In this special interview series, we are proud to highlight the incredible members of the ANTrepreneur Center External Committee (ACE) and discuss their entrepreneurial experiences, their reasons for joining the ACE, and their best advice for burgeoning student entrepreneurs.
This article’s featured ACE member is Ravi Sharma, a mental health activist, investor, and four-time entrepreneur. Ravi is an investor at National Life Group Capital and sits on the board of the Volunteers of America Incubator and OOTify, a mental health platform.
Prior to his current roles, Ravi incubated and invested in numerous technology startups (including multiple mental health startups) through his family office, iBOS Ventures. Ravi also served as one of the youngest portfolio managers at Western Asset Management Co. He has also worked at PNMAC Capital Management, Arch Bay Capital, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Ravi holds a Bachelor of Science in Management and Organization from the University of Southern California.
In this interview with Ryan Foland, Director of the ANTrepreneur Center, Ravi shares some of his most memorable entrepreneurial experiences and his suggestions for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
Ryan: Thanks for meeting with me, Ravi! Let’s start with a brief dive into your background as an entrepreneur and supporter of entrepreneurship.
Ravi: Thanks for having me, Ryan. And sure; I’ve been an investor and operator as well as an entrepreneur. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and enjoy building businesses from scratch. If I can’t build it, I love investing in passionate founders who are pursuing their dreams and solving problems.
Ryan: Awesome, given your extensive experience as an entrepreneur, can you tell me about a particularly memorable entrepreneurial experience and what you learned from it?
Ravi: Where to start. I feel like I’ve made every mistake you can as a founder and investor. On the flip side, I’ve enjoyed the highs of being an entrepreneur and investor as well with successful exits. Both are humbling experiences because, while a lot of these experiences were a result of hard work and thoughtful deliberation, I’d also say that a lot of it had to do with luck.
One experience that has recently been on my mind is my investment in an innovative consumer packaged goods company. I loved the product, knew the founder, and saw tremendous potential. I got caught up in the momentum of the market and made an investment that ended up being a write-off. What surprised me is how quickly the founder alienated all of its investors and let go of the business. I learned to not get caught in the macro market hype like who’s investing and whether the idea is garnering venture capitalist interest.
Ryan: That is an important lesson. Moving on to your decision to become a member of the ACE, how did you get involved?
Ravi: I’ve been involved with UCI for a long time because I’ve had team members and friends who attended. I‘ve also been actively involved with the ANTrepreneur Center and all of their energizing programming for a while. I admire the commitment to students that staff and leadership have shown, and I appreciate the Center’s programming which has injected much-needed electricity in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. There’s nothing that the Center can’t do; it’s continually breaking through walls and moving forward. In my opinion, it exemplifies and embodies the entrepreneurial spirit.
I wanted to become an ACE member so I could have the chance to be a positive role model and give business guidance to aspiring entrepreneurs. I also hope to make connections for the Center that help it accomplish its goals and execute on its ambitious roadmap.
Ryan: Thanks for the glowing review! We’re happy to have your support. You mentioned wanting to offer guidance to emerging entrepreneurs. Let me pick your brain, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing student entrepreneurs today, and how can they overcome these obstacles?
Ravi: Resilience and action. I think a lot of students will think of an idea and spend too much time mapping it out without taking it as far as they can go. They will hit a few walls and not persevere. I hope the next generation can look to sports for the grit needed for entrepreneurship.
Ryan: Thank you again for sitting down with me today. To close this out, can you share your best advice for student entrepreneurs and what you would say to the UCI community about the importance of supporting entrepreneurship?
Ravi: For students, I would say do what you love. Have relentless curiosity and come at things from a first-principle’s perspective. That means understanding the basics first. When you understand and master the basics, known as first-principles, then you will set yourself up for more success. Don’t be tempted to short cut what needs to be learned. Be a student of the game forever.
For the larger community, GET INVOLVED. You’ll feel energized and you’ll take away lifelong relationships.
Want to learn more about our ACE members? Stay tuned for the next installment of the “Meet the ANTrepreneur Center External Committee” interview series. For more information about the UCI ANTrepreneur Center and how it can support your entrepreneurial journey, visit our website or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.