The Tej Kohli Story

Tej Kohli is a philanthropist who with wife Wendy Kohli created the Tej Kohli Foundation in 2005. The Foundation focuses on developing solutions to major global health challenges whilst also making direct interventions that transform lives. Under Tej’s guidance the Foundation has become a global hub for interdisciplinary innovation as part of a global mission to eliminate needless corneal blindness worldwide by 2035.


Indian Institute of Technology

Tej Kohli was born in Delhi, India in 1958, the son of a journalist father and a diplomat mother. In 1980 he graduated in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, which would later confer upon him the Distinguished Alumnus Award for serving society at large.


Early Career

Tej’s first and only ‘job’ was installing tachometers for a company in Delhi, where he designed and then sold an innovative new process controller for a major manufacturer. The contract transformed the prospects of his employer and gave Tej a first taste of his entrepreneurial appetite.


USA Real Estate

In 1981 Tej’s mother, who was a diplomat for the Indian Government, was posted to the USA. Tej moved with her and by the mid 1980’s he had founded a company specialising in the discounted bulk purchase of foreclosed multi-unit real estate assets from S&L’s, bankruptcy trustees, HUD and the Veterans Association at cents on the dollar. Hundreds of employees at the company’s Beverley Hills headquarters specialised in rapidly transacting the re-sale of thousands of the individual units at near-market rates.


An Early Failure

Tej's prodigious early success came to an abrupt end in 1994 when a single business decision made in 1988 started off a chain reaction which ended in the closure of his real estate company. Tej lost everything and describes himself in 1988 as: “I was a young Indian kid doing well very for himself in the USA. Arrogance and hubris had set in and major errors were made. In retrospect I had started to trust some people that I should not have, and my company was involved in more things than I could keep good oversight over as CEO."


Rebuilding Himself

Determined to rebuild himself and not to be outdone or defined by a single mistake made in his twenties, Tej set out to start over from scratch and sought to rediscover his purpose. During a holiday to Costa Rica Tej had planned to spend some time considering his future, but instead he met his future wife Wendy and decided to stay in Costa Rica. In 1999 Tej founded an online payment gateways company in Costa Rica which quickly became a global leader within high risk industries for its market-leading fraud protection software.


Liquidity Event

The company grew quickly by specialising in payment gateways and a wide array of associated services for clients in high-risk sectors such as gaming, dating and travel; and later also diversified into the acquisition, turnaround and sale of distressed online gaming properties. By 2006 the company employed an army of software developers amongst hundreds of staff.

Tej Kohli sold the company in 2006 for an undisclosed sum, and the Kohli family moved to a new family home in the United Kingdom. Earn outs from the sale continued until 2012, during which time Tej visited the company in Costa Rica twice per year.


Rebuilding Others

After enjoying early success, enduring a huge setback, rebuilding a new life from scratch and once again attaining a level of substantial success, the sale of his company was a watershed moment for Tej. He now had the resources to fulfil a promise that he had made to himself a decade earlier: that he would use the resources and experience that he had accumulated rebuilding himself to help others rebuild themselves. Already in 2005 Tej had initiated an early philanthropic project by opening free ‘FundaKohli’ canteens to feed children and families in Costa Rica.


Global Real Estate

By 2008 Tej was focused entirely on investing in and building his ‘Zibel’ real estate portfolio in India and South East Asia. He continued to build a substantial real estate asset base by focusing on new premium real estate acquisitions in the UAE and Europe. The appreciation and income stream from the Zibel property portfolio today funds the Tej Kohli Foundation.


Technology Investor

After 2006 Tej also became an investor into innovative technology ventures focused on artificial intelligence, robotics and genomics through his investment vehicle Kohli Ventures; and also made new acquisitions in the global payment processing sector, including the acquisition of DynaCart in 2014. Since 2018 Tej Kohli has also made two substantial investments into Rewired, a robotics-focused venture studio with a humanitarian bent.


Esports Investor

Rewired also includes a sister venture fund that is focused on investing in the global growth phenomenon that is esports. Through the Rewired.gg Esports Venture Fund, in 2018 and then again in 2019, Tej led Europe’s largest ever esports team investment with a €34m investment into Europe’s leading and most innovative esports brand and its innovative young founders.


Biotechnology Investor

Tej is also the lead backer of Detraxi, a US-based company that plans to save millions of lives worldwide by developing its proprietary biotechnology solution for a range of global health challenges. Detraxi is working in collaboration with some of the worlds most talented and respected scientists across fluid replacement, diagnostics, transplantation and regenerative medicine. The Detraxi biotechnology has already undergone several clinical studies. It is currently undergoing pre-clinical trials at Johns Hopkins University.


