Arun most recently served as the Chairman and CEO of KPMG in India, an organization consisting of several thousand professionals engaged in providing assurance, tax, and advisory services. He was a member of the global board of directors of KPMG.
He previously served in President Obama’s Administration as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS). As the Administration’s lead official to promote U.S. exports, foreign direct investment, and enhanced market access around the world, he led a team of 1,700 professionals in 78 countries and all 50 United States.
Prior to his stint in Washington, DC, Arun was a partner and a member of the board of KPMG LLP in the US. Based in Silicon Valley, he led KPMG’s Management Consulting practice in the West for many years.
He has also been a company mentor and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
When evaluating new companies we certainly want to see passion, we want to see ambition, and we want to see technical competence. When situations change, you want people who are really willing to listen and learn as opposed being stuck in an old way of doing things. In my experience, resilient entrepreneurs are people who can listen and learn and adapt.
Can you talk about some of the areas that Celesta is interested in?
Celesta has three areas of focus in its investments. Number one is what we call platforms enabling mass adoption of emerging technologies. Number two is what we call technologies transforming large industries, technology-enabled transformation. And the third really are healthcare innovations or other innovations that are the intersection of high tech and biotech.
First one, we usually call deep tech. Second one, we call technology-enabled transformation. The third, we call bioconvergence. Those are the three areas in which we are very keenly focused.
Can you walk us through the Celesta model? What is the way in which you approach investing in these companies? How closely do you like to work with them? What stages, and for how long?
First of all, a lot of interesting opportunities are brought to us because people know us. Almost all the time opportunities come to us and we are in a good situation being able to pick from them. Our view is that we see ourselves as active investors, so we most often lead the deal. We will almost always participate on the board. When required for the success of the company, we're happy toh ave more than one person on the board. There are times when we had up to three people on the board.
We are generally active investors trying to help our company succeed. How does that happen? One, the amount of experience that our folks have, I think there are very few firms that have this breadth and length of experience that our partners have. Second, the technical insights of our partners are often very deep. Third, they can help open doors and make connections that are very valuable to a young company.