When I met a dozen people from SignalFire and every single one of those 12 meetings ran over, I knew I had found “my people”. I couldn’t stop myself from texting the VC fund’s founder Chris Farmer that “We’re going to build the biggest behavioral health company ever!” They could actually help me do it, given Chris’ early investments in Stripe, Discord, and Coinbase, plus SignalFire’s incredible healthcare portfolio including Ro, Color, and Apostrophe.
After building two relatively successful venture-backed companies, I wanted my third time to be more intentional than ever. I’d long held the opinion that you can’t just start a company unless you already have an idea that you’re super, super passionate about. Building a company is way too hard — you get punched in your gut every day. You’ll give up unless your passion for your mission comes from deep within.
I spent this past year mentoring founders at programs like Entrepreneur First, helping them go from pre-idea to fundraising. I saw another fellow founder friend give himself 18 months to work on different company ideas, and he went on to build a unicorn that earned $200M+ in ARR last year. Passion can be cultivated, but it takes time — and I wanted to give myself that time.
Serendipitously, it was a friend who had nothing to do with VC that introduced me to Wayne Hu, head of early-stage investments at SignalFire. We hit it off immediately, and within a month, I had met 12 people at the fund!!
With every conversation, I went from “these are great people, I want to spend more time with them” to “wow, I can’t imagine being anywhere else at this stage in my journey!” SignalFire is the most special fund I have ever come across — they have massive resources ((did I mention it’s a firm with over $1.8 billion assets under management?!)) and yet they operate with the speed, scrappiness, and humility of an early-stage startup. They’ve even designed their organization and incentives like a startup — everyone including their amazing office admin gets carry in the fund! Most importantly, I have been quite burned out, and I noticed that while any other human interaction was draining me, every conversation with SignalFire left me more energized.
They really heard me, they understood me, and they designed a bespoke Entrepreneur-In-Residence role that fit my personal needs, goals, and timeline. My plan is to spend ~6 months at the firm helping them with healthcare investments and strategy, while also giving myself plenty of time to hatch my next startup in a psychologically safe space.
I’m excited to spar with great thought partners like Stripe’s former CMO and Netflix’s former CHRO who work at the fund supporting portfolio founders, have direct access to key healthcare influencers who could accelerate my go-to-market, and explore within a support structure that gives me a strong sense of belonging that I craved during the pandemic. I’ve never encountered a fund as obsessed with founder satisfaction, which is why SignalFire has an NPS of 92 amongst its portfolio founders. The fund even built real technology to help their companies, like its Beacon Talent recruiting engine that ranks hundreds of millions of tech workers by skill and hireability. I truly can’t imagine a better way to work towards my next company – most likely in the mental health/behavioral health space!
Request To Connect: Mental health innovators
Over the years, I have gone on a mental health journey of my own. The highs and lows of building two VC-backed companies, being in an interracial marriage in an individualistic society like the U.S. while my parents are getting older back in India, the many covid-induced challenges that many of us faced, my changing relationship with health & money as I get older, etc etc. I can’t think of a single person I know, whether more or less fortunate, who hasn’t had their fair share of such challenges. We are all fighting our own battles, and many of them are internal and unprocessed.
Mental healthcare is more important than ever, and yet the richest country in the world is not equipped to serve us. Half of the people who need mental health care in the U.S. do not receive it, with even higher rates of unmet needs for minority populations. 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, and yet for every 10 clinicians entering work in mental health clinics, 13 clinicians leave!
I want to understand the problems here more deeply. I would be absolutely grateful to get to speak with professionals in the space or anyone with big ideas or insights about the state of mental health. If you’d be willing to chat or can introduce me to someone else, you can email me at [email protected]. I’ll really appreciate it!
And if you’re a US-based behavioral health startup looking to raise money, feel free to send me your deck or 1-pager at [email protected]. You might also see SignalFire healthcare investors like Yuanling Yuan aka YY and I at top healthtech conferences, so come say hi!
In the meantime, I’m hosting a handful of intimate roundtables for founders, clinicians, and other experts in Behavioral Health over the next few months. Please fill out this form if you’re interested in attending. Otherwise, if you care about these issues or want tips for building your own company, you may follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, and sign up for SignalFire’s newsletter.
Everyone deserves to find “their people”, whether that’s through deep friendships, a group therapy chat app, or a supportive work environment like I’ve found at SignalFire. Thanks for joining me on this path of discovery toward helping us all feel a little better.