Caesar Sengupta left working at Google with seven other cofounders to create a digital family office and democratize financial services. His venture, Arta Finance, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Coatue, Betsy Cohen, Sequoia Capital India, and Ribbit Capital.
In this episode, you will learn:
- How Arta Finance works
- Managing large teams of cofounders and investors
- Lots more
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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Caesar Sengupta:
Caesar Sengupta started Arbo Works with a set of amazing people. Previously, as Vice President and General Manager of Payments & the Next Billion Users initiative at Google, he led Google’s efforts in building innovative, helpful products for new internet users around the world.
Caesar is passionate about applying technology to solve today’s most challenging problems. His team launched Google Pay in 2015 to help make payments faster, easier, and more secure. Today, Google Pay has over 150M monthly active users across 30 countries.
Caesar also led the Next Billion Users Initiative at Google, where his team was responsible for the creation of products and tools that drive more inclusive access to the internet, like Files, Camera Go, Kormo Jobs, etc. They also work with teams across Google to make their core products like Search, YouTube, and Android work better for the Next Billion Users.
Throughout his career at Google, Caesar led multiple acquisitions and strategic investments for Google. Among the recent strategic investments were Indonesia-based GoJek and Indian-based startups Glance, Dunzo, and Reliance.
Caesar also helped start and lead the ChromeOS team that built ChromeOS (#2 OS globally), which powers Chromebooks.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: All righty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So very excited. We we have today a founder. Actually we’re going to be learning quite a bit you know from going to one of the biggest companies that we can think of Google to now really doing something super remarkable. I think we’re gonna be learning. You know what? we like to hear about which is building scaling financing and all the above. So I guess without furtherdo I’ll like to welcome our guest today says her said gupta welcome to the show.
Caesar Sengupta: Thank you Aleandra. It’s really exciting to be with you and with the great dealmakers audience looking forward to this conversation. Thank much.
Alejandro Cremades: So so likewise likewise so give us a little of our walk through memory lane. How was life growing up in India in Delhi hey.
Caesar Sengupta: And ah life was fun. It was Hectic. It was a fairly traditional middle class Indian Upbringing. You know, very focused on education very focused on sort of either trying to become an engineer or a doctor as you know, many of us growing up in emerging markets. Probably ah. Are familiar and associated with and.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in your case I mean very interesting because not only you I mean you, you definitely did with flying colors I mean you attended some of the best schools in the world. Ah, but obviously you know also worked for 1 of the best companies in the world. So I’m sure that. You made your your parents very proud really accomplishing. You know all the because I know that in India you know there is this pressure to become you know like an engineer or a doctor or you know it’s incredible know it’s it’s in the culture which I think it’s great. And and by the way there’s so many incredible entrepreneurs coming from India because they have the technical side and the business side all combined which is obviously your case too. But but in this case, you know at what point do you realize that you wanted to come to the Us.
Caesar Sengupta: I think for me, it wasn’t just about the us. It was really about getting deep into computer science and so once I was when I was in my engineering school I actually started off majoring in electrical engineering but then somewhere through came across computer science programming. And just absolutely fell in love with that. So I thought I wanted to do a ph d wanted to go to grad school and basically be doing research all my life. So. That’s what basically made me look for universities in the us and land up at in California.
Alejandro Cremades: So you went to Stanford is the land of innovation. You know it’s literally everywhere I mean some of the best entrepreneur entrepreneurs. They’ve come out of there so you see it. You know as people in the coffee shops you know pitching other Bcs. Ah their idea sharing collaborating.
Alejandro Cremades: Why didn’t you really take the chance because I mean it has taken you quite a little bit. You know like you’ve done. You know the and Nba you went to Google what do you think? took you so long. Yeah.
Caesar Sengupta: That’s a great question I mean I did take a chance during Stanford I dropped out for a semester I mean it’s fashionable to drop out for a semester from Stanford you know, yeah and start try doing a company. It didn’t work out I came back to grad school.
