Physician Reinvented: The Venture Capitalist
Physicians take an oath to serve the sick and do no harm, a mission that transcends the boundaries of a hospital, as Dr. Goyal did. He has redirected his career by starting his entrepreneurial journey in healthcare and moving forward to co-founding a venture capital firm.
The Venture Capitalist
All I wanted was to be a doctor.
Growing up I had the ambition to be a physician and focused all my time and effort on getting good grades and meeting the demands of standardized tests. For extracurricular activities outside of sports, I volunteered at hospitals and made sure I did research at my undergraduate institution. I even moved to Bethesda for three months to do research at the National Institutes of Health. I made sure my medical school application included great grades, strong test scores, and experience in the medical world. This story likely sounds routine for many folks going into the field of medicine, but what seemed normal then seems monotonous and boring to me today.
After I finished my anesthesiology training at the University of Chicago, I joined a private practice in Columbus and was excited for the broad responsibilities I’d face within its hospitals and ambulatory centers. Upon completing my final board exams, it was refreshing to no longer have tests or coursework to worry about. For the first time in a while, I suddenly had time to think. I had time to let my mind wander and even get a little bored. I started getting into some leisure activities like golf (which didn’t last long) and I also started reading materials that had nothing to do with medicine or anesthesiology, such as the Wall Street Journal. And it was during this time that I found myself compelled to learn about various business ventures and the stories behind people who took on great risk by founding a company. I was intrigued by people leaving their comfort zone to pursue a strong passion or purpose.
I wanted to join this circle of angel investors
One of the highlights of reading the Wall Street Journal daily back then was learning about the journey of a company from inception to ultimately going public. There was mention of early investors (called “angel investors”) who had the opportunity to meet these great entrepreneurs, become inspired by their vision, and then decide they want to participate in the business venture through investment. I wanted to join this circle of angel investors.
I was in a fortunate enough position at that time to have investable income and began my investing journey in real estate. While I certainly saw value in these real estate investments, I quickly realized I was not excited by them and wasn’t learning much. I then started angel investing in various early-stage companies. I got to know the founders and was inspired by the sacrifices they made and their determination to fulfill their vision. And I was honored to help pave their pathway.
Then, I got an opportunity to start my entrepreneurial journey via a healthcare company named SmileMD. SmileMD essentially brings the staff, equipment, and best practices of a hospital into office-based procedures. The idea for SmileMD came about after a couple of dentists began asking my two co-founders and I for our anesthesia services at their dental practice. As we explored the opportunity, we saw a great need for anesthesia within dentistry and the lack of a standardized solution on a larger scale. With this in mind, my two close friends and co-founders and I moved forward with SmileMD. The company initially started as a provider of anesthesia to dental clients, but very quickly we realized there was a much wider array of opportunities. Thankfully, in light of the large market opportunity before us, having two close friends as co-founders brought a level of trust that helped us all move forward successfully on the then-unknown pathway of entrepreneurship.
All three of us being anesthesiologists, we certainly knew how to take care of patients; however, we didn’t yet understand the full business aspect. This seemed less intimidating at the time since we all understood the core competency of the service we were providing, but we quickly realized we had a lot to learn.
Let’s get LOUD.
Not knowing the full business side of things, I reached out to the entrepreneurial community for direction. As I sought help growing SmileMD, I met many great entrepreneurs and companies who were also looking for help. At SmileMD we were fortunate enough to self-fund initially, but I met so many other ambitious founders looking for startup funding who simply could not obtain any. Recognizing this pervasive lack of early-stage funding available to entrepreneurs, I then considered addressing this need by engaging my network to pool capital for investing in early-stage companies.
With a great network of physicians who could serve as investors and a relatively new community of entrepreneurs at my disposal, one of my business partners, Darshan Vyas, and I raised a small venture fund that invested in promising early-stage companies with high growth potential. Then, in 2015 I co-founded a venture capital firm named LOUD Capital with Darshan. From that point forward, we committed ourselves to be “loud” and active investors, differentiating ourselves from historically “silent” investors who take a more passive approach.
What happened next was completely unexpected. We initially started the firm as an opportunity to fulfill investor and entrepreneur demand, but it turned out we were able to provide a great deal of added value on top of capital to these entrepreneurs through our active approach. We became trusted sources of support in business development, operational improvements, marketing guidance, and more. We found this to be more demanding but also much more fulfilling, and continue to feel this way several years later, having invested in over forty companies across diverse industries. Watching several of these companies grow significantly and hit key milestones following our investment is deeply rewarding, and also bodes well for our investors to achieve strong ROI.
This extensive, multifaceted experience has led me to an important realization of what physicians can do outside of the hospital. We can take our moral compass, our intentions, and our ability to learn efficiently to do impactful things for the world. We can help people in a very different way that is complementary to what a physician stands for in society. As many of our colleagues are pushing incredible advancements in science and showing courage on the front lines of COVID-19, I want physicians to know there is an even greater calling to apply our expertise in shaping society for the better.