Aseem Giri has over twenty years of experience as an entrepreneur, private equity investor and investment banker. He loves sharing journeys of facing adversity and overcoming obstacles on his ACHiEVE podcast. Aseem has founded and sold three health and wellness businesses, and is also fond of art, serving as Art Advisor and/or Finance Advisor to art-related businesses. Aseem has been involved with over twenty companies from a principal investing standpoint. Aseem graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a University Scholars distinction six weeks after celebrating his 19th birthday; he did a portion of his undergraduate studies at Oxford University.
What’s a tough career lesson you had to learn and how did it serve you?
Since I was young, I have been on a somewhat accelerated trajectory. I left high school at 16 and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania at 19. I was in an investment banking analyst program at a bulge bracket investment bank, Salomon Brothers, two years before I could legally drink. At that time private equity was a career goal of mine, so I made the switch. I was able to make Partner in my firm shortly after my 27th birthday. In many ways I was thrilled to achieve a major career milestone 10 – 15 years ahead of my peers, but it presented an interesting conundrum: now what do I do?
I decided the next objective was to launch my own fund, so I spent about two years focused on that. I logged hundreds of thousands of flight miles and did hundreds of meetings. That yielded a small fund. All was going swimmingly until my son, at the age of two-and-a-half years old, was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called Severe Aplastic Anemia. I made the clearest decision of my life and I stopped everything I was doing. I had three portfolio companies; I sold two and I shut the third down. I returned capital to investors. I did all of that so that I could focus on my son and his health. Thankfully, after two bone marrow transplants, my son is cured.
As I reflected on my future possibilities, there was one certainty. I had no desire to go back to running a fund. I began to explore why that was. My thinking kept circling in on a few threads of thought – life had become more precious to me. In the boundaryless ambition of youth, there always seems to be an infinite time horizon. As I thought back, the reason I was in such a rush had a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t fundamentally enjoy what I was doing. I was in a rush to achieve so that I could just be done with it and get on with the part of my life where I might really relish the activities with which I was engaged. I also naively believed that each subsequent rung of the ladder would be the key one that would finally deliver me happiness. It remained elusive for the entirety.
I had to begin to think about what parts of my work gave me meaning. For a while it seemed that everything was bland and uninspiring. In my inner quest, two major things occurred to me, and I had to go back to my college and high school days to think about what brought me joy. The first was a mission grounded in being of service to others. The second was being a part of a team.
Once I had those realizations, I decided to become an entrepreneur. Given my son’s health experiences, coupled with losing my mom to lung cancer contemporaneously, I decided to focus on health and wellness businesses. I have since founded and sold three of them.
Is there anything you might have done differently as you look back?
In looking back at my career, I think the one thing I would have done differently would have been to pursue my passions much earlier than I eventually did. I feel like I spent a lot of time fulfilling the dreams and ambitions of those around me and not what spoke to me directly. There was a vision of myself that I had allowed others to be the author of. While I had valuable, enriching, experiences which have given me an expertise I can now bring to bear in the fields that I am more passionate about, I sometimes reflect on the trajectory my life could have taken.
How do you balance work and life?
I feel really privileged – spoiled even – that I am in a position where I can work on those things that truly matter to me. The beauty of that orientation is that only the real tedium and grunt work aspects feel like work, which is endemic to anything we do. The vast majority of the time I feel as if I am in a continuum of play. I think that is particularly valuable. I really look forward to getting things done and I have a huge sense of accomplishment after the fact. In terms of life, my greatest focus is on my children. I do my best to involve them in what I am doing. I very much wish to be a role model for them that work can be fun and there is joy in working hard and achieving your goals. As an example, I have been hosting a podcast for a number of months. I was delighted when my 14-year old daughter was inspired to start her own podcast. That is now something we share together, so life and work have intersected in a brilliant way. I am certain my 12-year old son will do something related to engaging people and we get a kick out of his impersonating me to poke fun. Ultimately, he is aware of what I am doing.