Alejandro Cremades: Oh yeah.
Caesar Sengupta: But then right after I came back. My life took a very different turn I ended up meeting this wonderful woman who I’ve now been married to for 20 years and she was bonded to the Singapore government and wanted to move back. So you know I finally managed to um I followed her through her career got a chance to get back onto. My career and now um this was the best time to get going with artar so you know it took some time but you know in in in India there’s a saying which is it’s good to finally happen. Even if it happens late. You know it’s it’s it’s longs like oh exactly better laid than never perfect.
Alejandro Cremades: Oh yeah, better better better late than never as as they say here I’d say that’s it now now now now in your case, you know when you moved to Singapore basically there is when you you know, got into the whole startup world. So what was that like yeah.
Caesar Sengupta: It was exciting. Um, you know I worked for I was a very early employee in one of the startups Colin sentuate that eventually got acquired by Ibm and I was very fortunate that my boss at that time the founder actually allowed me to do a ton of stuff across the company. I was I was technically an engineer building server-side stuff but I couldn’t do marketing sales and that kind of really got me exposed to ah you know the whole wild world of everything you need to do to really create a company. You know you can’t go creating a company and just saying I’m going to be an engineer some days you’ve got to like. Ah, basically take all the trash subdays you have to like sell your product. You basically have to do everything as an entrepreneur so it was great trading for me at that point in time.
Alejandro Cremades: So obviously you know with this, you moved to London you know you you were doing. You know a little bit of of of the startup world but then eventually you ended up designing that is time for an Mba. So what do you think trigger that.
Caesar Sengupta: Um, ah, part of it was you know as I got in that startup as I really got into doing marketing and sales. Um I kind of felt I needed a little bit more of ah, a theoretical as well as a sort of background as well as some training and um.
Caesar Sengupta: Yeah, it was a good time. It felt like a good step to do and I actually really enjoyed my and mbn it got to it got me exposed to a side of the world around finance around marketing that was very different from my traditional engineering and technical training.
Alejandro Cremades: And they obviously in warharton you know I mean funny enough I didn’t mention this to you but I’ve been guest lecturing there for over ten years you know professor tylerright he teaches entrepreneurship and I’ve been going there to do it and and and and and he’s just remarkable the community there. Ah now.
Caesar Sengupta: Yeah, yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: You know it’s interesting because most of the people I mean so many of them you know, go into investment banking consulting in your case, you go to Google and you know you peen at Google I mean before you started the company. It was like a 14 year run what do you think.
Caesar Sengupta: 15 years yeah
Alejandro Cremades: Yeah, yeah, what? What do you think? kept you for so long. What was that future that you were living into that made it exciting every single year when you know you decided you know I want to keep going. Yeah.
Caesar Sengupta: I think a couple of things I mean Google look is a very special company. It’s one of those unique ecosystems and environments that gets created only once in a generation so when I joined yeah it was ah it was a place where you could just create and you had the resources and the tools to be able to. Create incredible products. So a lot of what kept me going at Google was this opportunity to build new products work with phenomenal people um one of the people I got to work very closely with is currently Alphabet Ceo or Sundar Pichai he was my manager at that time and the group he had built around him was just you know. Full of people who are waste smaller than me and so for me, it was like wow I get to hang out these people and build new products and they even pay me for it. So it was you know all winwins I stayed um you know every few years every few years I would look up and say should I do a startup in a way like you know like every other person. In tech I keep thinking like at some point should we do a startup and somehow Google would create an opportunity to build a new product to learn something new and to just expand Mar Horizons and that kept me going for for pretty long time. Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: And what did you learn I mean you were alluding to it I mean Sundar Picha I mean the Ceo of of alphabet I mean unbelievable leader. So what do you think you learned from him when he came to leadership.
Caesar Sengupta: Ah.
