In the summer of 1776, our Declaration of Independence memorably mentioned “the pursuit of happiness.” At the dawn of 2019, Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy” has racked up over a billion views on YouTube alone. The quest to find greater joy and contentment in all of our lives is clearly a universal instinct that echoes through the ages. Here in the Bay Area, Ajay Ramachandran is leading the charge to tap into this singular emotion at a corporate level.
Ramachandran is Managing Partner at Happiness Ventures. The Palo Alto-based outfit, which he co-founded along with Curtis MacDonald in March 2017, invests in disruptive early stage companies led by entrepreneurs who are passionate about having a positive “happiness mindset” and making the world a better place.
“Happiness is neither a fad nor a ‘topic du jour.’ It is a persistent longing that humans have pursued for millennia. Nothing has fundamentally altered, other than that we now better understand the science behind happiness.”
Happiness Ventures currently has more than $480 million under management. The fund takes a long-term approach to investing and venture capital, collaborating closely with startup founders. To date, it has backed a transformative portfolio of seven emerging (Seed and Series-A) technology firms. These include Cocoon Cam, an innovative Mountain View company known for its smart baby monitors, and Santa Clara Artificial Intelligence startup Hypersonix.
The government of Bhutan has attracted considerable attention for compiling a Gross National Happiness Index. Indeed, happiness is an increasingly popular subject matter in the media. Ramachandran tells Gentry, however, that “Happiness is neither a fad nor a ‘topic du jour.’ It is a persistent longing that humans have pursued for millennia. Nothing has fundamentally altered, other than that we now better understand the science behind happiness.” (One of Ramachandran’s dual degrees from the University of California at Davis is in molecular biology.)
Angel investor Ramachandran, a father of two daughters, describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur.” Fluent in French and Kannada, this citizen of the world launched Bangalore-based international incubator SourceN and has held executive roles with almost a dozen successful startups, including the Macromedia-acquired CyberSage Software.
Happiness Ventures is involved in ongoing work at Harvard University’s Center for Health and Happiness. It’s developed a framework to test the mindset of company founders, analyzing happiness from self-awareness and mindfulness perspectives. Ramachandran explains, “The aim is to quantify the ethereal idea of happiness. How can happiness drive improved health outcomes and increase wellbeing? Harnessing happiness effectively can help to foster positive work cultures and improve a company’s prospects.”