My inevitable journey to Lightspeed

New adventures are all about growth. Your growth as a professional and as a person. At the very core of my being, I am a learner. An intensely curious one. Having known many of the Lightspeed partners for years, I understood ‌we had a lot in common. Our values matched, so did our ambitions.

This is why when I decided to join the Lightspeed family, it felt like an organic move. As I jump into this new role, I want to pause for a minute and share some of my experiences that have made this transition from operator to investor inevitable.

I was a young ambitious engineer in 2012 who had landed every engineer’s dream job at Google in Silicon Valley. I was to ensure that the infrastructure built by Google was reliable and scalable for billions of users around the world.

A few months into the job, I chanced upon this thread in an internal group where another SRE in Zurich was proposing to build an infrastructure API within his team. Something told me this could have an enormous impact if we made it generic enough. I reached out to him and started working on the new API library as a side project.

In no time, this side project was being used by hundreds of teams, tackling hundreds of millions of requests per second. I was working with internal customers, figuring out roadmaps, prioritising, and building. After this intrapreneurial journey, I moved to Google Photos as a backend infrastructure engineer building videos infrastructure.

It was here that I realised I enjoy autonomy and chaos, making up the rules and not following them. I wanted to move metrics that matter. And that led me to become a Product Manager at Google Cloud, working on Kubernetes, one of the fastest-growing open-source projects in history.

Here, I worked directly with customers, worked cross-functionally, and understood the nuances of building a product from the ground up in some very stressful situations.

The move to product, and the madness that it brought, lit a spark that pushed me to build something of my own. But being an entrepreneur takes strength and courage.

The second chapter

I finally did it in 2019, however before that, I want to take a small detour and tell you about my origin story. Some time ago, my family emigrated to India. I was the first girl in my family to study science, attend an engineering college and build a career. I consider myself fortunate to be given these opportunities early ‌in life.

My time at Google made me realise ‌India will be a cradle for innovative and nimble companies. People often attribute it to our jugaad culture. But it is more than that.

According to reports, around 1.5 million students in India take engineering entrance exams every year, competing for limited seats in elite institutions. That’s what competition, and the need to be the best, feels like. That struggle makes good entrepreneurs. And a few success stories become an inspiration for others.

In 2019, I took the leap of faith to build a devtools startup, which would be the GitHub of the AI/ML world. Then, the pandemic hit. 2020 changed the world for everyone. My co-founders and I realised it was time to do something else. The spark didn’t fizzle away, though.

New beginnings

During this time, I had the chance to observe Lightspeed more closely from the perspective of a founder. What stood out for me was their belief that investment in companies is not just about capital. It’s about being part of the journey that encourages growth, as a person and a leader. The partners are truly invested in these businesses, helping build large enterprises of tomorrow through support on talent, organisational design, growth, and financings.

It took some time before my next move. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to join a growth-stage company and the one that stood out was Stripe.

I joined Stripe as a Product Manager to be in Singapore to work on a new product. After the India product head resigned, I took up all India product responsibilities. At a time when data localisation pressures were not even sparing the largest American financial services firms, we managed to stay ahead and get more buy-in from leadership.

From this emerged, yet another roller coaster — I became the Country Head for Stripe in India, leading product, business, and strategic decisions. I also learnt about building a team, shaping the culture and well-being of local teams, and helping with strategic acquisitions in the region. I have always thrived in challenging environments. I was fortunate enough to be one of the highest-performing people in Stripe globally and one of the few in all of APAC to receive the CEO’s Award at the company.

Even as I flourished at Stripe, I continued my love affair with startups, dabbling with my first angel checks. I would work with founders, helping them in whatever way I could: product, strategy, content, connections, or a good old cheer.

It was a chance coffee meeting with Dev in September 2021, that has shaped this long-time coming transition into the investing world. By this time, I had already known different partners at Lightspeed for over five years. And, so, I knew ‌I believed in what the organisation stood for.

All my experiences have helped me build depth as a person, a leader, and a technologist. I appreciate the nuances it takes to identify not just business models, but also people and human behaviour. This is how I spot startups with global potential. Something Lightspeed has been doing for all these years, too. It is not just about the business, but always also about the people behind them.

Learning, as they say, never stops. And this is day-1 of a whole new adventure.

You can tweet to me or write to me here if you’re working on something interesting or just want to talk to me about building products at scale. Always up for a coffee and chat.

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Building in stealth mode, ex @Google engineer and Product Manager for Kubernetes

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Manjot Pahwa

Manjot Pahwa

Building in stealth mode, ex @Google engineer and Product Manager for Kubernetes

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