Few industries truly capture popular interest like venture capital. Countless movies and TV shows have glorified the bustle and excitement of cutting-edge investments. Take Shark Tank, for example. The popular ABC reality-TV show has remained a smash hit for more than a decade by bringing the VC process to living rooms around the country.
Despite the glamorous media portrayals, venture capital is a difficult industry to break into. Amit Raizada, the CEO of VC firm Spectrum Business Ventures, is in many ways an enigmatic venture capitalist. Born in India before moving to the United States at age two, Amit grew up without the elite connections or easy access to capital that many successful venture capitalists enjoy. Instead, Amit parlayed pure ambition and hard work into a VC empire built from the ground up.
“My parents came to the United States with only the money in their pockets,” Raizada said. “They wanted to provide a better life for my siblings and me, and they knew that America would offer opportunities I’d never have in India.”
The Raizada family settled in Michigan, where Amit’s father found employment in sales – a field that introduced Amit to the intricacies of business for the first time.
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Amit undertook his first ventures while still in high school. While he started with simple lawn care and computer maintenance businesses, it was during this period that he began to develop the business acumen and forward-looking investment strategy that would yield some of his biggest returns.
Amit graduated from high school already having developed a significant entrepreneurial resume. He enrolled at Michigan State University where he studied economics.
Amit’s insatiable drive to succeed caught the eye of several of his professors, who offered their mentorship and guidance during this formative period in his life. Michigan State helped Amit develop a potent understanding of what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur and investor.
Despite this, Amit lacked the capital to build the empire he envisioned. He gathered his few available resources and purchased a LetsTalk Wireless franchise in Michigan in 1998, believing there was tremendous untapped opportunity emerging in the burgeoning cell phone market.
Amit gained a name for himself in the wireless world. Soon, Nextel Wireless purchased his venture and asked him to develop a national retail launch.
Amidst this early success in Michigan, Amit left his home state to move closer to family in Kansas City, where his shrewd managerial abilities continued to make waves in the wireless retail sector.
But by the early 2000s, Amit pivoted from operational management towards a new opportunity. He saw how the wireless retail market was plateauing and was hungry for a change. To realize his potential, Amit knew he would need to branch out.
In 2002, Amit founded Spectrum Business Ventures (SBV), the Kansas City-based venture capital firm that would manage his budding assets and form the backbone of his sprawling investment portfolio.
“My folks moved from India to America, risking everything,” he said. “SBV was akin to my move to America. It was my opportunity to invest everything I had – all my resources – into one project, knowing that if I worked hard and played my cards right, everything would pay off.”
Amit recruited a top-tier team of advisors and innovators to assist in developing a dynamic investment portfolio. This team helped Amit expand into real estate, financial technology, entertainment, medical innovation, retail distribution, and logistics. Within five years, SBV began to yield significant returns, breathing life into cutting-edge startups that went on to transform a variety of industries. By 2012, Amit had steered the firm through 50 real estate projects and more than 140 total portfolio investments.
After moving to Miami in 2013, Amit doubled down on his search for innovative emerging markets.
First, he began investing in warehouse space within ten minutes of many major American airports. He insightfully deduced that, in a bid to deliver online orders faster to consumers, Amazon would overstock inventory in key markets. This inventory would need to be stored somewhere – and Amit ensured that he had a stake in many of the most conveniently located warehouses.
Amit also turned his attention toward health care. He became an early investor in a company that developed a novel cancer-fighting drug and in another firm that designed a sinus dilation sleeve that is changing the way ENT doctors treat sinus-related illnesses.
“Those are some of the investments I’m most proud of,” Raizada said. “When I find a way to deliver significant returns and to contribute to the development of new technologies that could help desperate patients – that’s really the best part of this job.”
Amit has extended his commitment to cutting-edge technology beyond the medical field, too. Amit partnered with a company that launches communication and military satellites into orbit.
“Space is as futuristic as it gets, and maybe it’ll be some time before I pull a profit,” Raizada said. “Yet, it’s important to get in early. Space is becoming a viable market and investors will realize that soon enough. But by the time they do, I will have already invested in my share.”
Therein lies a heart of Amit’s investment philosophy: accept short-term risks for long-term returns.
After this string of successes, Amit wanted to give back to the communities that enabled his success. That’s when he decided to dedicate a considerable amount of time and resources to philanthropy.
“I worked really hard to get where I am today, but I didn’t do it alone,” Raizada said. “I had a lot of really great help along the way, and now that I have the resources and time, I’m privileged to get the chance to give back. I do this with a deep sense of gratitude.”
Today Raizada is advising on the proper way to open back up businesses after the COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s been a rough 2020 for a lot of people trying to adjust to the new normal and a seasoned veteran like Amit is always welcoming with advice on how to navigate these turbulent times.