Caesar Sengupta: Um, I think one of the biggest things I learned from him um, was how much he cared about individuals and specific people and how sort of he would sponsor and find people and there are a number of examples like this across Google. Very early in their careers. Give them incredible opportunities. You almost let them screw up at times and even when they screwed up he would sort of support them and help them along and that in fact, in many ways created this massively loyal following around him right? and these people then went on to like do everything they could. To you know, fulfill sunar’s vision I mean he’s a fantastic product visionary. But as you know like being a product visionary is not enough if you don’t have a great team and a great culture and a great organization that can fulfill that for you? yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: So what made for example for you 2021 different you know that was the time where you decided to take action on our time and and what made it different. You know for you to say you know what? I think right now is the time for me to take on this problem and to bring this company to life.
Caesar Sengupta: That’s a great question I think there are a few different factors first on a personal basis. Um, you know I’d been leading fintech at Google for a while and I started coming to the conclusion that the governments of the world. The regulators of the world just were not ready for. Big tech companies to go deeper into finance. Um, you know they they were starting to basically put boundaries around what big tech what they were comfortable with big tech doing and so from a professional perspective I could see that on ah another personal side like I could kind of see that you know if I didn’t do it now like. It would it might just get too late and the last thing which is really interesting was there was a particular idea. We’ve been playing with which is this whole How do we unlock these financial superpowers for the the ultrawell we have for everyone and we’d been thinking about this for a while but you know Ai and machine learning got to the point. Where we felt like it was kind of possible within a few years you know I didn’t feel completely out of realm of um, what could not be done. So I think these three factors there was 1 from like okay you know a push from Google there’s an internal desire to get going across our team. We have 8 cofounders. We have 30 Thirty thirty five people who founded artar together and then really the technology and the timing seemed really right for going and trying to build a digital family office in the world right.
Alejandro Cremades: So now in in this case I mean super interesting. Um, you know what? you guys are doing I think that for the people that are that are listening to really get it. What ended up being the business model of Artha. How do you guys make money. Yeah.
Caesar Sengupta: So I mean it’s very standard. You know in this model where you’re managing other people’s assets you’re helping other people build a financial future. Um, you can charge as a percentage of a um and as you create value for them. You know people are happy to share fees with you or a percentage of the value you create. And so depending on whether you invest in Ai managed portfolios. You know we’ll take an aum or you can give us a performance fee. Um in certain other cases where we unlock private investments for example, private equity private capital or venture capital investments for you know, regular people. Um, we’ll take a fee on that. And similarly for different different services that we offer as additional family office.
Alejandro Cremades: Now 1 thing that is very interesting here is the way that you activated your network because how how how much capital have you guys raised to date for the company.
Caesar Sengupta: So we raised turn a slightly over 90 right.
Alejandro Cremades: Over 90,000,001 thing that is true is I mean this is this is something that everyone knows I mean so many super successful founders that are right now making a killing they came out of Google they were employees in Google and. 1 thing that I find really interesting is that in your case, you’ve raised money from like over 80 people. You know, many individuals that you know are part of the Google ecosystem. So how do you go about kind of like activating that network you know, super powerful network. To bring them on board and to get them excited about the future that you were living into with Arta.
Caesar Sengupta: I think a couple of things. First of all I mean ah you know we have 140 angel investors and all of them were people we had worked with everyone we either had worked with inside Google or there were partners that we were working with outside and. When the set of us that are 8 cofounders of Atta when we decided to leave and we started talking to people about it. 1 of the interesting things that 2 things we found was first the vision that we had for art art really resonated with most of these people because they’ve all lived that life. They all wish that they could have. Got some of these financial superpowers when they were in their thirty s rather than having to wait till you know later in their career when they had yeah hundreds of millions of dollars to to be able to avail of these ah these financial superpowers. The second thing was for many of them. They they just wanted to support us and help us. And be part of this long journey. So for what was really, you know humbling for me and heartening for me was for many of them. It wasn’t purely an investment. It was more like we want this vision to come to life and we want to see you guys and help you guys make this vision come to life because it’s going to have an impact on so many people. And so that sort of brought the group together and that community has actually been incredibly helpful like over the last year and a half as we’ve gotten going giving us advice connecting us to the right people. Um, you know at times giving us hard feedback on things we were doing wrong and.
