Naval Ravikant

CEO of AngelList

Naval Ravikant, The Angel Philosopher

As the billionaire CEO of AngelList, Naval Ravikant is the investor turned quasi-philosopher behind some of the world’s most prominent startups.  

Today, Naval Ravikant has founded multiple firms, including Epinions and Hit Forge. His influence reaches Uber, Twitter, Poshmark, and Postmates. He’s also established himself as a mentor in the tech industry; his “How to Get Rich” X thread and others are cited by many.

Despite this success, in the 1970s, Naval was a young son of a single mother living in Queens.

Naval says his childhood “wasn’t that great.” His mother worked a menial job during the day and took classes at night, leaving Naval and his brother to fend for themselves. As a “latchkey kid,” Naval’s self-sufficiency and independence developed quickly.

Naval “didn’t have many friends,” so he befriended book characters. Reading became Naval’s superpower: While other kids played together, he became invested in “comic books and sci-fi.” As he grew up, he read about history, psychology, and technology, all of which became focal points in his career.

A scholarship to the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan was Naval’s first turning point. The school “saved [his] life” and brought with it a powerful tailwind: Unlike his wealthy classmates, Naval worked as a delivery person and server through school. Once, he had to serve food at a classmate’s birthday party. Though he found the situation “incredibly embarrassing,” it was also responsible for “kicking off [his] obsession with wealth.”

His hard work paid off when Naval was admitted to Dartmouth University. Originally, Naval studied to be a lawyer but abandoned the idea when an internship at a Big Law firm in New York City went wrong.

He threw himself into computer science classes, learning to code on a loan-purchased Mac Classic in the University’s computer lab during his free time.

Following his graduation in 1996, Naval landed a job at Boston Consulting Group. He quickly became disillusioned with consulting and found the fancy, stark environment silly. He says, “Someone who is using a lot of fancy words and big concepts probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

Simplicity in both approach and design became Naval’s philosophy. He moved to Silicon Valley and began working for @Home, where he told his peers he was going to start a company. The idea became so ingrained in his persona that he “was literally embarrassed into starting my own company.”

So, he did it. In 1999, Naval co-founded Epinions, a consumer product review site. He raised $45 million in venture capital but saw no financial return when a merger with went sour. Naval was left with nothing.

Along with his co-founders, Naval launched a lawsuit against Benchmark Capital, accusing them of hiding the company’s value and making their shares worthless. When speaking on the ordeal, Naval says, “It feels like being hit by a truck when you realize the company you founded is going public and you aren’t making any money.”

The lawsuit left Naval’s reputation in tatters. One venture capital company called him “radioactive mud.” Luckily, Naval left the ordeal with a new perspective and “a very wide-eyed understanding of just how inefficient the venture fund-raising process is.”

2007 was a busy year for Naval. He started his first early-stage venture capital fund, The Hit Forge, which funded startups like Twitter and Uber. That year, he began co-writing Venture Hacks, a blog offering detailed advice about term sheets. His goal? To make sure no one made the same mistakes he did.

His next idea came from an investor friend who offered him a deal that hadn’t hit the market. This was Naval’s ‘aha’ moment: He realized that some investors weren’t aware of possible funding opportunities, and startups couldn’t connect with investors.

With a friend, he created a list of 25 investors from his blog list. In 2010, AngelList was born.

AngelList screened startups and offered a mailing list of investors and prospective firms. The company disrupts the investment process, allowing founders and funders to find each other with just a click. Today, the site routinely offers startups between $10 million and $20 million monthly.

The rise of crypto sparked Naval’s interest again in 2014. Always a believer  in technology, Naval says, “Without technology, we’re just monkeys playing in the dirt.” That year, he founded MetaStable Capital, a cryptocurrency hedge fund.

Naval Ravikant’s influence grew throughout the 2010s. He founded his third investment fund, Spearhead, which focused on technology firms. Today, firms from his first two classes are worth over $10 billion.

More recently, he co-founded Airchat, which uses Generative AI and chat integrations to connect users.

Here’s what we can learn from Naval Ravikant about skills, passion, and self-reliance.


Solve problems you suffer from yourself, and don’t let failure define you. Problems plagued Nava’s early years in Silicon Valley. In 1999, he founded Epinions, a wildly successful firm valued at $750 million in 2004. Trouble hit after a merger with, and he and his co-founders saw none of the money. He called the ordeal “horrific,” but instead of accepting defeat, he saw an opportunity to leverage the insight he learned into a new firm. AngelList elucidates the complicated venture capital process, helping startup founders escape the very problems Naval faced. Failure became Naval’s unique value proposition: He demonstrated resilience to it more than many of his peers. He says, “Success is the enemy of learning. It can deprive you of the time and the incentive to start over. Beginner’s mind also needs beginner’s time.” In other words, success breeds complacency, which is the antithesis of success. Naval accepts failure and leverages it to his success.

