It’s no secret that Shervin Pishevar, one of the most prolific and celebrated investors in Silicon Valley, has the magic touch. Every once in a great while he gets it wrong, but the vast majority of the time, he strikes gold.
Uber. AirBnB. Hyperloop One. Sound familiar? These are just a handful of investments the Iranian American made early on, when others were too cautious or scared to make a financial commitment. Shervin Pishevar routinely seeds companies when they’re in their infancy, and has, more than four times, made Forbes’ coveted Midas List of venture investors.
After pouring millions into more than 60 different companies – at the seed level – Shervin Pishevar’s cup runneth over. In fact, his wealth has afforded him the luxury of leaving Silicon Valley altogether, and settling into a Miami mansion worthy of the highest-end interior design magazines.
So, over the long-term, has Shervin Pishevar’s investments done more than make him wealthy and give him the ability to distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities? The answer is a solid yes. Through his investment choices as a venture capitalist, he has helped fundamentally transform numerous industries and left an indelible mark not just on the United States, but the world.
Here are 5 industries that Shervin Pishevar has reshaped through smart investments:
As healthcare and medications have gotten more and more expensive, people all across the industry have been searching for ways to make medicine more convenient and more affordable. In 2017, health care spending in the United States alone grew by 3.9 percent. That’s an average of $10,740 per person, and an astonishing $3.5 trillion for the nation.
But part of Shervin Pishevar’s strategy has been more than make it more affordable and convenient, but use existing and emerging technology to streamline the entire healthcare system.
One investment is Cue Health. Here’s the company’s description:
We are developing a connected diagnostic platform for use in the home and by healthcare professionals to enable fast and convenient access to health information through a range of simple, self-serve tests that deliver results to your mobile device in minutes.
The core of Cue Health is the company’s diagnostic system. Suppose you feel sick and suspect you have the flu. By collecting a swab from the nose using a Cue Health disposable applicator, you can place the swab and applicator into the diagnostic system, and view the results on your mobile phone. If you do have the flu, Cue Health can put you in touch with a physician via video chat who can tell you how to care for yourself and also write a prescription if you need it.
The company recently received ISO 13485 Certification from the British Standards Institution, which gives Cue the blessing to continue building their diagnostic system for all sorts of areas, from women’s health to cardiovascular health, as well as for infectious diseases and other important conditions.
Cue Health has kept the ball rolling since Shervin Pishevar’s investment, from earning $45 million in Series B funding to landing a $30 million funding contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
Another successful, health-focused investment is Pillpak. Pillpak’s primary focus is prescription drugs, and how they’re sourced and administered to the average person.
Billing itself as “Pharmacy Simplified”, Pillpak is a full-service pharmacy that not only sorts the medication of patients, but delivers it right to their door in small, sealed packets. No bottles, no bubble packs, just small packets filled with daily doses, delivered once per month. Patients pay a monthly co-pay based on the pills they need, and packets are shipped for free.
But Pillpak’s other value is more than convenience, it’s cost savings. Medicare has been hit particularly hard with skyrocketing drug costs, with some patients seeing increases in the annual rate of inflation of 10x what they’re used to. One chest pain drug increased in price by almost 500% in the last 7 years. This makes Pillpak a potential solution to a long-term problem.
Pillpack’s business model was so impressive that Amazon.com announced its plans to purchase the company for $1 billion. This caused such a big shift in the prescription drugs markets, that shares of the biggest retailers — Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens/Boots — dropped significantly on the news.
As a former medical student at UC Berkeley who pivoted to investing, Shervin Pishevar’s instincts were proven right, once again.
It’s no longer a novelty to order food and have it delivered by a service. Uber Eats, Postmates and GrubHub all deliver meals, taking a small fee for the convenience of having food arrive hot, fresh and just the way customers want it.
Munchery, a food delivery service, is another Pishevar investment, but rather than just provide customers with fast food, it focuses on healthy food prepared in private kitchens. That food, whether it’s a Moroccan vegan grain bowl, honey lime chicken, or Argentinian grilled steak, gets delivered to customers, right to their doorstep.
The service is a twist on boxed meal staples like Blue Apron or Plated, because it leverages the local chef and local food preparation economy. It’s a farm to fork model. Paying a monthly membership fee, clients are given a 15% discount on menu items, and as much as 60% gourmet items such as wine, cheese, and other ingredients.
With this highly localized model, the company claims it is able to employ the best talent to hand-craft meals in Munchery kitchens. Menu options constantly change based on the local chef in charge, and deliveries can be made sporadically or consecutively. It’s all up to the customer.
Meal kits have seen a soaring interest by customers, jumping 27% in 2016. In fact, this niche has more room to grow, and is expected to be a $10 billion industry in 2020. It was a $1 billion industry in 2015. Shervin Pishevar’s investment could make up a large part of that revenue.
How many times have people looked at the swanky clothing in magazines and on TV shows and thought, “I wish I could afford to look like that”. Well, thanks to Shervin Pishevar’s investment, Rent the Runway, it can be done.
The fashion market, up until this point, has been pretty straightforward. Buy at a boutique, buy at a mall, or buy online. The convenience of buying online has always been hampered by the fear that clothing will not fit properly. This is why so many people, at least until recently, insisted on trying things on at the store.
To transform the fashion industry, entrepreneurs had to eliminate the fitting fear and deliver a more custom shopping experience that you’d find if you had a person who knew your tastes and would shop on your behalf. It had to take the ecommerce experience and make it safer and more personal.
In 2009, when Rent the Runway launched, the service was usually used for high-end fashion: tuxedos and dresses for the special occasion. But the company wanted to offer more casual wear for work and play, and now boasts 10 million customers who use the service an average of 120 a year.
