Silicon Valley fondly paid tribute to Naren Gupta

Ritu Jha-

Advisor, mentor, traveler, brilliant, curious, argumentative, generous, indefatigable… All terms friends, collaborators, and family used to describe Naren Gupta, an entrepreneur, who was the founder and managing director of Nexus Venture Partners.

Gupta, 73 died on Dec. 25 in Charlotte, North Carolina, a day after a family vacation in Florida.

He received a B.Tech in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi, an MS in aeronautics from Caltech, and a Ph.D. in applied mechanics from Stanford University.

Unsatisfied with a job, in 1980 he co-founded Integrated Systems Inc. to make embedded software, and which he took public in 1990. He served on the board of several private companies and institutions, including the Caltech board of trustees. He was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and one of the pioneers to establish a startup ecosystem involving the U.S. and India.

On January 13, Indiaspora, India Community Center, Nexus Venture Partners and TiE Silicon Valley, friends and family paid tribute to Gupta’s life and legacy.

At the virtual event, MR Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora, described Gupta as not just an entrepreneur but a savvy investor and a philanthropist who knew when to write a check.

“Naren was a very generous person,” Rangaswami said. “I’m on the board of at The Kailash Satyarthi. When he heard about a project we were doing, he didn’t ask any questions, he wrote a generous check.”

Vinita Gupta, a successful entrepreneur and the first woman to get her company listed on Nasdaq, said about her marriage to Gupta, “We had set a high bar from the very beginning. In our 47 years of marriage, we pushed each other to become a better and better version of ourselves … For example, he urged me to move on after the internet bubble burst in 2000, when my company of 20 years was experiencing difficulties with major customers filing for bankruptcy.

“He pushed me to do an orderly shutdown instead when the chances of survival look dismal. That meant putting pride aside, but it also meant putting more money into the company to pay vendors and employees. I’m proud of that choice.”

She also shared how after his very major heart attack… Gupta dug himself out mentally and moved ahead, professionally, working on projects even greater and bigger than he had done earlier.

“Forbes wrote an article in November 1996 about us, saying, “Naren and Vinita show it is possible to succeed at work and at home. Especially if your parents help you choose your partner.”

Congressman Ro Khanna described Naren Gupta as always being in good humor.

“Every time I met him, he just had this infectious energy and optimism, a laughter, a light-heartedness,” Khanna said.

“I genuinely believe my generation and future generations of Indian Americans are indebted to people like the Naren,”  he said, describing Gupta as a symbol for the extraordinary Indian American story – building and creating value, having this wonderful family, earning such respect in the community and in the country.”

Tom Rosenbaum, president of California Institute of Technology, said, “We will miss Naren’s insights, his humor, his joy and [spirit of] discovery, his leadership and his example of how to scale the Everest of the imagination.”
According to Talat Hasan, a researcher-turned-entrepreneur, “The world knew him mostly as a brilliant engineer, entrepreneur, businessman, venture capitalist, philanthropist.” She described him, though, as “her business advisor, a family friend and a man who carried her eight heavy luggage when she was high with fever at the airport while coming to the U.S. from India in 1987 with two kids.”

Prabhu Goel, another successful entrepreneur, said Gupta taught him in seconds how to ski, but that his due diligence did not stop even in the emergency room.

“Naren, while he’s being treated in the emergency started asking doctor questions,” Goel said. “So how many patients have you treated before me? How many have you handled successfully, etc, and started to do his due diligence while he’s being treated in a situation where most people would instead be saying, Thank God – and doctor.

Congressman Raja Krishnamurthy said Gupta was a real gentleman.

“He was a friendly person. He was kind. He was decent and in all my interactions with him over the years – just a truly affable person,| Krishnamurthy said.

AGK Karunakaran, TiE Silicon Valley president, paying homage to Gupta, said he was very, very genuine in the way he approached people and that showed the trust and respect he had for the people involved in TiE leadership,

“Even though my conversations with him were very, very short, I learned a lot from them,” he said.

Jishnu Bhattacharjee, managing director at Nexus Venture Partners, the firm Gupta co-founded, said that he is grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him.

“He was the quintessential champion of entrepreneurs. He was naturally inclined to identify first-time entrepreneurs who are not afraid to travel into uncharted territory, who are not afraid to fail,” Bhattacharjee said. “You force them to dream big. Think beyond the obvious and remind them that company building journey is a marathon, not a sprint and stand behind the companies through thick and thin.”

Sanjeev Joshipura, Indiaspora’s executive director, shared how Gupta encouraged him when he learned Joshipura had joined Indiaspora.

“I wish you the best in building this with him(MR Rangaswami), and he really, he asked about the details he asked about what my thoughts were, what my plans were what I intended to do with this organization, and he really cared and he got into a lengthy conversation. I was touched.”

Thomas Kailath, Gupta’s teacher who is the Hitachi America Professor of Engineering emeritus at Stanford University, and the co-founder of his first company, Integrated Systems Inc, summed up his student in just two words: “consistently brilliant.”