Prashant Mehta, Lightbox, on endurance sports, biking, Ironman, trekking and million dollar ideas

In this latest edition of TalkCXOLife Sunayana Nair, Editor CXO Life interviews Prashant Mehta, Partner at Lightbox, a venture capital firm in Mumbai. Now Prashant is also known as the endurance man. Why, you ask? Imagine pedaling from Mumbai to Pune and back, that is about 330km, for 13 hours, and then within the same week of pulling off that feat, trekking to the Everest basecamp!

Well that is Prashant Mehta for you ladies and gentlemen! 

Born in Mumbai, and having spent his growing years between India and Africa, Prashant studied biotechnology in the U.S. but ended up working for a bank, pursuing an MBA from Wharton School after which he worked for Lehman Brothers which helped him understand the art of investing in emerging markets. He subsequently moved to Silicon valley to head Yahoo’s commercial operations for emerging markets.
In this conversation Prashant talks about his formative years, his love for biking and endurance sports, especially if there is a noble cause attached to it, his fourth Ironman 70.3  attempt in Turkey, his love for trekking, his crazy gang of friends who constantly attempt the crazier, insights into spotting that million-dollar business idea, success and well…the unpredictability of life. 

Part 1/7 - Formative Years | Building the Endurance Muscle

In this first segment Prashant speaks of his childhood. His parents’ bold move from Mumbai to Zambia during the copper rush with less than 1000 dollars in their pockets, how he came back to Mumbai for schooling and lived with his grandmother in a chawl which lent him his first major impressions and went on to colour his perspectives as a child. He shares how going to a boarding school in Panchgani in the fifth grade and his five years there had the single most important impact on his life. Prashant thereafter went back to Zambia and then to Texas to complete his last years of high school where he picked up American football and made some great friends. He believes these experiences across vastly different cultures ingrained within him the ability to survive anywhere and get along and understand people from all walks of life.

Prashant also shares what it takes to sustain or endure and how he took to Ironman, considered the hardest single day sport, especially when he didn’t even know how to swim.  He also shares how he surpassed that hurdle with the support he received from a friend. BTW, Prashant recently completed his fourth Ironman 70.3 in Turkey and true to their crazy style also biked along the Turkey Coast, along with his friends, soon after the Ironman!

Part 2/7 - Traversing the Endurance Journey with One's Tribe

In this segment Prashant shares how he began his endurance journey through biking with the help of his ex-boss, twenty years ago when he was coping to come to terms with life after battling a serious health scare that had him feeling overwhelmed.  

What began as an attempt at give his mind a fresh lease, soon graduated to pushing his limits gradually, as his ex-boss constantly motivated him to keep giving it his best shot. Together, they began participating in biking events and races across US and then even across the world. Prashant believes cycling gave him an incredible opportunity to explore food culture and people around. He also speaks of the importance of the role of his ‘crazy bunch of friends’ in discovering his limits and pushing them. Constantly.  

Part 3/7 - Mission I’mpossible - Combining the Crazy with a Cause

In this segment you’ll get to know of the crazy bike rides Prashant and his team have undertaken. The first such major ride was from Bombay to Pune and back. After just 6 weeks of training, Prashant and two of his friends endured a 13-hour road journey and kept pedalling away even as Prashant started feeling delusional midway due to exhaustion. Soon after the completion of this trip, Prashant trekked to the Everest basecamp and describes this as the craziest two weeks of his life.

Another crazy ride was a non-stop Delhi Bombay ride with a targeted time of 60 hours which his gang managed to pull off in spite of the several challenges they faced and learned from. Prashant speaks of how these charity bike rides bordering on insanity are made possible when it is the heart which switches the gear during the trying times. For Prashant, a cause or a mission motivates him to push his limits much more than wanting to ace a timing or attain a desired speed.

Part 4/7 - Training to Stride, Stroke and Ride

Prashant touches upon his approach towards running, biking and swimming and how he has evolved with respect to each. We also converse about his training methodology – which comprises 5 to 6-day routines per week. Prior to an event, training is scheduled and worked backward, usually 2-3 months prior, with a minimum of 15-20 hours per week. The biggest challenge for Prashant is to get back to training after a break due to frequent travel, since as per his admission, even a week’s break sets him back by a month. He also divulges how he stopped being obsessive about his diet once he realised that he and the people around him weren’t really having fun.

Part 5/7 - When the Mountains Call

This segment is about Prashant’s love for the mountains. Know how it all began and listen to Prashant share how a trekking trip with his daughter to the Annapurna base camp proved to be revelatory in more ways than one. In the CXO Funfacts segment,in fact, Prashant refers to this time he spent with his daughter as the 9 most precious days of his life. We also converse about a mountaineers’ popular itch of conquering the highest peak, the reason Prashant hasn’t yet attempted it and the unfortunate and tragic incident at Mount Everest this year. Prashant also divulges how pursuing these varied interests have made an impact on him.

Part 6/7 - The Million Dollar Instinct of a Venture Capitalist

In this segment, we try to get into the mind of Prashant Mehta, the venture capitalist as we try and understand the bankable attributes he looks for in a person/team before partnering with them. Prashant shares how for him, instincts play a bigger role in arriving at such a crucial decision apart from weighing the leadership and the business opportunity. He lets his instincts guide him to recognize the possibility of building trust and being able to work together and work through things together in the long term. Which he says is the most crucial aspect of a partnership such as this. We also speak about how pursuing a parallel dimension one is deeply passionate about besides work helps one evolve.

Part 7/7 - On Success, Work-Life Balance & Life

In this concluding segment, we chat up on work-life balance, Prashant’s take on success and life’s unpredictable twists and turns. According to Prashant, having flexibility in life to figure out and pursue what one wants to, is what work life balance is all about. He believes he will consider himself successful when he will be able to get up in the morning and do what he wants to do, that day, rather than having to follow a schedule and though he is fortunate like most to have that freedom on most days, he hasn’t been able to really act on it as often as he thinks he ought to. Prashant states that The ‘Never stop learning’ attitude is the legacy he would like to bestow his three wonderful daughters with.

CXO Fun Facts with Prashant Mehta

This is the CXO Fun Facts segment and an official warrant to turn up the amusement quotient on TalkCXOLife which is why it is unmissable! Stay tuned to know some interesting and fun insights about Prashant Mehta including why orange has been the black for him since quite a while, 9 of his most precious days of his life, some of his most enthralling journeys, dishes he loves to cook, his favourite comfort food, his fear, a quirky business idea that he believed in and took off and an unusual obsession which probably even his family is unaware of and I guess he would rather it stayed that way!  You don’t want to miss this one!


This is the highlights section of our conversation with Prashant Mehta, Partner at Lightbox.

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