With Rent the Runway, users have access to more than 300 designers. Items are shipped for free, dry cleaned on the house, and a member concierge helps with both styling and fitting. Users have the chance to wear something new every day, and get a discount if they decide to buy any of the items they wear.
This phenomenon is called the “Online Clothing Rental Market”, and between Rent the Runway and competitors such as Stitch Fix, the market is expected to grow exponentially. While the vast majority of users are female at almost 70%, men are also hopping onto the bandwagon in droves.
The company is partnering with television shows to boost name recognition, and recently began working with fashion and interior design hit Queer Eye to give away subscriptions to the service to viewers and people featured on the show.
Some experts believe that thanks to online clothing rental services, we may shift to an economy where we rent all our clothing, save a few casual essentials (jeans, a jacket, a t-shirt, etc.). Shervin Pishevar’s investment in Rent the Runway could be the biggest champion of a lifestyle where clothing is rented, not owned.
Since the first record was pressed, musicians have struggled to collect the royalties they’re owed. And as a musician, it’s nearly impossible to track down every instance when your song is played for a crowd without permission, whether that happens through a cover band or at the stadium of the local semi-pro baseball team.
Stem, founded in 2015 by a former talent agent and a former musician, was created to make sure artists get paid for their work. Shervin Pishevar saw the potential in the service, and invested into a pot of $12.5 million alongside people like Mark Cuban and Scooter Braun.
The premise is simple. By helping artists distribute their work, the Stem team can also track the earnings. Through automation, Stem knows how much each artist is owed, and through their tech, each musician is paid out royalties through Paypal.
The process is entirely animated. Artists sign up for an account, add their own music, and then choose where to distribute their music. The list of options is long and varied, with Apple, Soundcloud and Amazon taking up one end, with Tidal, Saavn and Spotify taking up the other. Stem takes 5% of each artist’s earnings.
The result is a hybrid distribution and royalties management platform with a growing base of users and a healthy amount of capital to make improvements. The platform gives the power back to the artists and creators, and Shervin Pishevar wouldn’t have it any other way.
One of the industries Pishevar has made the most impact has been transportation — both through cars and high-speed trains. Shervin Pishevar went in early on two major transportation businesses — Uber and Hyperloop — and is now seeing two highly successful businesses and transportation modes changing the way humans and cargo get from place to place.
The first service is Uber. In March 2009, a company called UberCab was created by two entrepreneurs, a computer programmer and co-founder of the service StumbleUpon, a major file-sharing service. The purpose was straightforward enough — find an inexpensive and safe way for people to get from one place to the next. A friend of one of the founders ended up spending $800 for a private driver on New Year’s Eve, and Uber was the result of the frustration around that incident.
One year after launch, Uber’s services were finally available to the public, alongside the company’s mobile app to help users hail cars. The only option in the beginning was to rent a black luxury vehicle, which was, naturally, fancier than a taxi, but more expensive.
Fast forward to today, and there are roughly 2 million Uber drivers in cities all over the world. They deliver 15 million rides per day, and show up in everything from small compact cars to minivans to ultra-fancy sport utility vehicles. Riders can rideshare with other strangers (the cheapest option), or go all out with a luxury vehicle.
The impact of Uber and its competitor, Lyft, cannot be underestimated. Thanks to this sharing economy car model, taxi unions have routinely fought to get the services banned from major cities, citing a loss in business amongst their own league of drivers. But the popular services are so ingrained in urban areas in particular, that an Uber driver is often a first choice in transportation when tourists arrive in large, unfamiliar cities.
The other transportation investment from Shervin Pishevar is on the cusp of transforming high-speed and long distance travel. This project is called the Hyperloop One.
Hyperloop One is a high-speed train unlike anything ever created. Enclosed in a tube, it gains momentum via the use of magnets. The vacuum-like atmosphere is similar to what you’d find in pneumatic tubes in banks and some supermarkets, where money is transferred back and forth between a cash room and cashiers.
While rough schematics were available for this new type of travel, which could in theory rival the speed of commercial airplanes, no one was really focusing on this new technology until Shervin Pishevar and Elon Musk were on a humanitarian mission in Cuba. On Shervin’s encouragement, Musk created a white paper on the transportation, which was delivered to then-President Barack Obama. And then development began.
Shervin Pishevar did more than help the technology along, he funded it and created the team that would help make it a reality. From getting big names on board to propel the project forward to setting up innovation centers, Shervin’s team helped craft a framework for the passenger and cargo capsule, as well as the track, which could be raised or placed underground.
Hyperloop One, now under the umbrella of Virgin, is swiftly becoming a reality. In the next few years, routes all over the world will pop up. Hyperloops will travel at more than 600 mph, and slash the travel time from one place to the next. One trip in Saudi Arabia may be cut down from 10 hours to just 76 minutes. Other proposed routes in the United States and the Middle East could make transportation cheaper, faster and more comfortable than ever before.
The company recently brought in one of the most experienced transportation executives in the industry, and is in the midst of seeing an explosion of requests for tracks all over the world. As commercial rail travel has fallen out of favor in the United States, thanks to an ageing set of tracks, the expense of travel, and, of course regulations that often make trips far longer than they should be, the Hyperloop One team is gearing up to possibly build tracks in Texas, Ohio, Colorado, and a number of other states.
Few entrepreneurs have a national impact, let alone a global one. Investors, in particular, are often seen on balance sheets, but rarely spoken of as the engine behind whatever they’re investing in.
For Shervin Pishevar, investing is a personal experience meant to help the greater good and transform society as a whole, and through his contributions to the sharing economy, transportation and more, he’s developed a reputation for being a game-changer. In 2019, the question will not be whether Shervin Pishevar invests, but what type of world-changing technology he will invest in. The world will be watching in anticipation.