Caesar Sengupta: Finally, at this point now like you know, many of them are starting to use the product and give us feedback on how to make it better. So it’s been really incredible to have this amazing community of people. Um, who you know we in many ways helped us found auto.
Alejandro Cremades: And I mean incredible individuals I mean we’re talking about Eric Schmidt you know who was the Ceo of Google I mean you got Jeff Dean you know one of the biggest rock stars when it comes to engineering in Google ah on bolievable people. How do you go about. Using them in the most effective way to get their help as investors into the business. So.
Caesar Sengupta: Yeah I think that’s a great question and to be to be absolutely honest I I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of it yet. Um, but what we’ve done is for example for different people. We would often go to them for specific types of advice. So Eric yeah, you know he’s. Known as ah as a business leader but Eric is also a computer science professor and very very like 1 of the best computer science thinkers so we went and reviewed our Ai managed portfolios and the ai behind and machine learning with them in a way as if I would have done it when I was at Google you know I would. Take products for Eric to review and he would review both the business side as well as the technical side of it and we’ve done reviews like that with Eric with people like Jeff with a number of other people. Um on different parts of the idea different business businesses. We’ve reached out to. Um, our investors for connections into ah into partners. Um, or to how to structure business deals and you know we sort of have a internal um I almost keep an internal sheet of all of our angels with their skillsets and anyone on the team when they need a particular set of help or advice. Can tap into that and then I’ll pull in the right invest right? Angels and get a group going together to think about how we can apply that experience. Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s incredible that’s incredible now you know I guess say 1 thing that broadly people that are listening that are wondering is how do you manage igos when you have 8 cofounders. How do you do that.
Caesar Sengupta: Um, so you know a big part of um, why we ended up starting the company together is because we’ve all worked together for over 10 to 15 years and you can’t work with people who have big egos if you’re you know for ten to fifteen years and if things. Um, work out I mean we’re a team. We’re a team that have played together for a very long time and in many ways. Um not only are we colleagues we are friends and so being able to work with each other was a very big value proposition around art.
Alejandro Cremades: Now 1 thing that then that I like to ask you here is how are you guys thinking about you know if if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of the company is fully realized what does that world look like.
Caesar Sengupta: Um, that’s a great question. Um, you know, somebody told me ah, interest 1 of our one of our very early users. We actually have some of our early users come in and talk to the whole team. Um about their experience and they said and we asked them like why are you excited about? ata. And he said 1 of the reasons he’s most excited is because money is one of these things that is always around us but we don’t know how to talk about it and we don’t know how to use it and often by the time we learn about all the powerful aspects in which we can apply it. It’s kind of a bit late in our lives I mean I can tell you from my chapter like I could go back and teach all the things I know now to my 35 year old self. You know it would be ah it would be ah ah ah, a much more amazing um amazing future we could create. And so the future that I envision like with otta is a future where many of the modern advances of financial services or financial technology can truly be available to everyone if you think about it today. The world feels very unfair because as you become richer and richer. More things become available to you. It becomes easier for you to put your money to work. It becomes easier for you to available all these financial superpowers and why should that be the case I mean a large part of it is because these are very services-based industries. You know it’s not knowledge-driven so it can’t truly be democratized.
Caesar Sengupta: When you when when ah when an 18 year old kid in Nigeria uses Google they get the same service as you know some billionai using it in the valley. So why shouldn’t that be the same for all all of financial services. So that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do is create a world where these financial superpowers are truly available to everyone. So you may be graduating out of college and you know you have maybe saved up a thousand dollars and you want to put it to work. Maybe you really believe in particular ah in a private company and you should be able to invest in it. Maybe you would just want to deploy it into the market and now you should be able to use the best of Ai the best of quantum mathematics. Be able to invest it. Why should you not be able to do that. So that’s ultimately what what we’re trying to do is bring these financial superpowers to everyone in the world.
