Cover Manav Gupta (Photo: Supplied)

In the second edition of Tatler’s Secrets of Success series—an all-access pass to the city’s most notable business magnates and entrepreneurs—Manav Gupta talks about empowering business owners for a more sustainable future and how his company, Brinc, is on a quest to make a difference in the world

Manav Gupta, founder of conscious venture capitalist firm, Brinc, has had a great start to 2022. Last month, the company announced a US$130 million investment from Asia’s Most Influential honouree Yat Siu of Animoca Brands, which will support their growth and efforts to fund game-changing founders in the realm of food, health, energy, climate and tech.

Since 2014, Brinc has aided over 200 startups and currently has seven offices around the world, but Gupta is just getting started. He tells Tatler about putting his money where his mouth is by creating company initiatives that hold him and his team accountable for driving real change, explains Brinc’s five-year-plan to invest in climate conscious businesses, and on a personal level, why he lives his life by one Japanese concept.

Describe what you do in one sentence.

We empower founders to accelerate humanity’s transition to a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable future.

How does your business make a difference?

We empower thousands of founders and invest in hundreds of companies a year to help solve some of the world’s largest challenges. These include those that develop better quality alternative food products and transform inefficient and unjust food systems. Founders are supported through three-month accelerator programmes that deliver value through a balance of educational modules, expert mentors and corporate partner access, as well as capital. We believe that a group of founders all tackling a problem through different angles can drive real change and impact.

Beyond the impact driven through our investments, we also have two core internal initiatives:

1. We don’t allow expenses for meat meals. This allows Brinc and our team members to vote with our wallets. If we are with partners and clients, there are more plant-based meals consumed when Brinc is paying. Every meal does really make a difference and I believe every action does matter.

2. We work with [social enterprise and non-profit organisation] B1G1, a platform where every activity from our work at Brinc triggers an action. This allows us to feel that the work we do every day contributes to something bigger than ourselves. B1G1 operates a membership model and does not take a cut of the pledges given. It has vetted more than 500 high-impact causes and ensures that 100 per cent of the money we give based on the actions we set go towards the end project.

Here are some examples: when we make a new investment into a start-up, we provide ten medical treatments for people in need and provide 30 days of shelter to rescued animals. Every time a contact is added to the CRM we provide ten days of clean water to people in the world. When a major investment partnership is secured, we provide four small loans for families in Asia to grow their business. On every Brinc employee’s birthday, we plant 20 trees to try to offset their carbon footprint for the year. 


What do you put your success down to? 

Success is subjective and I believe I still have a long way to go. Success will be obtained by achieving my “ikigai” —it’s a Japanese word and concept I love, which is centred around doing the work you love, being paid for it and making a difference in the world. I am on a constant quest towards this.

Success means waking up and doing work that I think matters and enjoying the journey. I strongly believe that businesses that do work that matters will succeed, and those that cut corners and are unsustainable in their processes won’t. That said, if “success” is referring to the recent US$130 million raise we had at Brinc—I’d attribute that to a single word: persistence. 

What are the top three ingredients for a successful business?

  • A clear “why”, and doing work that matters and solving problems that need to be solved.
  • A strong and motivated leadership team, aka, great people.
  • Trust, consistency and persistence.

Do you have any mentors? If so, who are they and what is the best piece of advice they have given you?

I don’t have a specific mentor—just a wide array of people I listen to through podcasts. Bill Gates and my family are probably the best role models as they share their knowledge, experience and wealth with causes and initiatives that matter.

What qualities do you look for in a potential employee?

Those that:

  • Are comfortable being uncomfortable.
  • Can stay agile, because the technology industry evolves very quickly.
  • Are able to think strategically and look at the bigger picture.
  • Are professional and happy despite how hard and busy things may get. I also look for people who work well with others from backgrounds and cultures that differ to their own.
  • Are open to learn as well as unlearn what they thought was right.

What has been your biggest career obstacle to date? How did you overcome it?

Capital was always the hardest for us in our early days. I remember how hard it was for us to find small sums of money from investors, partners and our portfolio teams. A lot of it was because we were unfocused, distracted and unclear on what we were really solving for. Once we started focusing, things started to come together. Reviewing and reflecting on what you do and why you’re doing it needs to happen often. The worst thing is when you keep doing the same thing, knowing it’s not working, and expecting different or exponential results.

Do you have any business regrets? If so, what?

Hindsight is 20/20. I can point out 101 things a week that I think we could have done better but you make the best decisions based on your experience at the time and keep moving [forward]. I don’t have any real regrets from that perspective. I can, however, point out 101 deals that I wish we had done that we missed out on, but there just isn’t enough time in the day to work with every company.

How do you plan to develop your business over the next five years?

We plan to empower and invest in 1,000 climate conscious businesses over the next five years. As the climate continues to change at an unprecedented speed we have key criteria that all of our future investments must commit to in order to receive investment and support. This is part of our drive to only back businesses that showcase a commitment to building better alternatives and who understand the importance of climate action in their business decisions. We want to continue to invest in game-changing founders who are building businesses that mitigate climate change by developing more sustainable agriculture, manufacturing and supply chains. We want to back businesses that are more efficient at creating a high output (at the same quality and price) with fewer inputs (water, land usage and energy). Brinc is an active investor in climate mitigation technologies and we’re committing to going even further in the years to come. If we work together we can rapidly develop ground-breaking solutions to drive true change for the long term. This is a commitment that will take us at least ten to 20 years, and we need to set regular milestones to ensure we stay on track.

What is one surprising thing about you that most people don’t know?

I’ve never eaten meat in my life. I care deeply about animal welfare.

See also: Secrets Of Success with Nicholas Ho, Chairman of Ho & Partners Architects

Learn more about Asia's Most Influential people here.

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