M&A and Turnarounds

In 2010 Tej also backed an M&A roll-up of plastic surgery clinics in the USA, exiting in 2015. And in 2015 Tej became lead investor in a B2B SaaS platform technology provider where he instigated a turnaround program. The privately held company, which has dual headquarters in Europe and in China, currently employs 300 software developers in 8 offices worldwide.


Finding A New Calling

In 2010 the Tej Kohli Foundation funded its first donor cornea implants at Niramaya Hospital in India. Tej was present when a 50-year-old patient, who had been blind for decades, had the bandages removed after a corneal transplant and saw his wife and grown up children for the first time. Tej immediately decided that eliminating corneal blindness was his calling.


Tej Kohli Cornea Institute

After funding thousands of corneal transplants at Niramaya Hospital, in 2015 the Tej Kohli Foundation substantially expanded its efforts to tackle corneal blindness in poor and underserved communities with the ambitious launch the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute in Hyderabad. Between January 2016 and November 2019 the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute welcomed more than 223,404 outpatients and completed more than 43,255 surgical procedures, largely for free.


Ending Corneal Blindness

Tej has also driven the Tej Kohli Foundation’s pursuit of a ‘universal treatment’ for corneal blindness through it’s ‘Applied Research’ program, a longstanding scientific collaboration between researchers in Montreal Canada, and Moorfields Eye Hospital, UK. In January 2020 the ‘Applied Research’ program announced that it had moved one step closer in its mission to invest an affordable, accessible and scalable universal cure for corneal blindness through the regeneration of corneal tissue. In 2019 Tej also funded the Tej Kohli Cornea Program at Massachusetts Eye And Ear in Boston with an initial donation of $2m.


Future Bionics

Tej Kohli is a strong believer in the power of technology to improve human life, and in late 2019 he was proud to launch the Tej Kohli Foundation’s first UK project: the ‘Future Bionics’ program. The program funds the purchase and fitting of 3D-printed bionic ‘Hero Arms’ for young people with limb difference in the UK; and highlights how technology can substantially improve the lives and confidence of younger people living with disabilities.


Revealing His Comeback Story

Now in his sixties and a father to two teenagers, Tej has embraced the opportunity to inspire and educate younger people by sharing his story. He has given talks about the importance of rebuilding one’s self even after a major setback. And he is increasingly seeking to engender within the entrepreneurs that he mentors the belief that it is never too late to find success.


Inspiring Others

Many of the team who started their journey with Tej Kohli have gone on to build their own successful global businesses, and Tej is proud of his mentorship of these entrepreneurs. This mentorship philosophy continues today through the investments of Kohli Ventures, where Tej is backing and mentoring entrepreneurial founders as they build technology businesses.


As Tej says of his comeback story: “No matter what you do there will always be people who want to bring you down. But they only want to see you down because it makes them feel better about themselves. Don’t give them that satisfaction. Keep building yourself. Keep giving back. And keep helping others.”

FAQ

What does Tej Kohli do?

Tej Kohli is a philanthropist focused on investing his accumulated wealth into projects that fit with the Tej Kohli Foundations ‘Rebuilding You’ philosophy of rebuilding people and communities around the world through a combined strategy of direct interventions whilst simultaneously backing the development of novel scientific and technological solutions. Tej Kohli also makes investments to improve human life through the Kohli Ventures vehicle.

What is Tej Kohli known for?

Tej Kohli is best known for his worldwide mission to eliminate poverty-driven corneal blindness by 2035. His Tej Kohli Foundation is a leading backer of technological and scientific projects that seek to develop a ‘universal’ solution to corneal blindness that is accessible, affordable and scalable in the world’s poorest communities where 90% of people with blindness and severe visual impairment live. Between 2005 and 2019 his Tej Kohli Cornea Institute in India welcomed 223,404 outpatients and undertook 43,255 procedures to alleviate and cure corneal blindness in poor and underserved communities.

How did Tej Kohli make his money?

In 2006 Tej Kohli sold the company that he had founded in 1999 in Costa Rica in a high value trade sale. The company specialised in building and managing online payment gateways built around its own proprietary fraud protection software. The company was the market leader within high risk industries and later also diversified into the acquisition, turnaround and disposal of online gaming properties through a series of high value trade sales.