Alejandro Cremades: And I mean you were calling this you know, basically a detailed family office type of experience now for the people that are listening. You know like having you know and and to what you were saying of of the barrier to entry for having a family office I mean it’s pretty high I mean we’re talking about people that have made at least fifty million bucks
Caesar Sengupta: Yeah, and.
Alejandro Cremades: That have the capability of paying the salaries over like crazy you know investment managers that they it’s just going to cost them millions just in salaries alone every year. Ah, and here. Basically what you guys are doing is not only disrupting it. But and and giving access to having you know your own digital family office to everyone just like you were saying like even to someone in Nigeria but now you know you’re able to to also bring it online. You know which is a pretty remarkable transition here. So what does the experience look like so imagine I am someone. In Nigeria like you were saying like how can I use Arta and make the best out of it. What does that experience look like.
Caesar Sengupta: Yeah, ah so the the commentv was someone in niger was a very was a long-term vision. We want to get it global right? now we’re like still the us. So let’s say somebody in the us and you know somebody who’s been working in ah in a tech company for a few years has saved up.
Alejandro Cremades: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Caesar Sengupta: Maybe a couple of $100000 and they’re putting it to work in in a market. What? what what? we would do for them is they would come log into the app or the website and essentially now they can deploy that money either into stocks bonds and assets and instead of. Them having to manage it or you know pay somebody a very high fee to create a portfolio for them. They can available of our Ai managed portfolios which will use the latest quantum of quantum mathematics. Ah as well as a lot of machine learning to create the right optimized portfolio for them. And manage it for them automatically at a very low price so you kind of get like the pricing of a robot advisor of an etf but the sophistication of having your own investment manager at the same time if this person is an accredited investor or a qualified client or a qualified purchaser. These are all like conditions said by the scc. You know they can invest in private equity or in private credit or in venture capital or at some point later in the year into private companies. Um, or for example, at some point we will bring them and connect them with the right kind of tax advisors so that they can set up their finances in a way that is most tax optimized for them. Can create get these insurance plans that the ultra welly use not only to create better futures for their families but also to create wealth in their current life and so we can set them up in an automated way and the the online part of it is very important because the reality is without this being a digital experience.
Caesar Sengupta: It is not possible. It is not possible to bring it to millions of people so that’s actually the critical piece that technology can actually help us take these exclusive services and truly democratize it for many many many people. And machine learning’s finally got to the point where it’s applicable at scale across across the space.
Alejandro Cremades: I Love that now for you guys I mean the growth has been pretty impressive I mean you guys seen the last year you know you’ve read you’ve grown by over 80% The employee count I mean tremendous growth. How do you go about making sure that. Things don’t break when it comes to culture.
Caesar Sengupta: Um, that’s a great question. Um, so first of all look the core team. Um, ah a large part of the team that started this I think about thirty thirty five people in the founding team. Um, they were all we all came from a very similar sort of so upbringing. We all build Google pay together. Ah, many of them will chromos before that together. So there was a certain culture that we brought with us so that makes for the core culture and then very ah early on in our life. We actually wrote up a culture doctrine. We wrote up a culture doc and said these are the virtues and the principles that we are going to abide by. And we actually published it very openly. In fact, for a year we were in stealth mode till November and the only document you could find about us that was not a company you know, high-level company website was our culture doc and we use this as a way to like signal to candidates that this is the culture that we want to create. So if this is not the type of place you’re looking for. You shouldn’t be here and at the same time. It also acted as a great um attraction for people who look we’re looking for that culture so that was the first part. The second thing is we’ve had a very transparent and open culture internally. We want to discuss not just about how we’re doing things. But about the culture itself and how we evolve it so on a regular basis on our internal slack. You will see these discussions happen. You know we have our company all hands. We actually talk about culture. We talk about what is the kind of company. We want to build like today. We are 75 people but at some point in the future if there are like 700 people or 7000 people.
