Vikram Rajagopalan on Angel Investing and the Journey of Expertise

Vikram Rajagopalan on Angel Investing and the Journey of Expertise

Joining me this week was Vikram Rajagopalan. Vikram leads the OnDeck Angel Fellowship. He has an atypical path to becoming an expert in the world of investing.

At the University of Michigan, he was involved in hackathons that became exceptionally popular outside of Michigan. He parlayed his experience leading some of the hackathons to land a job at Delta Airlines. He helped Delta create a ventures arm, which initially started as a way for the company to bring in computer science grads and build infrastructure that attracted exceptional talent. This eventually became an investment vehicle, where Delta saw opportunities to invest in early-stage companies as a way to make small bets with long-term pay-offs, and also to learn from these companies. After 5 years at Delta, he joined On Deck.

This was a fascinating conversation for me because I’m currently learning about the investment space and Vikram is someone who really believes in expertise being relative.

In this episode, we tease apart what makes a great angel investor, what are some of the things you should be thinking about if you want to get into angel investing, how belief capital relates to angel investing, and so much more.

Please enjoy!

Full Episode

Guest Links

Show Notes

  • The unconventional start: from the University of Michigan to Delta Airlines. How Vikram took advantage of opportunities and how others can use this method as a way to leverage their own opportunities into becoming successful investments. [00:02:48-00:03:41]
  • Vikram’s experience as the director of Mhacks – a twice-yearly hackathon at the University of Michigan. More on Vikram’s involvement and the genesis of Emhacks. [00:03:50-00:07:53]
  • The importance of institutional knowledge, trust, and confidence. Which is more important for success? [00:07:53-00:09:30]
  • Thinking with the end goal in mind vs simply following curiosity. How to identify a great opportunity. When is the right time to change course? The importance of a mentor while being a pathfinder. [00:09:55-00:11:10]
  • What was appealing about Mhacks? The importance of being in a room with people who are more intelligent than you and getting out of your comfort zone. [00:11:22-00:12:42]
  • The value of meeting people in communities and circles early in life, who build the foundation of your future connections and opportunities. [00:12:50-00:14:00]
  • The pressure of planning out your career path. Is exploring opportunities freely really more advantageous? [00:14:18-00:15:30]
  • The abundance mind-set. [00:15:32-00:17:08]
  • Vikram’s journey and experience in setting up the Venture arm at Delta. Vikram’s 5-year evolution. [00:17:20-00:22:09]
  • How Vikram became part of the Delta innovation team. [00:22:20-00:24:14]
  • When did the shift happen at Delta to get the right leaders and team members in place to continue to pursue success in their new Venture? [00:24:15-00:25:43]
  • How much experience and knowledge did Vikram start with? Everything is relative, experience and knowledge is also relative. Is self-study an option? [00:25:47-00:29:20]
  • Mentors and having a bank of people to have on speed-dial. [00:29:22-00:31:40]
  • Companies being a space for individuals to accelerate their learning and personal goals. [00:31:43-00:34:39]
  • Where did Vikram find inspiration to think creatively about investments? [00:34:40-00:36:25]
  • What is an ‘angel’? [00:36:30-00:39:10]
  • Is ‘belief capital’ backed by actual capital? [00:39:11-00:40:12]
  • Is there a parallel between belief capital and angel investments? [00:40:13-00:43:55]
  • How does the value become tangible? Trust as a cornerstone of angel investments.[00:44:00-00:47:33]
  • How can someone get a foot in the door with angel investing? [00:47:34-00:50:17]
  • Is being a trusted advisor as valuable as investing capital? [00:50:20-00:51:30]
  • How do founders determine how many investors to bring on board? What types of investors is ideal to bring on? [00:51:31-00:53:15]
  • Opportunistic bets vs education for a company. [00:53:15-00:55:45]
  • Can someone be an angel be part-time? [00:55:49-00:56:12]
  • What is Vikram excited about for the future of investing? [00:56:15-00:58:00]

Selected Links from the Episode

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