Office Hours: I'm a General Partner at Array Ventures and computer science professor at Columbia University. I've been investing in startups for 10 years.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Shruti Gandhi, general partner and founding engineer at Array Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on solving big problems in the world leveraging big data, AI, and ML. I am also a professor in the computer science department at Columbia University. Prior to founding Array, I was an investor at True Ventures and Samsung Next. I have a masters in computer science from Columbia University and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Ask me anything about investing, early stage startup building, founding funds, engineering, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @shrutiatarray!Elphas – please ask @shrutiatarray your questions before Friday, May 7th. @shrutiatarray may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites πŸ”₯πŸ‘πŸΎβž•
Hi Shruti! I am a Founder and CEO at Pure Rosy a sustainable D2C brand that supports women's lifestyles every day of the month. Launched in late January, wearing many hats from design, production, CEO, CFO etc..seeking a high level sweat equity partner and/or early investor that can really build out a Brand/ Product strategy and marketing. Love your advise.
I am a B2B investor but I know if you look on twitter there are a ton of great angels and VCs that you can reach out to depending on your stage.
Thanks for this @shrutiatarray!I’m also university faculty (physician at JHU) transitioning my research to bring it to market. It’s an AI medical testing service. I founded a company (so far it’s me, $5k and a business plan, still building a MVP) and am looking for the right Chief Technical Officer to lead the technical build when I transition from university to the business side. What are your thoughts on searching for the right CTO executive level person, establishing that person that can recruit a technical team around them vs using grad students to do part time work and my comp sci faculty collaborator supports them (cheaper option but not the long term solution). Thanks
Hi @ThereseLCanares, The goal is to build a large company and not a project. So if these grad students would then join you as you raise money then that's an option but I would prefer a real team to back where everyone in the founding has skin in the game.As a general thought though, try to find 2-3 customers who are really interested in buying your product before you start to build anything.Hope that's helpful,Shruti
Hi @shrutiatarray, thanks a lot for your time!I've been in consumer technology for 6 years and I'm aspired to build a business of my own. I'd like to ask for your advice on whether attending a top MBA school was instrumental for you to decide your next career move and potentially open doors to greater opportunities than if you did not attend? In retrospect, were there other means that could've helped you get to where you are today without an MBA degree? Thank you.
I loved my MBA experience: I wouldn't get an MBA to start a company.
Hello @shrutiatarray. I am in a Seed Tech startup looking for series A next year. Two quick questions about team building and team fit. 1) How do you know someone is right? Would you go for more experience or more energy?2) How do you balance the need to recruit, burn cash vs keep the cash as long as we can until series A funding?Thanks a lot for your time!
1) Balance between 2. Either without the other won't be good2) Stage your milestones and prioritize based on what you absolutely need until the next round.
Hi @shrutiatarray, thanks for your time this week!I have one question for you. My cofounder and I are raising a seed round and I'm trying to perfect a cold DM / cold email that spark an investor's interest and lead to that first call. I don't have connections in the investment world yet, so we believe a cold message is our best bet. (but we could be wrong about this)My question is, what would be your first reaction if you got a cold Twitter dm or an email like this (feel free to be brutally honest) "Hey Shruti! I’ll keep this short since this is probably your 400th cold dm today. My name is Brielle, and I noticed that Array Ventures invested in last year--my startup @botmock is a conversation design tool that actually sits atop 's tech, and we're backed by Jason Calacanis. My cofounder and I are raising a seed round right now and we would really love to chat if an opportunity like this aligns with your investment focus. Below is a 3-minute video that should help explain what Botmock is all about."
I have invested in companies that reach out to me cold. We just invested in one 3 weeks ago. Your blurb is ok but can be more powerful. Consider this format depending on what's relevant for you:I am building ___ and believe Array invests in the space. We are a team that [knows this space / can build this] because ___.Since our launch in ___ our we have grown in [revenue / user / engagement] ___ used by companies x, y, and z. We've raised ___ so far from ___ and raising ___ of which ___ is committed.Here's our [demo / website / user testimonials / deck / memo / white paper].Please let us know if you want to chat. Here's our [calendar scheduling link]
Thank you, I'll adjust using your feedback!
