Sheel Tyle sees entrepreneurship as a sustainable and transformational means of social change on a day-to-day basis. Although he was born in California, Sheel’s parents emigrated from North India to the United States in search of opportunity.
The Tyles moved around a lot, taking bold risks and continuously building. Not only did their perambulations give Sheel the gift of adaptability, but they also taught him about empathy. Throughout his childhood, Sheel saw empathy applied in the most practical way: the Tyle family received generous support from others willing to give them a chance and help them reach their goals.
According to Sheel, success is the product of a supportive community. In a continuation of this trust and support, Sheel founded the venture capital company Amplo, which has a hand in Andela, Robinhood and Two Chairs. Sheel, who also serves as Amplo’s CEO, helps entrepreneurs around the world build companies that make a difference, with the realisation that entrepreneurship knows no boundaries.
We sat down with Sheel Tyle to talk about the immigrant dream of his parents, how this dream translated to a career in venture capital investment and why we identify so strongly with immigrant entrepreneurs.
How did growing up as the child of an immigrant entrepreneur influence your perspective on venture capitalism?
It’s impossible to tell you about my journey without also telling you the story of my parents. They came from modest families in India to America to achieve their dreams. Their dreams moved around the US, so they did too. I was always the new kid in class.
Though difficult at the time, being forced to meet new people and make friends wherever we went exposed me to the underlying potential in all people regardless of their background. People saw potential in us as well, and we received generous support at every juncture.
My parents’ dream, which actually revolved around giving me the best opportunities so that I could give back later in life, eventually saw me enrolled at Stanford. Through these formative years, I developed an interest in entrepreneurship. I came to see it as the ideal vehicle for social change.
Venture capital, at least for now, is the most direct way for me to honour my parents’ journey to America and the many people who helped us along the way. Success is a collaborative achievement, not a solo effort, which is why venture capital exists in the first place.
“Immigrant entrepreneurs like those at Robinhood can drive products that touch the everyday consumer because, as it turns out, the majority of consumers identify with their perspective, not the perspective of wealth.”
What sets immigrant entrepreneurs apart?
Immigrant entrepreneurs can have the advantage of an outsider’s perspective. One of our favourite companies, Robinhood, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, was co-founded by an immigrant and the son of an immigrant.
They saw the way in which brokerage fees were weighted to give those who are already wealthy a higher chance of profiting as fundamentally unfair and unamerican. They, like many immigrants, see the US as a place of equal opportunity. So, they founded a zero-commission brokerage platform to fix this incongruency.
Now, Robinhood is adding more accounts than every other brokerage firm. Immigrant entrepreneurs like those at Robinhood can drive products that touch the everyday consumer because, as it turns out, the majority of consumers identify with their perspective, not the perspective of wealth.
“Entrepreneurship is not limited by geography or political boundaries because talent is universal.”
Amplo’s interests are decidedly global. Why look so far afield for investment opportunities?
The most impactful companies in the world are founded by entrepreneurs motivated by more than just money. People that set out to solve problems get through the hard times, recruit the right people in challenging markets and ultimately build something impactful.
Entrepreneurship is not limited by geography or political boundaries because talent is universal. A Silicon Valley Stanford dropout can have the same entrepreneurial ability as a mother of three in Nigeria or New Delhi. To reflect these truths, our portfolio is global. We find and invest in talent wherever it exists.
How is the rest of the venture capital industry changing to meet these truths?
We are at the beginning of a global venture capital movement. In the past, people only invested close to home for the simple reason that they wanted to spend time with their founders in person. Venture capitalists in Silicon Valley ended up investing in Silicon Valley companies, and that same localised mentality shifted to venture capitalists in New York and Boston. It’s a strategy that, for the most part, precluded the global perspective, which was an oversight because investment capital and entrepreneurship do not necessarily exist in the same place.
Instead, inspired entrepreneurship can come from anywhere at any time. For example, India and Africa have been expanding rapidly but used to see almost no venture capital money. I spent much of my early career visiting these markets. Thanks to my parents and all the travelling we did, I learned to feel comfortable in new places, adapt quickly and make friends. I came to appreciate entrepreneurship in these markets – then largely defined by opportunity, not competition. Now, almost ten years later, there is more competition, and venture capital money is flowing into these economies. The incredible entrepreneurial potential that exists all over the world is finally being realised.
What is the common thread among family businesses that invest with you?
Our investors at Amplo include families from all over the world – Turkey, India, Guatemala and various countries in Europe and Africa. They come from all types of businesses; some are in the technology world, but the totality of their interests represents the entire spectrum of industry. That said, technology is their primary driver; they invest because they understand that every industry is touched by technology. Venture capital investment is an ideal way for them to benefit from technological expansion in a diversified manner, learn about the technology and potentially apply that knowledge to their businesses.
“Even though many jobs are opening up to the possibility of remote working, not every job can be done remotely.”
Will technology and access to remote work dissuade people from immigrating in search of better opportunities?
Technology has begun to level the virtual playing field globally, and opportunity sets are better than they were, but the prospect of employment still drives much of today’s immigration. Even though many jobs are opening up to the possibility of remote working, not every job can be done remotely. Also, accessibility to remote work doesn’t necessarily correlate to the number of jobs open or needed in any particular country. So, to answer your question, I can’t see the number of people crossing borders to find better opportunities diminishing anytime soon.
Why is immigration such a hotly contested issue then?
It’s unfortunate – the reactionary political backlash against immigration in many countries doesn’t reflect reality. Aside from Native Americans, every single American is an immigrant or a product of immigration. Negative sentiment toward immigration is, I hope, a temporary phenomenon driven by economic inequality and the ugly need for those who are struggling to adjust to find scapegoats.
Stifling immigration makes economies less competitive, which is, needless to say, a disadvantage. As for venture capital and my business, both can only benefit from the influx of ingenuity and potential that is immigration.