About Tej Kohli
Tej Kohli is a technologist and investor who first rose to prominence after founding and then selling a series of companies clustered around the development of payment gateways and fraud protection services for high-risk online sectors during the dot com boom. Collectively companies such as Estacion Tramar employed hundreds of software engineers in India and Costa Rica by the time that Tej Kohli began divesting them in a series of high-value trade sales which culminated in his making a final exit from the companies in 2006.
Tej Kohli formed the Kohli Ventures investment vehicle in 2010 to provide an efficient vehicle for the investment of the array of regular incoming liquidity arising from earn-out provisions attached to the sale of his companies. The Kohli Ventures investment criteria are unique because Tej prefers to be the sole investor in a venture, working directly alongside a venture’s founders and continuing to fund all future funding requirements until an eventual exit.
Tej Kohli is also a prominent real estate investor and the owner of the Zibel Real Estate portfolio, which holds extensive interests in South East Asia, the United Arab Emirates, and Western Europe. The primary focus of Zibel Real Estate is in large-scale residential towers and premium residences in areas where asset appreciation is being driven by the clustering of tech companies into emerging new hubs.
A lifelong interest in technology started when Tej Kohli graduated in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur in 1980. In 2018 the Indian Institute of Technology conferred its Distinguished Alumnus Award upon Tej for “serving society at large” in recognition of his achievements in developing technological solutions to major health challenges through the not-for-profit Tej Kohli Foundation and Tej Kohli Cornea Institute.
His passion for deep tech has driven Tej to focus the investments of Kohli Ventures into growth-stage ventures in machine learning, robotics, smart sensors, and other enabling technologies of the artificial intelligence economy. In 2019 he committed over $100m committed to the ‘Rewired’ AI and robotics-focused venture studio and into the Rewired.GG esports venture fund.
Tej Kohli seeks to make impact investments that can have a humanitarian as well as a commercial impact. Social impact is a key element of the investment calculus that is used by Kohli Ventures to assess new opportunities. In 2015 Tej Kohli backed a renewable energy company in South East Asia that provided off-grid solar products to bring clean and renewable devolved power generation to thousands of poor homes in rural India and Africa; exiting in 2017.
Tej Kohli is also the lead backer of Detraxi, a US-based biotechnology company that has developed a proprietary solution that could solve some major global health challenges. The company is working with some of the world’s most talented scientists across fluid replacement, diagnostics, transplantation, and regenerative medicine. The Detraxi technology has completed pre-clinical trials at John’s Hopkins University and has already been licensed in China.
In 2014 Kohli Ventures fully acquired Dynacart, a universal payment processing company that has since become a major international marketplace and e-commerce platform, provider. In 2010 Kohli Ventures backed an M&A roll-up of plastic surgery clinics in the USA, exiting in 2015. And in 2015 Kohli Ventures led the buyout and turnaround of a B2B SaaS platform technology provider that still employs over 300 of the world’s best software developers across eight countries.
Many of the individuals that Tej Kohli has mentored and invested in since 2006 have gone on to build their own successful global businesses. Tej is extremely proud of his mentorship of these entrepreneurs and today he continues to back innovative founders. However, the current preoccupation of Tej Kohli is in finding technological and scientific solutions to major global challenges.
The Tej Kohli Foundation is developing solutions to these major health challenges whilst also making direct interventions that change lives around the world. The Tej Kohli Foundation engenders the faith of Tej Kohli in the promise of new technologies. In November 2019 it launched its ‘Future Bionics’ program, which provides 3D-printed ‘bionic’ arms to disabled young people in the United Kingdom. The first recipient to receive a fully funded bionic arm was a 10-year old boy called Jacob, who received his 3D-printed bionic arm as a Christmas present from Kohli.
The ‘Rebuilding You’ philosophy that Tej has instilled into his Tej Kohli Foundation also extends far beyond making individual interventions. Tej Kohli’s obsession has become solving the poverty-driven treatment gap that sustains “entirely needless” corneal blindness. A core challenge in Tej Kohli’s mission to eradicate corneal blindness is that current treatment solutions are not designed to be applicable in the poor countries where 90% of those with corneal visual impairment or blindness actually live.
The ‘Tej Kohli Cornea Institute’ in India operated for many years until late 2019. During this time it welcomed 223,404 outpatients and completed 43,255 surgical procedures, largely for free. The YouTube channel of the Tej Kohli Foundation is filled with the life changing stories of patients who were cured of blindness or severe visual impairment by the Institute. This experience highlighted that the poverty-driven treatment gap that leads to needless blindness in the world’s poorest communities cannot be solved by direct intervention alone.
Tej Kohli’s mission has therefore become to develop a treatment for corneal blindness that is affordable and accessible such that it can be scaled into the world’s poor and remote communities where poverty-driven corneal blindness is the most pervasive. The solution that Tej is now working on with the help of scientists and ophthalmologists from around the world is a liquid biosynthetic that causes the corneal tissue to regenerate. In January 2020 the Tej Kohli Foundation’s ‘Applied Research’ project announced that it had moved one step closer to using its proprietary regenerative technology to bridge the gap between the high cost of treatment for corneal blindness and the unmet medical need in poor communities.
The desire to use new technologies to rebuild people is further borne out by the repeated calls by Tej Kohli for technology to be employed to develop “new and novel solutions”. In July 2019 Tej Kohli gifted $2m to Harvard Medical School to fund new technological innovations. And in February 2020 the Tej Kohli Foundation launched a new incubator to back science and technology projects that have a clear pathway toward ending poverty-driven corneal blindness. In April 2020 Tej Kohli also launched a UK-based Centre For Interdisciplinary Innovation to support UK science and technology.