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Indian Origin Vivek Ramaswamy: Entrepreneurship to US Presidential Aspirations

Indian Origin Vivek Ramaswamy: Entrepreneurship to US Presidential Aspirations

Written By Rajan Das

Vivek Ganapathy Ramaswamy is a US entrepreneur and 2024 Republican Party presidential primaries candidate. Born in Cincinnati to Indian immigrants, he graduated from Harvard and Yale Law School. Former hedge fund investment partner, he founded Roivant Sciences in 2014, resigning as CEO in 2021 but staying as chairman till 2023.

Ramaswamy co-founded Strive Asset Management in 2022, opposing ESG initiatives. He declared his 2024 Republican presidential candidacy in February 2023. Ramaswamy gained fame as an anti-woke figure, asserting a US identity crisis due to “COVID-ism, climate-ism, and gender ideology”. He criticizes ESG initiatives. Forbes values his net worth over $950 million, sourced from biotech and finance.

Early Life

Vivek Ganapathy Ramaswamy was born on August 9, 1985, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Hindu Tamil Brahmin immigrants from Kerala, India. He grew up in Ohio, influenced by his father, an engineer and patent attorney, and his mother, a geriatric psychiatrist. They had ancestral ties to Vadakkencherry, Palakkad district.

Ramaswamy’s upbringing involved attending a local Hindu temple and being guided by a conservative Christian piano teacher, shaping his social perspectives. He frequently visited India during summer vacations with his family. His cross-cultural experiences and family background have influenced his outlook.

Vivek Ganapathy Ramaswamy completed public education until eighth grade, later attending Cincinnati’s St. Xavier High School, a Catholic institution, graduating in 2003. He earned a summa cum laude Bachelor of Arts in biology from Harvard College in 2007, where he displayed a confident libertarian outlook and became president of the Harvard Political Union.

During college, he adopted the stage name “Da Vek” for libertarian-themed rap performances. He interned with Amaranth Advisors and Goldman Sachs, and his senior thesis on human-animal chimeras was awarded the Bowdoin Prize. In 2011, he received a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, and in 2013, he obtained a J.D. from Yale Law School. He entered Yale already wealthy from finance, pharmaceuticals, and biotech ventures, with a pre-law school net worth of around $15 million.

Career

In 2007, Ramaswamy co-founded Campus Venture Network, a social networking site for aspiring student entrepreneurs, later sold to the Kauffman Foundation in 2009. From 2007 to 2014, he partnered at hedge fund QVT Financial, overseeing its biotech portfolio. Notable biotech investments included Palatin Technologies and Concert Pharmaceuticals. His strategic approach yielded success, such as QVT’s investment in Pharmasset at $5/share, leading to its acquisition by Gilead at $137/share in 2011, benefiting QVT as the largest shareholder.

In 2014, Ramaswamy founded Roivant Sciences, a biotech firm aiming to transform drug development. Roivant successfully launched six FDA-approved drugs, including VTAMA for plaque psoriasis, through its subsidiaries. Incorporated in Bermuda for tax benefits, Roivant secured almost $100 million startup funding from QVT, RA Capital Management, Visium Asset Management, D. E. Shaw & Co., and Falcon Edge Capital. The company’s approach involved acquiring patents from larger pharmaceutical companies for underdeveloped drugs, bringing them to market. Subsidiaries like Dermavant, Urovant, Sinovant, and Cytovant focused on various medical areas and regional markets.

In 2015, Ramaswamy secured $360 million for Roivant’s subsidiary Axovant Sciences, aiming to market intepirdine as an Alzheimer’s drug. Purchasing intepirdine’s patent for $5 million from GlaxoSmithKline, Axovant’s IPO raised $315 million, but its value plummeted 75% after intepirdine’s clinical trial failure in 2017. Ramaswamy’s stake through Roivant protected him from most losses. Axovant later dissolved, trying to transition to gene therapy.

Ramaswamy’s deal with SoftBank brought $1.1 billion investment in Roivant in 2017. In 2019, Roivant sold stakes in subsidiaries, including Enzyvant, to Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, netting Ramaswamy $175 million in capital gains. Despite claiming to be a “scientist,” he’s primarily been a financier and entrepreneur. Ramaswamy stepped down as Roivant’s CEO in 2021 and later resigned as chairman to focus on his 2024 presidential campaign. He remains Roivant’s sixth-largest shareholder. Notably, Roivant has never turned a profit.

In 2020, while CEO of Roivant Sciences, Ramaswamy backed the creation of Roivant Social Ventures (RSV), a nonprofit for social impact. RSV, an evolution of the Roivant Foundation, supported diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and environmental, social, corporate governance (ESG) initiatives. Notably, Ramaswamy’s presidential campaign opposes DEI and ESG efforts, despite RSV promoting health equity and industry diversity within biopharma and biotech sectors.

In 2020, Ramaswamy co-founded Chapter Medicare, a Medicare navigation platform, and was part of Ohio’s COVID-19 Response Team. He chaired OnCore Biopharma, retaining the position after its merger with Tekmira Pharmaceuticals in 2015. Ramaswamy also chaired the board of Arbutus Biopharma, a Canadian company.

