companies, but now she’s spending most of her time on vertical SaaS startups utilizing AI.

Barooah said she’s excited to keep expanding her portfolio and looks forward to this new role as partner and being there for the founders when they need help.

“I started my journey in venture four years ago and knew nothing,” Barooah said. “Over these four years, I’ve shaped my judgment on what a good company is. It’s not something I have perfected by any means, but I have a few more successes than I did when I first joined. That gives me more confidence to take on more contrarian bets, and in VC it’s about believing in things no one else believes and being right.”



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