Board Observer

Before he had even started college, Kal Vepuri was advising a telecommunications company on cellular-spectrum purchases. And just two years after graduating from Duke in 2003, with a triple major in electrical engineering, computer science and economics, he sold enough spectrum to begin his life as an angel investor. In 2009, he founded Brainchild as a holding company and base of operations.

Vepuri's knack for being in the right place at the right time didn't end in college. A stint at Bain & Co. led to a friendship with fellow consultant Jeffrey Raider, who would go on to found Warby Parker and Harry's, a razor company. Vepuri would be a seed investor in both startups—and has made "significant" investments in about 100 other companies, including MakerBot, Oscar and ClassPass. All are "transformational businesses that do no harm," said the Bucks County, Pa.-raised son of Indian immigrants.

But Vepuri doesn't just want to invest in entrepreneurs. Since 2014, Brainchild has launched three companies: The Arrivals—a direct-to-consumer outerwear line; Onomie, which combines skin care and makeup; and Hero, a smart medical appliance that turns the traditional pill-organizer into a connected device that can track medicine and order refills.

"Every one of these businesses is mission-driven," Vepuri said. "And the mission comes from seeing a big, unmet need."

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