Gautam Gupta

Co-founder + CEO of NatureBox. Former VC at General Catalyst

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON August 15, 2017

Discussion

Gautam Gupta@gramblings
I’m Gautam Gupta, co-founder and CEO of NatureBox; a multi-channel food company that makes healthy and delicious snacks. I was recognized as one of Inc. Magazine’s 2015 ‘30 Under 30 Best and Brightest Entrepreneurs’ and I currently reside in the Bay Area. I’m a proud Babson alumnus and established a personal goal this year to help 100+ aspiring entrepreneurs pursue their dreams by using what I’ve learned at the helm of NatureBox. So if you’ve got a question about building a company, venture capital, e-commerce, food or want to find out what I’m currently snacking on please ask away!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Gautam thanks for joining us today. What's the best advice you've ever received?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@ems_hodge thanks for having me! The best advice I've ever received was actually in Phil Knight's book "Shoe Dog" which is to not give up. While there are many times where it makes sense to pivot, if you're lucky enough to be in a growing and dynamic market, there is often a path to success. I believe that startups need to find a way to survive long enough to get lucky.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hi, Gautam! Why did you make the leap from VC to start a company?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@rrhoover Hey Ryan! For me the decision was pretty easy - I loved the work at General Catalyst but have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. After 8 years of VC, I decided that I owed it to myself to take the leap and start something. Moreover, I was lucky that I had a co-founder / friend who wanted to jump into this together and General Catalyst's funding to launch the company.
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
What's the biggest thing you changed your mind about in the last year?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@jacqvon Very interesting question! I used to believe that consumer brands were built on marketing (branding + customer acquisition) but have come to believe that it is much more about product and how you deliver value to the consumer. I believe advertising is becoming content - truly great advertising will be enjoyable to watch (think the Dollar Shave Club YouTube video) and think this will change the way marketing thinks. Much more earned media vs. paid media.
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
How did you get funding for your company?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@winsonng12 I was lucky to work at General Catalyst and the team there believed in me enough to make a seed investment before we even launched the company. The funding process was very much about finding the right investor for us (you only need 1-2 firms to say yes). Since we were an early player in the food-tech industry, there were many investors who weren't comfortable investing in food and as such, this business was not a fit for them. There is some truth to the saying that fundraising is a numbers game- you usually need to pitch a decent number of investors to close a round and your pitch (should) get better as you give it. I advise entrepreneurs to focus on using their pitch to address any concerns / weaknesses in the business right away and think about their process as finding the right partner at the right firm to lead the deal.
Jijo Sunny@jijosunny · Maker @ BuyMeACoffee.com💰& WhatRuns.com🕵
Hi, Gautam! Noticed that you have invested in some big names (like Grammarly) and new players (like LogoJoy). What do you look for in a company that you invest in?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@jijosunny Very lucky to be invested in both! Most of my investments are focused on the people (founder or CEO) - often I know them before I invest. In some opportunities, I make the decision based on where I can be helpful and where I might be able to learn about an industry or new business model.
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
What currently on your reading list? Can you name some of your fav books?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@winsonng12 I just finished Shoe Dog a few months ago - started Grit recently and Personal History by Katherine Graham
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
if you had to swap lives with a tech CEO for a week, who would it be and why?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@bentossell Reed Hastings - I'm a Netflix fanboy and love how they have evolved the business from DVDs to streaming to original content to international. I also believe content / media is undergoing a huge shift both in form factor and distribution - it would be so interesting to have a front row seat to this.
Nick Abouzeid@nickabouzeid · Words at Product Hunt ✌️
Hi Gautam! So much of the experience required to run a business can only be learned on the job - with this in mind, how can college students optimize and focus their efforts during class to best set themselves up for success? Were there any classes or disciplines that were particularly valuable for you? PS. All of eTower & Babson says hello!
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@nickabouzeid Hey Nick, great to hear from an e-tower alum :) This might sound odd but I would make sure you pay attention to the accounting and finance classes. There are so many issues that come up as a CEO where knowledge of accounting and how to deconstruct a P&L is helpful. The CEO is chief fundraiser so expect to get financial questions thrown your way whenever you are out fundraising.
Nick Abouzeid@nickabouzeid · Words at Product Hunt ✌️
@gramblings Not odd at all! Thanks for your time :)
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
What is your Maverick factor that helped you be successful ?
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