Cultivate a well-rounded skillset. Naval says, “Technology is applied science. Science is the study of nature. Mathematics is the language of nature. Philosophy is the root of mathematics. All tightly interrelated.”Naval, like many early twentysomethings, was unsure of what to do with his life. He seriously considered studying English and History and becoming a lawyer for a brief time. A jack of all trades, Naval Ravikant eventually fell into computer science, talking his way into a TA position that introduced him to coding. Coding was his true passion, and though he abandoned his dream of becoming a lawyer, the storytelling skills he gained contributed to his ethos: the best story wins. He says, “Information is everywhere, but its meaning is created by the observer that interprets it.” To interpret information, one has to be able to tell a damn good story. All of the skills and interests he’s cultivated, partially by reading, solidify one of his core philosophies—you can’t just be the best. You have to be the only one. More importantly, diverse skills keep Naval on his toes, allowing him to engage his curiosities in whatever idea he has next. It’s also the reason behind his insane network: Curious people engage other curious people. Because he’s so well-rounded, Naval can talk to anyone about anything—it’s a key unique sales proposition.

Luck is irrelevant without hard work and passion. Those who deem Naval ‘lucky’ are mistaken. Though he came from adverse conditions, Naval believed that luck is irrelevant: He says, “I like to think that if I lost all my money and if you drop me on a random street in any English-speaking country, within 5, 10 years I’d be wealthy again. Because it’s a skill set that I’ve developed, and I think anyone can develop.” Naval is living proof that luck is the product of careful decisions and the collection of skills (reading, writing, and coding—just to name a few). These build what he’s coined as “luck from unique character,” a type of luck that you create as a result of all of your pursuits, hard work, and ingenuity. He says, “I started as a poor kid in India, so if I can make it, anybody can, in that sense.” Anyone can collect knowledge, the first key to luck. But not everyone has Naval’s passion—wealth and success are intangible without it.

Read and learn constantly. As Naval says, “Read enough, and you become a connoisseur.” Naval, more than other venture capital giants, prioritizes reading everything he can get his hands on. Before Naval moved to the U.S., he sat on the floor of his family’s home in India, reading his grandfather’s old copies of Reader’s Digest. He “started with comic books and sci-fi at a young age.” As he grew older, he “was into history and news. Then into psychology, popular science, technology.” He advises others to “read what you like. Eventually, you will read what you ‘should.’” Today, Naval Ravikant reads Matt Ridley’ and Nassim Taleb’s work, but he occasionally finds himself invested in Richard Feynman’s physics books. Reading paved the way for Naval’s ‘most important skill,’ learning. Reading is crucial to learning and cultivating a wide range of skills. For Naval, it bred a curiosity that pervades his career, setting him apart from others. Learning—and enjoying it—took him to prestigious schools and later Dartmouth University, where he developed the network and acumen to become a financial giant.

Self-reliance breeds a growth mindset. Growing up as a “latchkey kid,” Naval had few friends and spent most of his time alone. “As far as I recall being conscious, I think I’ve been pretty self-sufficient, he says. Naval didn’t “have any concept of someone older in your life telling you what to do.” Self-reliance taught Naval the value of accountability, a key feature of his current philosophy: “Ego is false confidence, self-respect is true confidence.” Self-respect is paramount to accountability: Naval actively reflects on his past mistakes, acknowledging where he went wrong. Better yet, he shifts direction moving forward, harnessing the strongest components of a growth mindset. He says, “I would rather be a failed entrepreneur than someone who never tried. Because even a failed entrepreneur has the skill set to make it on their own.”

Naval Ravikant Quotes

On competition: “Don’t debate people in the media when you can debate them in the marketplace.”

On wealth creation: “Wealth creation is an evolutionarily recent positive-sum game. Status is an old zero-sum game. Those attacking wealth creation are often just seeking status.”

On learning: “Even today, what to study and how to study it are more important than where to study it and for how long. The best teachers are on the Internet. The best books are on the Internet. The best peers are on the Internet. The tools for learning are abundant. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.”

On resilience: “A rational person can find peace by cultivating indifference to things outside of their control.”

On living in the moment: “I don’t plan. I’m not a planner. I prefer to live in the moment and be free and to flow and to be happy.”

On outsourcing: “If you can outsource something or not do something for less than your hourly rate, outsource it or don’t do it.



Book Recommendations

Further Readings