Caesar Sengupta: We are the ones who are setting the culture for them and so what is the kind of world that we want to create for them. What is the kind of organization. We want to create for them is a topic that’s actually pretty top of mind for most of us.
Alejandro Cremades: Now 1 thing that that I like to ask you here. Is you know as as as you’re talking about it too. You know the the amount of cofounders that you guys were also the backgrounds you know coming from Google I guess you know the technical side of things you know you guys were mastering that. So how as part of this culture too that we’re talking about how do you make sure that there is a nice balance between the technical and the business side so that you know it’s equal.
Caesar Sengupta: Um, ah, that’s a great question. So a few of our founders actually are very deep in the business side. Um, one of 1 of my cofounders Felix Lin this is his fourth startup. He took his first startup public in 2001 it was a company called la month ago at that point was a major major ipo.
Alejandro Cremades: Wow.
Caesar Sengupta: And then his second startup he sold to another company and then he joined Google and you know we worked together for the last fourteen years another startup actually ran a bunch of algorithmthic hedge funds and he comes from deep within the finance quant world like the really really high end of finance really sophisticated. Investors and so these guys tend to bring in that that aspect and then within the company. We’ve actually hired people from Goldman Sachs from Black Rock from you know blackstone from a lot of the finance and the the business sites as well as we’ve. We’ve sort of explicitly gone and looked for people who can round out the experience that um, we hired? um our legal counsel very early somebody who had worked at Schwab and Robin hood and really understood investing understood the the markets incredibly well. So we’ve been very mindful and deliberate about trying to create a culture that is strong on the technology side but strong on the finance on the business side too.
Alejandro Cremades: And for the people that are listening to get an idea on the scope and size of the operation of our top today anything that you can share that you feel comfortable sharing like maybe number of employees or anything else.
Caesar Sengupta: So I mean we aren’t here ready to share the specifics I think we just got going in November we opened up to to people on the waitlist. Um, there’s a fairly long waitlist. We are starting to bring people off the waitlist and now it’s just a question of like how well do we serve them.
Alejandro Cremades: Yep.
Caesar Sengupta: And how do we sort of make the products better a couple of things that we did publish was ah around the performance. The 15 year back test of our Ai managed portfolios because in the world of financing too. Many people do handwaving stuff and we wanted to basically put the data out there and let individuals make make up their mind. About what the performance is how it’s going. You know, um, all the places that we’ve done things well are not done well.
Alejandro Cremades: Now Imagine if I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time to that moment where maybe maybe you were you were wondering you know like if it made sense to start a company or not and I’m sure that you’ve had that that thinking you know. Multiple multiple times. Not just when you decided to take action on Artha But imagine you know if you were able to go back in time and about chat with that younger self and being able having that opportunity of being able to give that younger self one piece of advice before launching a business. But will that be and why given what you know now.
Caesar Sengupta: Um, that’s a great question a hundred your questions are fantastic. Um I think the I think the biggest advice I probably give myself is to get started earlier I think I um I the amount I’ve learned in the last year and a half not just about.
Alejandro Cremades: Thank you? okay.
Caesar Sengupta: Business and building products but about myself like the personal journey as an entrepreneur and and you’re an entrepreneur So you you understand this, There’s an incredible journey of to walk on the personal side and internally and um, you know it’s It’s been a very enriching time there’ve been times where. Liked what I’ve found on the journey there’ve been times that I’ve not liked what I found and I wish I could have set out on the journey earlier. Ah and so that’s the only thing I would tell that tell that younger self like just do it get going. It’ll be fine.
Alejandro Cremades: I Love it that said it would always work out. It would always work out I Love it I Love it it. So so for the people that are listening. What is the best way for them to reach out and say hi.
Caesar Sengupta: I think they can reach out on Twitter at CesarS on Linkedin um, you know and would love love to hear from them.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing. Well it are thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us. So.
Caesar Sengupta: So thank you so much Aandra It’s been really fun talking to you. You’ve you’ve made me think a lot.
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