The Tej Kohli Story
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. In 1998 Tej took a holiday in Costa Rica, where he met his wife Wendy and decided to stay.
In 1999 Tej and his co-founder started an online payments company in Costa Rica. At that time, Costa Rica was a global hub for industries such as online gaming, dating and travel services. As the dot com boom took hold, the company was able to quickly expand into a substantial operation servicing these sectors worldwide.
By focusing on building payment gateways, payment processing, risk management and fraud protection solutions, the company was able to expand internationally to more than 500 employees by 2006. Seeking lateral expansion, the company also ventured into the operation of a portfolio of its own online gaming platforms by acquiring distressed and foreclosed assets and turning those companies around. However, the legacy reputational problems associated with these online gaming properties had a negative impact on the core payments processing business, and the co-founders no longer agreed on the future direction of the company.
The company continued to operate within high-risk payment processing as the core business, whilst the best-known property in the fledgling online gaming portfolio of websites was sold to a very well-known gaming entity. Others were sold to third-party investment groups.
Tej Kohli left the company as part of a management buyout that started in 2006. The Kohli family moved to a family home in the United Kingdom, where the Kohli children also started school. A long-standing property investor, Tej had already built a substantial real estate portfolio in India and South East Asia and continued to build on this success. In 2008 he entered into a deal with Tamouh, an Abu Dhabi based company to build a new $385m tower in the UAE, and also continued to acquire and sell properties throughout Europe and Asia. Over recent years he has acquired more than €100m of real estate in Berlin and Spain.
Tej also became a prolific backer of technology ventures focused on artificial intelligence, robotics and genomics through his investment vehicle Kohli Ventures. He also made new acquisitions in the payments processing industry, including the acquisition by Kohli Ventures of DynaCart in 2014. Other prominent investments of Kohli Ventures have included a significant commitment to the Rewired ‘robotics focused venture studio with a humanitarian bent’; as well as a substantial multi-year funding commitment to develop the proprietary and game-changing technology of Detraxi, a biotech company.
In 2010 he 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 people across 8 offices worldwide.
In 2006 Wendy and Tej Kohli co-founded the Tej Kohli Foundation whose mission is to help support areas blighted by extreme poverty. In 2010 the Foundation funded its first donor cornea implants at Niramaya Hospital in India. Then in 2015 the Foundation launched the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute at LV Prasad in Hyderabad, which by the end of 2019 had taken care of 223,404 outpatients, completed 43,255 surgical procedures and collected 38,225 donor corneas into its eye bank – all for free. The Tej Kohli Foundation has also gifted $2m to MEEI, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, to support the development of affordable universal solutions to end corneal blindness worldwide; and in November 2019 embarked on a ‘Future Bionics’ program to give 3D-printed bionic arms to disabled young people in the UK.
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 extends into the most prominent investment of Kohli Ventures so far: a €34m investment into Europe’s leading esports team during 2018 and 2019. Investing through the Rewired.gg Esports Venture Fund, Tej is backing the entrepreneurial young founders of the team as they pursue their goal to build a $1 billion esports team.