Home Venture Capital A sustainability-focused VC founder just took over Penn’s board of trustees

A sustainability-focused VC founder just took over Penn’s board of trustees

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By Sarah Huffman

The University of Pennsylvania’s new board chair is a venture capitalist who grew up in India, lived in New York, is based in San Francisco, and is known for investing in climate and sustainability.

Ramanan Raghavendran last week officially took over as the chair of the Penn board of trustees, replacing Scott L. Bok, who resigned from the position in December.

Bok’s departure followed that of former Penn President Liz Magill, who resigned from the position after a tumultuous fall semester that culminated in last month’s congressional hearing about antisemitism on campus last month. Julie Beren Platt, vice chair of the board of trustees, served as interim chair.

Raghavendran, who steps into the position amid intense scrutiny on the Ivy League and other elite universities and their policies around diversity and freedom of speech, doubled down on his faith in the institution.

“I believe great American universities, like the University of Pennsylvania, are the most important repositories of all that defines, and is good and laudable about, our modern civilization,” Raghavendran said, per the school’s announcement. “I am humbled by the trust reposed in me by my fellow trustees. We are united in supporting the mission of this incredible institution.”

The 55-year-old has three decades of experience in venture capital and growth equity. A Penn alum, he became a trustee in 2014, and has since served on various Penn advisory boards.

As leader of the board of trustees, Raghavendran oversees communication with the university’s administration and manages its relationships with outside organizations.

Here are five things to know about the new face of Penn’s board.

He’s a sustainability wonk

Raghavendran is the cofounder of Amasia, a VC firm that invests from the seed to Series B stages in technology companies focused on the climate crisis and sustainability. Founded in 2013, the firm has raised more than $262 million, per Crunchbase. View its portfolio here.

He also published a 2022 book on climate change, called “In Our Hands: Getting To A Sustainable Planet With Behavior Change,” and hosts a climate-themed podcast called “In Our Hands.”

He immigrated from India to attend Penn at age 16

Raghavendran grew up in India, where his father, who served 41 years in the Indian Air Force, modeled a “relentless drive to ‘make it work,’” according to a 2020 obituary Raghavendran wrote.

Though he had options to attend universities in India, his father ultimately left the decision up to him, Raghavendran said – and he chose to come to attend Penn. Eventually, his parents joined him in the US.

He holds several degrees and is pursuing another

Raghavendran holds bachelor’s degrees from Penn in computer science and engineering and in economics, per his LinkedIn, as well as a master of liberal arts degree.

He is also pursuing a degree from Stanford University’s Master of Liberal Arts program.

He has a stacked resume

Raghavendran counts 30 years of investing experience. After beginning his career at McKinsey, he worked for investment firms including General Atlantic, Insight Partners, TH Lee Putnam Ventures and Kubera Partners.

He’s also heavily involved in several nonprofits. Beyond his work with Penn, he has served on boards or advisory councils for SF Goodwill, Natural Capital Project at Stanford and others.

Tying back to his roots, Raghavendran is a co-founder of Impact Partners, the first Indian venture philanthropy fund. He is also chairman of the advisory board for Magic Bus, an NGO that supports at-risk children in India.

He’s a writer

In addition to his book, he has a Substack, which includes musings on trust, failure and, yes, Penn.

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