Essential Thinking with Sumeet Shah

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Essential Thinking is a series that captures the thoughts, routines and attire of unique New Yorkers.


Essential Thinking | Sumeet Shah | Startup Investor | Gramercy

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Sumeet.

I’ve always been curious about how things work my entire life. I was raised by parents who kept encouraging me to ask “why” and “how” throughout life. It led me through my personal accomplishments and into my career, starting in private equity consulting, then my foray into startups (specifically helping a mobile app dev shop with business development), and finally, somehow, getting the golden one-way ticket into the venture capital industry, where I focused on early-stage investing in low-tech and high-tech consumer products and devices at Brand Foundry Ventures for 3.5 years. More above everything else, I care about and fight for the founders who are building their dreams and the methods to make them happen. I fortunately keep finding new ways to help thanks to the amazing resources I continue to find and obtain. While I work on my next move, career-wise, currently helping the teams at Worn and Galvanize Ventures, my curiosity and desire to keep learning, exploring, and creating lives on.

I love getting lost, especially in New York City. My curiosity also helps me get lost, searching for the most unique items in urban architecture and planning. It has resulted in me finding my favorite places, parks, spots, restaurants, bars, and shopping areas across the world, from La Perla Pizzeria in Venice to the best Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki in, well, Hiroshima!

I also am always in search for the best tacos in NYC. The fastest ways to my heart are either a platter of tacos or a giant bowl of buffalo wings.

What is your favorite form of routine exercise, and why?

I’ve been boxing for the past 2.5 years and fought in Haymakers for Hope in November 2016 to raise over $800k (over $8k personally) for cancer research. Moreover, due to an injured fighter, I entered the ring one more time for the November 2017 edition of Haymakers for Hope on one week’s notice, because, quite frankly, there’s a bigger cause worth fighting for than a boxing match, and that’s against the scourge that is cancer.

The training and learning of technique in boxing is a form of exercise that I encourage EVERYONE to partake in, both from a physical and mental standard. Physically, you tone the heck of our your body and become leaner and meaner. You learn how to use all parts of your body to throw a perfect punch, especially when you realize that it only takes 8 pounds of pressure to knock a person out!

Mentally is another story. People assume you just go into a ring with fists blazing. The field vision you get from training, recognizing how it’s a mental chess match to play the player, the fight the fighter, make him or her get off her game before firing back. That mental field vision is such an important asset to have in life. We can use the forest-trees cliche here, but it’s so true that if you go in with one set plan, what happens when you DO get hit, either in the face or ribs? You cannot cower and back out. You need a new plan of action ready at the helm, both in the ring and in life.

As a former investor that focused on consumer brands, how do you identify what makes a strong brand at such an early stage?

A strong brand is one that uses its business model ecosystem to connect with its potential and current customer base, and more importantly, interact with them. You as a brand can act towards them (e.g., social media, email marketing, paid search), and they can react (e.g., comment on Facebook, e-mail compliment/complaint), but it’s the interaction that matters (e.g., connecting via social media, showcasing their customers wearing product). Some brands that really do well at this include Warby Parker, Harry’s, Pop and Suki, AWAY, Lola, and Cotopaxi.

With the recent of rise in interest and celebrity of startup investing becoming so prevalent, what is one thing that most people don't understand about your job?

Oh god. Too many answers to this. Probably the most important thing is that VCs have it easy. I looked at 200-250 ideas/startups/concepts per month to choose 1-2 per quarter.

To follow the question above, what is one thing that early stage founders don’t know about investors?

That VCs are always keeping an eye on y’all to see how we can help.

What is your ideal situation to wear undershirts?

I’ve always worn an undershirt under my dress shirt as my work style of choice is a suit with a button down. Besides it being my first line of defense (I sadly sweat easily...TMI?), it’s also my first line of comfort when I’m about to enter a long day at the office and into the evening. I also love wearing a comfy undershirt while lounging around but I’ve been doing them under sweaters recently.

Moreover, the undershirt to me, besides being a great product to wear around, is more than the first line of defense for my body. It’s the last line of comfort for it, where I wear it to walk around in and is almost a symbol of rawness.