Anti-ESG/”Anti-Woke” Stance and Strive Asset Management

In 2022, Ramaswamy co-founded Strive Asset Management, an Ohio-based firm with a stance against “woke” and ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) initiatives. Strive raised around $20 million from investors including Peter Thiel, J. D. Vance, and Bill Ackman. Ramaswamy criticized large asset managers like BlackRock for mixing business with politics through ESG activities. He advocated for “shareholder primacy” and authored books denouncing socially conscious corporate investments.

Strive challenged established proxy advisory services and managed about $750 million in assets as of June 2023. Ramaswamy met South Carolina lawmakers to pitch Strive for pension fund management, later sparking controversy over potential lobbying. He resigned as Strive’s executive chairman in February 2023 to focus on his presidential campaign.

Political Career

Ramaswamy’s political journey has been diverse. He voted for the Libertarian Party nominee in 2004 and didn’t participate in the 2008, 2012, or 2016 elections, considering himself “apolitical.” He supported Donald Trump in the 2020 election. In 2021, he registered as “unaffiliated” in Ohio but identified as a Republican. He contributed to both Democrats and Republicans, donating $30,000 to the Ohio Republican Party from 2020 to 2023, and $2,700 to a Florida Democrat in 2016. Before his presidential campaign, he contemplated running for the 2022 U.S. Senate race in Ohio.

2024 Presidential Candidacy and Controversies

On February 21, 2023, Ramaswamy declared his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on Tucker Carlson Tonight. He released two decades of tax returns, urging rivals to do the same. His personal fortune largely funds his campaign; from February to July 2023, he loaned over $15 million, ending Q2 with around $9 million cash. Though behind Trump and DeSantis, he outpaced most other GOP candidates.

In May 2023, his campaign admitted paying an editor to edit his Wikipedia biography before his candidacy announcement, denying political motives. Changes removed references to his Soros Fellowship and COVID-19 Response Team involvement. Forbes suggested the edits aimed to align with conservative views, raising questions due to the Soros connection and conspiracy theories. Ramaswamy’s campaign denied “scrubbing” but acknowledged factual revisions.

In his bid for the Republican nomination, Ramaswamy aimed to connect with evangelical Christian right and Christian nationalist voters, pivotal within the GOP base. Acknowledging the challenge as a non-Christian (Hindu) candidate, he criticized secularism and aligned with “Christian values” or “Judeo-Christian values,” asserting shared beliefs and faith in one God. Presenting as an “unapologetic American nationalist,” he critiqued DeSantis but refrained from directly criticizing Trump during his campaign.

Vivek Ramaswamy’s Stances and Positions

Vivek Ramaswamy, in his bid for the Republican nomination, holds a range of positions:

  • Donald Trump Support and First Amendment: Ramaswamy supported Trump and co-authored an op-ed defending him after the Capitol attack, arguing social media bans violated the First Amendment.
  • Presidential Power and Agencies: He advocates expanding presidential power, intending to abolish and replace agencies like the Department of Education, FBI, and IRS.
  • Identity Politics and Affirmative Action: Ramaswamy opposes identity politics, affirmative action, and critical race theory, advocating for merit-based culture and criticizing affirmative action as institutionalized racism.
  • Abortion and Pro-Life Views: He is pro-life, supporting state-level six-week abortion bans with exceptions.
  • Nationalist Stance: He labels himself an “unapologetic American nationalist” and criticizes DeSantis while avoiding direct Trump criticism.
  • Mexican Drug Cartels and Marijuana Legalization: Ramaswamy calls for using the military against Mexican drug cartels and supports federal marijuana legalization.
  • Foreign Policy: He favors concessions to Russia in the Russo-Ukrainian war, ending U.S. military aid to Ukraine, excluding Ukraine from NATO, and offers a unique stance on Taiwan.
  • Climate Change and Fossil Fuels: Ramaswamy acknowledges climate change but promotes fossil fuels, claiming they grow the economy and fund climate mitigation.
  • Voting Age and Civic Engagement: He proposes raising the voting age to 25, granting exceptions through a new amendment.
  • Economic and Tax Views: Ramaswamy supports inheritance tax and ending the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate, focusing on inflation control.
  • China and Taiwan: He supports Taiwanese protection due to semiconductor production and takes a stance on Taiwan-China relations.
  • Wikipedia Controversy: His campaign admitted paying for Wikipedia edits, while Forbes alleged they aimed to align with conservative views.
  • Religious Appeal: Ramaswamy seeks support from Christian right voters despite being Hindu, emphasizing shared values.
  • Presidential Candidacy: He announced his 2024 Republican presidential candidacy, pledging his fortune to fund the campaign.

Personal Life

Vivek Ganapathy Ramaswamy’s wife, Apoorva Ramaswamy (formerly Tewari), is a physician they met at Yale, where he studied law and she medicine. They have two sons, Karthik (born 2020) and Arjun (born 2022). Ramaswamy is a Hindu and emphasizes belief in one God. He’s proficient in Tamil, his mother tongue, and understands Malayalam, his parents’ language. He’s a vegetarian. In 2023, his campaign advisor stated his net worth exceeded $1 billion, while Forbes estimated it over $950 million. He resided in NYC in 2016. He owned property in Butler County, Ohio, till 2021, and in 2023, reported ownership of a Columbus house in Franklin County.

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