Q&A With Arun Gore Of Gray Ghost Ventures: ‘Social Impact Needs Scale’
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Arun Gore is at the helm of Gray Ghost Ventures (GGV), a venture capital fund targeting technology initiatives and social impact. Some would say they’re part of the new “impact investing” movement. But Gore is not so concerned about the semantics. In their Atlanta-based office, removed from Silicon Valley and designed with frugal innovation in mind, the focus is on bolstering companies in emerging markets that have the power and capacity to develop the communities they serve. At Gray Ghost, business meets tech meets development head on.
Started by Bob Pattillo in 2003, the fund has now committed in excess of $100 million to “social investments.” Gore, who was part of the executive team at T-Mobile USA for over a decade, joked that he came out of retirement after meeting Pattillo to do another startup.
Q: You lived in Seattle during your time at T-Mobile. How did you get involved with an Atlanta-based fund?
A: I always wanted to be in the social space, not knowing what exactly I wanted to do after I retired. At the time, the Gates Foundation office was just getting started in Seattle and I reached out to them. But then I was introduced to Bob through a friend. We met in 2005, and by 2006 I was working with GGV, doing consulting work and identifying portfolios. And things just grew from there. So, I moved from Seattle to Atlanta to run the fund. For me the social impact world was relatively new, but I knew from my days at T-Mobile how to scale a business, how to create a company, and how to manage a team. That’s what I was bringing to GGV.
Q: What was that learning curve like for you?
A: In terms of understanding the development issues, I was born and raised in India, largely in Chennai before migrating to the U.S. in the early ’80s. My family had always been involved in charitable endeavors—in fact, they had their own foundation. And my mother was, and still is, carrying out some of these projects. So, it was not too far-fetched for me.
But one thing, I learned quickly on the business end of it was that social impact needs scale. While at T-Mobile, I learned how to scale a product, a service, an idea. My parents had been doing philanthropy in a small way. But rather than it be a peripheral issue in the commercial world, impact has the capacity to work within business and scale. Scale, I think, is what GGV can help with. Here’s an organization that can bring that impact to scale.