Samir Kaul

Samir is a founding general partner at Khosla Ventures, where he focuses on health, sustainability, food and advanced technology investing.

Samir grew up in a family of engineers and doctors. Both his father and uncle were early engineers in a pioneering satellite communications company where Samir worked during summer breaks from high school and college. However, it became clear during high school that it was biology, rather than engineering, that was his true passion. This led him to attend the University of Michigan, where he majored in biology and taught undergraduate biochemistry. He then continued on to graduate school to study biochemistry at the University of Maryland.

While at Maryland, Samir heard Craig Venter speak about the genomics revolution. Venter’s Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) had recently sequenced the first complete genome (a bacterium frequently associated with influenza infections) in record time using automated, state-of-the-art technology. What would have taken weeks in graduate school now took minutes at TIGR. Venter also signed a historic deal with SmithKline Beecham to identify the important genes responsible for human disease. Sensing a paradigm shift in the making, Samir joined TIGR to work on the genome of Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the mustard family, which was a model organism for understanding agricultural staples such as rice, corn and wheat. Thereafter, Samir was promoted to run the project both within TIGR and internationally as the chairperson of the Arabidopsis Genome Initiative (AGI). Under his direction, the project was completed years before schedule and well under budget, culminating in a historic publication in the scientific journal Nature in December 2000.

Once again, it was time for a change as sequencing a genome was no longer a rare event, so Samir went to Harvard Business School to pursue an MBA. With a strong scientific background and experience running large project teams, this provided the business training he needed to enter industry. Upon graduating, he joined Flagship Ventures to start and invest in early-stage biotechnology companies. During his five years there, Samir was involved in starting and investing in a number of companies including Helicos BioSciences [IPO], Epitome [Millipore], Codon Devices, LS9 [REG] and Morphotek [Eisai]. Helicos, which was co-founded with Stan Lapidus and Steve Quake from Stanford, is developing single-molecule sequencing instruments to revolutionize personalized medicine. As CEO at Codon Devices, Samir raised the series A financing, built the technical and advisory teams and booked significant revenues in the company’s first year of operations.

Vinod Khosla was a seed investor in Codon, and it was there that their relationship began. Vinod had been researching ethanol and bio refineries since 2004 and was convinced that they would be the next revolution in technology. Samir was soon persuaded to leave Flagship Ventures, and in 2006, he became a founding general partner at Khosla Ventures focusing primarily on renewable energy, sustainability and life science investing.

“What I am most proud of are the remarkable people with whom I have had the privilege of working in order to build these companies,” says Samir. “There is no greater joy in this business than to be surrounded by exceptional people working towards a common goal.”

Samir holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Michigan. He also studied biochemistry, specifically gene regulation and expression, at the University of Maryland. He also holds a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University.

Samir is active in philanthropy and been a longstanding member of the leadership committee of the Tipping Point Community.

In his free time, Samir enjoys golf, skiing, tennis, meditation, reading and traveling. He is an avid sports fan with undying loyalty to the Michigan Wolverines, Washington Redskins and Boston Red Sox.

Life Sciences

Current: OSCAR, Guardant, Neurotrack, Carrot Sense, Vicarious Surgical, Whole Biome, Siolta, Iora, and several others in stealth mode.

Exited: Morphotek [Eisai], Helicos [IPO], Editas [IPO], Epitome [Millipore]

Sustainability

Current: Impossible Foods, Ripple, Hampton Creek, Quantumscape, View, Soraa, SLD, Bidgely, EtaGen

Exited: Ausra [AREVA], Climate Corp [Monsanto], Cogenra [SPWR], NanoH2O [LG], Sakti3 [Dyson], Seeo [Bosch], Virdia [SENSO], LS9 [REG], Amyris [IPO], Gevo [IPO], EchoFirst [SUNE],Granular [DUPONT]

Technology

Current: Cadre, Velo3d, Pymetrics, Bridge Schools, Tectus, PullString, Big Switch, b8ta, and others.        

Exited: Hunch [eBay], Nutanix [IPO]