The business world saw dark clouds with the death of Naren Gupta, one of the oldest and senior-most venture capitalists in India who paved the way for investments in startups and 32-year-old Pankhuri Shrivastava, the founder of a Sequoia Capital-backed women-centric social community platform startup called Pankhuri.
The co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners, Gupta passed away at the age of 73 in San Francisco Bay Area on Christmas. Nexus is one of the country’s largest venture capital companies and an investor in Unacademy, ShopClues, Snapdeal, Delhivery, Postman and Druva.
“It with profound sadness that we announce the sudden demise of Dr. Narendra Gupta, 73, Co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners on December 25th. He is survived by his wife, Vinita Gupta, and two daughters. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family in this very difficult time. Naren was a stalwart in the global technology and entrepreneurial ecosystems and a pioneer of Indian venture capital. He was a mentor and a close friend to all of us at Nexus and we will miss his passion, caring nature, and towering intellect”, a spokesperson of Nexus said in a statement.
An alumni of IIT Delhi, Gupta completed his Masters from Caltech followed by a PhD from Stanford University. In 1980, he founded his software company Integrated Systems and made it public in the USA. Later, he merged it with Wind River, which Intel acquired for $900 million in 2009. In 2006, he founded Nexus Venture Partners along with Suvir Sujan and Sandeep Singhal and for the next 15 years, he invested in Indian startups.
Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal remembered Gupta as a “father figure to a generation of venture capitalists and founders.”
“He embodied everything positive that a founder looks for in an investor, always backing founders unconditionally, especially when they were in a tough spot. Naren had incredible energy and his immense wisdom was enlightening and inspiring to an entire generation of founders who owe their careers to him,” he tweeted.
Swaroop (Kittu) Kolluri, founding managing partner at Neotribe Ventures, wrote on Twitter that his first job in the USA was with Integrated Systems. “Shocked to hear of the sad demise of Naren Gupta, founder of Nexus Capital. Reputed serial entrepreneur, cross-border venture capitalist. My first job offer here in the US came from Integrated Systems, a company that he founded,” Kolluri tweeted.
Meanwhile, in another unfortunate incident, 32-year-old Shrivastava passed away after a cardiac arrest, her company announced on social media. “With profound grief and sorrow, we regret to inform the sad demise of our beloved CEO, Pankhuri Shrivastava. We lost her on 24th December 2021 due to a sudden cardiac arrest. May her soul obtain Sadgati. Om Shanti,” the company informed on Twitter on Monday.
Before starting Pankhuri, Shrivastava had founded a rental startup Grabhouse, which she sold to Quikr in a cash and equity deal in 2016. In 2019, she launched Pankhuri, the Sequoia-backed women-focussed platform which helps members socialise, explore and upskill through live interactive courses, expert chat, and interest-based clubs. The young startup even raised $3.2 million from Sequoia Capital India’s startup accelerator programme, Surge, as well as from India Quotient and Taurus Ventures.
Sequoia Managing Director G V Ravi Shankar grieved the death of Shrivastava and tweeted, “It’s hard to process that someone so full of life can leave us so early! Shocking! Our sincere condolences to the family! The ecosystem will miss a special person!”
Vani Kola, founder of Kalaari Capital, remembered Shrivastava as a “vivacious bright woman full of ideas and full of life. She was confident.” “She was proud of these girls and how much they could do if only given an opportunity. I saw in Pankhuri a young woman who continued to inspire and give back generously,” Kola tweeted.