How Khosla Ventures Invests In Deep Tech, with Kanu Gulati and Rajesh Swaminathan

Khosla Ventures (KV) has been an active investor in deep tech for 15 years.

In this episode, Investment Partners Kanu Gulati and Rajesh Swaminathan share ideas on how they select sectors to invest in, prioritize and retire risk, how to best support startups, and what investors need to enter the deep tech field (hint: it's not a PhD).

Ask questions to Kanu & Rajesh here

This podcast is hosted by Benjamin Joffe, Partner at SOSV, a global early stage fund focused on deep tech. SOSV runs multiple accelerator programs including HAX (intelligent hardware) and IndieBio (life sciences). To hear about new episodes, sign up to the newsletter or follow us on twitter at @LabToMarket.

KV was founded by Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems (acquired by Oracle for US$7.4B in 2009) and former GP at Kleiner Perkins, with the goal of ‘Reinventing Social Infrastructure with Technology’, elevating the world’s quality of life without destroying the planet.

  • In 15 years, KV raised over $5B across 6 funds and invested in about 400 startups including Impossible Foods, Rocket Lab, DoorDash, OpenAI and many more. 

  • They invest mostly at early stage — signing checks ranging from a few hundred $k, up to $50 million.

Rocket Lab, Impossible Foods, Blue River Technology, Flow Neuroscience

After an introduction and examples from KV’s portfolio, the conversation turns to:

👉 Prioritizing risks to retire them in the right order.

👉 Technologies for the climate crisis.

👉 Finding startups in centers of excellence.

👉 Climate tech, hyperlocal & bio-manufacturing, and acceleration of AI.

👉 Supporting startups, in particular with recruiting.

👉 How conviction, patience and staying power matter more than a PhD to invest in deep tech.

(See here for the full transcript and references mentioned)

For disclosure, SOSV has several co-investments with KV including: Flow Neuroscience (brain stimulation device against depression, CE-certified and raised $2.6M), Joywell Foods (lab-grown sweeteners and taste modifiers, raised $6.9M), Opentrons (lab robots for life science, including a scalable testing suite for Covid, raised $12.3M), Prellis Biologics (organ and tissue engineering — also growing lymph nodes to generate Covid antibodies, raised $10.6M). The latter two companies are introduced in our ‘Startups against Covid-19’ episode.

KV Portfolio

  • Blue River Technology: agtech systems that apply chemicals only where needed. Acquired by John Deere for $305M.

  • Flow Neuroscience: Medication-free depression treatment using brain stimulation. Raised $2.6M.

  • Guardant Health: Liquid biopsy for comprehensive tumor mutation profiling of solid cancers (NASDAQ: GH).

  • Korbit: AI-based personalized tutor. Raised $2M.

  • LanzaTech: Carbon recycling technology. Raised $276.3M. Spun off LanzaJet to produce sustainable aviation fuel.

  • OpenAI: AI research and deployment company focused on general AI. Raised $1B.

  • QuantumScape: Renewable energy company developing solid-state battery technology for electric cars. Raised $300M. Founded by Jagdeep Singh.

  • Rocket Lab: Launch provider for small satellites (raised $215M).

  • Voyage: Self-driving cars with first deployments in retirement communities. Raised $51.2M.

Other References

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