Today Tej Kohli holds a substantial international real estate portfolio that is focused on multi-unit mixed-use towers in the United Arab Emirates and South East Asia; as well as premium luxury residences throughout Europe. It is the income stream from this global real estate portfolio that funds the Tej Kohli Foundation and also the activities of Kohli Ventures, which makes impact investments into commercial ventures that can improve human life.

What does Tej Kohli invest in?

Tej Kohli is a private investor who engages exclusively in private business activity using his own capital through his Kohli Ventures investment vehicle. Kohli Ventures engages in impact investments that have the potential to substantially improve human life. Tej Kohli focuses on exponential growth opportunities that are derived from the chain reaction of rapid technological progression in the areas of AI, robotics, biotech and esports.

Where can I invest in Tej Kohli companies?

Tej Kohli is engaged exclusively in private business activities and does not real on any third-party investors or partners. Since 2006 Tej Kohli has declined to rely on banks or debt and instead uses only his own funds and capital to support his private business activities.

What is Tej Kohli’s link to corneal blindness?

In 2010 Tej Kohli funded his first corneal transplant at Niramaya Hospital in India and was present when the recipient had his bandages removed and was able to see his wife and family for the first time in decades. Tej Kohli immediately decided that eliminating poverty-driven corneal blindness was his calling and in the years since his Tej Kohli Foundation has made tens of thousands of treatment interventions to alleviate and cure corneal blindness in the world’s poorest communities. The Tej Kohli Foundation is also a leading backer of technological and scientific projects to find an accessible, affordable and scalable cure.

What is Tej Kohli’s link to holiday hunger?

The Food Support projects of the Tej Kohli Foundation are part of Tej Kohli’s mission to combat holiday hunger in the United Kingdom. Through a series of initiatives such as the YouCube project, Tej Kohli is seeking to empower and support local grassroots and voluntary movements in the UK by providing the sustainable funding and tactical support that they need to be able to eliminate holiday hunger from their local community.

Where does Tej Kohli invest in artificial intelligence and robotics?

Tej Kohli is one of the world’s most bullish investors in artificial intelligence and believes that the global AI economy could be worth $150 trillion in the next five years. Tej Kohli holds a global portfolio of privately held AI and robotics investments through his Kohli Ventures investment vehicle. He does not publish his portfolio of worldwide AI and robotics investments so that the focus remains on the pioneering founders of these ventures.

What is Tej Kohli’s role in esports?

Between 2018 and 2019 Tej Kohli made Europe’s largest ever individual investment into esports as part of a €50m commitment to the Rewired.GG Esports Venture Fund where he is a passive investor. The privately held investment fund backs high-growth esports ventures and has invested €34m into a leading European esports team. As a passive investor Tej Kohli plays no active role in the Rewired.GG Esports Venture Fund or its investments.

What car does Tej Kohli drive?

Tej Kohli is a passionate collector of automotive prestige and performance cars. Pride of place in his garage is a Pagani Huayra, one of only 100 ever made. The six-litre twin-turbo charged 238 mph hyper car can do 0–60mph in 2.8 seconds. Kohli’s favourite car is his Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse roadster, one of only 150 every made and the fastest roadster in the world with a top speed of 258 mph.

What did Tej Kohli study?

Tej Kohli studied Electrical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur where he graduated in 1980. In 2008 IIT conferred its Distinguished Alumnus Award upon Kohli for “serving society at large” thanks to his achievements developing solutions to major global health challenges through the Tej Kohli Foundation.

What is Tej Kohli’s blog called?

Tej Kohli writes a regular blog at https://medium.com/@mrtejkohli and is also very active on social media where he shares daily thoughts, wisdom and opinions using #TejTalks.

Where does Tej Kohli live?

Tej Kohli lives in Oxfordshire with his wife Wendy and their two teenage children. The Kolhi family moved to the United Kingdom in 2006 following the sale of Tej Kohli’s company.

What is the name of Tej Kohli’s wife?

Tej and Wendy Kohli married in 2001 and have lived in the United Kingdom with their two children since 2006. Wendy Kohli plays a prominent role in the Tej Kohli Foundation where she supports projects at the heart of communities that have been neglected, especially when interventions can help to combat a lack of education, poor health or prejudice.

What is Tej Kohli’s net worth?

Tej Kohli does not disclose his net worth as a matter of longstanding policy. The bulk of Tej Kohli’s wealth resides in real estate following the high value sale of his company in 2006.