On Wednesday, February 8th, Yeshiva University’s Finance Club welcomed Josh Kushner, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, for a fireside chat with student Tova Muss. Kushner has made it onto Forbes’ “30 Under 30,” Inc. Magazine’s “35 Under 35,” Crain’s “40 Under 40” and Vanity Fair’s “Next Establishment.” Kushner shared his insights as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist and talked about how the two roles influence one another, along with how his family’s business influenced his path.
The chat opened with a discussion on Thrive Capital, a venture capital firm focused on media and technology investments, which Kushner founded after a stint with Goldman Sachs’ Private Equity group. Thrive Capital focuses on media and technology because it recognizes that the world is going in the direction of virtual tech—soon enough everything will be connected to the cloud. There are two aspects to Thrive: building technology companies that will transform the world, and investing in transformative software technologies. One of their first investments was Instagram, which Kushner said he uses often, as a tool to express himself. However, when Snapchat approached Thrive and pitched their company, he did not understand the appeal, and turned down the investment opportunity. Kushner explained that as an investor, you do not get all investments right all the time; sometimes you miss out on lucrative opportunities. Other investments that Thrive did make include companies that aim to improve inefficiencies in the market, such as machine learning, image learning, and healthcare companies, for instance, Capsule—a healthcare startup that aims to improve home care by delivering prescriptions to patients’ homes.
Thrive’s healthcare investments also include Oscar Health, a health insurance company founded by Kushner along with his classmates from Harvard Business School, Mario Schlosser and Kevin Nazemi. With 18% of the United States GDP dedicated to healthcare, Kushner and his co-founders saw it as a worthwhile opportunity. Oscar Health brings simplicity to the health insurance space by providing individual health care packages that consumers can directly purchase and concierge service from expert healthcare professionals. Even with the uncertainty and imperfections in the healthcare system, Kushner believes that Oscar will be able to address the inadequacies and continue growing.
Kushner has also co-founded Cadre, a technology real estate platform that connects individuals and institutions to thoroughly investigated real estate investment opportunities with a higher degree of transparency and at lower fees.
While Kushner was still at college, he co-founded Votsu, a social gaming company with Mario Schlosser, his co-founder at Oscar. Kushner credits the rigor of his dual curriculum high school for having equipped him to start his first company—a social gaming company called Votsu —while in college. The extra time he had on his hands allowed him to get started. Furthermore, the mistakes made with Votsu, such as over hiring, and managing incorrectly, taught him what it takes to build a business.
As a venture capitalist, Kushner learns from the entrepreneurs and companies he invests in, and this helps him better run Oscar and Cadre. As an entrepreneur, when he is investing in companies, he looks for companies that are creating new value, or transferring value from old players to new players. Ultimately, in both these roles, Kushner stresses the importance of data, especially in backing up intuition.
In addition to sharing his insights as a venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Kushner provided the finance-oriented crowd with career advice. He recommended surrounding yourself with people who are smarter and more successful than you are, because it is the best way to learn. As Kushner put it, in your 30s and 40s you are “still winging it.” Additionally, he emphasized that it is okay to be uncomfortable as you learn to navigate the business world; it is the best way to grow. He shared the importance of finding your passion and going after it, even when it’s a less traditional path than everyone else’s.
Beyond the business insights and career advice, Kushner’s humble demeanor was refreshing. Having received multiple accolades, made successful investments, and co-founded a few successful companies, many felt it was an honor to hear from someone so accomplished yet so modest. Even more so, Kushner’s passion and resolve reflect his true entrepreneurial spirit. Marketing major Leora Lasson said, “I was impressed by Kushner’s ambition and decision to venture on a path other than real estate, and do so successfully.”
Finance Club presidents Dov Herzberg and Eram Zaghi also met with Kushner before the event began. Zaghi noted that “Josh is genuinely kind and down to earth, despite his enormous success.” Herzberg added that “Josh didn’t want to just speak about himself; he was asking about our lives and took interest in hearing about our career aspirations.”
Students can look forward to more Finance Club events this semester that expose them to various accomplished professionals and career paths.