Arif Janmohamed attended the University of Waterloo, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering. He later went on to receive his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His family is originally from Africa and his ancestors are from India. Arif grew up in Canada before moving to the United States in the late ’90s. He is the son of an engineer and business owner, and the grandson of an entrepreneur. Whether he knew it or not, the groundwork for his career path was laid years earlier. Arif worked as a chip designer in the late ’90s, but he switched his focus from engineering to business in the early 2000s. He joined Lightspeed Venture Partners as a senior associate in 2008 and later became a partner. Since joining Lightspeed, his focus has been on cloud and datacenter technologies as well as enterprise mobile and SaaS solutions. He’s helped six companies toward acquisition and one to IPO.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am lucky. In venture capital, there is no typical day. Every day is different. Every day I’m learning from a new set of entrepreneurs. Every day I’m working with founders to tackle new problems. Every day I’m learning about new industries, new opportunities, and new markets. Every day I’m meeting amazingly talented people, and every day is a new challenge. For me, the variability is what makes it productive. I get energy from meeting new people and learning new things and discovering how to tackle new challenges.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When meeting with entrepreneurs and hearing their ideas, I look for a few key things. It’s pretty simple: It comes down to how you frame what you’re building, how you frame who you are and what you’ve accomplished in your previous lives, and how you have an unfair advantage to win in a very large market. If you can get those ingredients together, any investor would be very excited to invest in you and help make your dreams and ideas a reality.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Innovation is global. Now, companies can be built anywhere, employees can work from anywhere, and new technologies can spring out of anywhere.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Find great mentors, work with amazing people, keep in touch with them, and give generously. Oh, and eat less red meat.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
As an investor, I look for founders who not only have deep insight into technological innovations, but also those who think big about the future. I invest in companies that have a solid customer and investor value proposition, companies that have dedicated and driven founders — and honestly, companies that I see myself as providing value to. I’m in it for the long haul. I want to provide my expertise and mentorship to these businesses, and if I don’t see myself as a value add, then it’s not the right investment for me.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
That’s easy: my electric toothbrush. I want my teeth to last forever.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Xembly. It’s like having a virtual chief of staff.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Amp It Up and Tape Sucks by Frank Slootman
What is your favorite quote?
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
- Learn new things from new people.
- Look for opportunities where you can add value.
- Work with amazing people.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.