Thanks Shruti for sharing.I work with startups who are seeking investment and as part of my role I connect them to VCs (no charge included at any point), so this is a really helpful email and some thing I can share with those companies.I really appreciate a busy woman like you sharing insight and tips :)Divya
Hi Shruti.Thank you so much for your time! I have checked portfolio companies, and there are some really impressive founders with diverse backgrounds. What qualities are you looking for in the founding team?And how do you test these qualities during your screening?? :)
Hi @BasiaKubicka12 :)Thanks! I look for the following -1) Technical team 2) Team worked in the space3) Team has good working relationship with each other4) Team is doing customer exploration starting from the early days.And since you matched all 4 of these I invested in SliceUp/! WELCOME TO THE ARRAY PORTFOLIO!! Shruti
Thank you!!! :)
Thanks for being here @shrutiatarray; Currently I lead a team of geneticists, data scientists and insurance experts at a personalized medicine company. Our CTO (who happens to be a Columbia math/biology grad and an incredibly smart guy) is always very cautious about "sprinkling" currently popular terms - AI, ML - as VC marketing magic dust. We have developed Pillcheck, a software and service that empowers doctors to select individualized therapy in routine care for a wide range of health conditions. Plus it helps insurance companies avoid substantial costs in claims management. Since we generate a lot of data while delivering the service, the ML applications in insurance are on our roadmap for next year. Are we unnecessarily cautious (some say we are too "Canadian":)?
@VeronikaL, I don't think I understand what you are being cautious about? Seems like you have them plans to take advantage of the data and build a 2nd product for insurance next year. Sounds like a reasonable plan to me.
Shruti, Good Morning!! I am working with a start up that has seen a recent uptick in activity. May I ask you a question or two when you have a moment about the nuts and bolts of kicking off a funding effort? Thank You very much
sure. If you can get in here or feel free to ask me on twitter ( later.
Hi @shrutiatarray! In the context of currently elevated revenue multiples, when you evaluate AI /computer vision companies: do you have specific growth metrics in mind for companies raising Seed and Series-A for them to hit a) prior to series B/next round b) in the absolute, as their maximum expected growth rate. Thank you in advance, Anna.
Honestly, these days things are all over the map. It depends on what you are working on, your metrics, industrics, and what the VCs are excited about. The most important things they care about is YoY growth. If that is off the charts (over 5x) with other basics adding up such as margins, market size, team, etc. then it should be exciting for Series B investors.
Hello @shrutiatarray! First, I hope you are doing great. Thank you so much for doing those office hours and dedicating some of your time to help others and inspire them.I actually have two questions; - the first one is more about engineering and career orientation: Currently, I am an electrical engineering student who found herself to be very passionate about both the entrepreneurial world and Tech. I'm even looking to switch my career more into Computer Science and ML. Do you think I should consider applying to a CS degree or just rely on doing ML projects and building a portfolio out of them?- The second question is more into startup building: How can I know if the people I'm working with are willing to dedicate their time and energy to a startup project and help each other till it works and not just quit if It doesn't seem to work?And thank you very much!
CS degree will give you a horizontal training and understand the fundamental components of computer science, including things like data structure, algorithm, basic programming languages. Doing ML projects directly will give you vertically-focused training, and understand nuances of running ML experiments and pipelines. If your career goal is becoming an ML engineer or data scientist, doing ML projects is a good option. If you haven’t made specific decision and are open to become a software engineer (front-end/back-end/full stack engineer, etc.), CS degree will be a better option. Tough one and a problem lot of people come across including investors:You can try to ask questions about people and their past behavior. Hard things they might have encountered and how they handled it. Why they want to work on this and not something else? Honestly though anyone that thinks they are building a project vs. a company should not someone you should work with.
Thank you so much for joining Elpha and for doing those office hours! Your background is so inspiring. I am in VC with a strong operational background (working with startups directly) and I am ex entrepreneur too. I am now looking to build upon those skills to be a venture investor.This is a selfish ask but do you ever look for interns to help with sourcing, building the platform of resources for founders etc.? If not, I'd still love to connect with you!
Hello @shrutiatarray, thank you for your time. I am a Cofounder and CEO of an early-stage AI/deep-tech startup. What is the number one thing you look for in a B2B startup trying to raise a seed round and why?
Team: & Market SizeGenerally though, I look for a good combination of a couple of things as no one data point tells the full story. First, I enjoy seeing a passionate team try and solve a problem they had. Second, I like to see a strong technical edge in the product, even if it’s still in the idea phase, and finally I want to know why you or the team will be the ones to build it and make it happen.
Very useful. Thanks @shrutiatarray