How did you differentiate yourself from the larger competitors in your industry?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@winsonng12 the biggest differentiators for us are: 1) we provide products that are healthy and delicious vs. many of the "junk food" options available in the market 2) we sell on a multi-channel basis, so you can buy our products both online and offline with different value drivers around each channel 3) we focus on providing new products (3-5 per month) and a huge breadth that ensure you never get bored / that we are staying on trend.
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
Do you think entrepreneurs are born with entrepreneurial skills?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@winsonng12 I think there is a certain amount of risk tolerance and stubbornness that is innate but I think building a business is very much a learned skill. There's simply no way to practice how to be a founder/CEO so you learn on the job. I am sure all founders would tell you they are always learning / trying to improve.
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
where do you see the future 5 years from now? What companies will become mainstream, which ones didn't catch on, and why?
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
How did you gain entrepreneurship mentoring in the beginning and who do you go to seek advice currently?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@winsonng12 I was pretty eager to learn from folks who had built businesses and even now make it a point to connect with other CEO's regularly. We also built an advisory board for the company and add to it each year. In the early days, anytime I was able to get an introduction to a founder, CEO, ex-CEO, etc I would set up time to meet them and I'd spend the first 10-15 mins telling them about what I was doing and then ask them a couple specific questions from reading about their background about how something they did might inform our business. What I found was that people are usually happy to help and share insights
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
What are the beliefs you have that makes you different and separate you from others?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@winsonng12 I'm not sure that my core beliefs are that different from most people but one strongly held belief I have is that there is no substitute for hard work. I do believe that you can win the race by moving faster and simply working harder than your competitors.
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
What characteristics do you admire in people?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@winsonng12 Tenacity and perseverance. It's so easy to throw in the towel - I look for people who have experienced a great amount of adversity and stuck with it. While others might not agree, I think hunger and the determination to succeed take the edge on hard skills.
Ellie Li@li_ellie · Co-Founder@Projections.io #DidYouSeeThat
I'm a NatureBox subscriber since 2015! (love the mini Belgium waffle, coconut square and nom noms, to name a few!) I have a few questions - 1) It seems like you guys are constantly on sale or have promotions, as a consumer, great for me but how do you guys make money/make sure customer acquisition cost is not too high? 2) What's your view on your competitor Graze? Why did you get into meal prep recently given how competitive the market is? 3) What made you start NatureBox? Was it natural/the next logical move for VCs to become entrepreneurs or it was a big risk?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@li_ellie Hey Ellie, thanks so much for being a member! Love it. 1) we do promote for first time members and run sales occasionally for existing members. We believe the products are delicious and that if you try one of our products, you'll like it enough to continue purchasing from us. So we focus on generating trial - a lot of our efforts are driven towards getting someone to try our brand or a snack they haven't had from us yet. 2) Graze is a direct competitor - I think they do some things really well and think portion control is an important segment in the snacking market. I think our products taste better but I am of course biased :) We did not enter the meal prep space but we did enter the "meals on the go" space. The idea here is that the line between snacks and meals is blurring and we think the no-prep segment is something that makes sense for our brand and the consumer. 3) I have had a passion for healthy food for a long time. When I was 18, I lost 70 lbs in 6 months through diet and exercise. So my decision to start NatureBox was around this passion and having a co-founder / friend who was crazy enough to get into this with me. I could have stayed in VC but it felt like too good of an opportunity to pass up on. I was also 25 or 26 yrs old when I left to start NatureBox so I thought I was young enough to take the risk!
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
What advice would you give millennials or the iGenerations trying to start their own company?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@winsonng12 surround yourself with people who are smarter and better than you. This can come in many forms - advisors, investors, team members, etc - I think it is so important as a young founder to listen and learn. And surprising to me how much people want to help - you just need to ask!
Winson@winsonng12 · thinkmaverick.com
What insight about life have you acquired, that seems obvious to you, but might not be obvious to everyone else?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@winsonng12 I believe people very often overestimate risk and the implications of failure. If you keep asking yourself "what if" you might realize that even in the worst possible outcomes, the risk of doing something is manageable.
Marius Chawa@mariuschawa · UX Designer @ Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Hi Gautam, Would you advice two first time entrepreneurs age 28 work on their idea now while building their network or go work with some veteran entrepreneurs on their product idea?
Gautam Gupta@gramblings
@mariuschawa Marius, that's a tough one to opine on so without knowing much, I'd tell you that at some point, you have to take the plunge and start. It's so incredibly hard to feel prepared for the roller coaster ride of a startup - there's no substitute for jumping in.