Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to “Spread Love in Organizations”, a podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.

I am Naji, your host, joined today by Gaurav Mehta, CEO at Alveolus Bio, a biotech Harnessing the power of the microbiome for the prevention and treatment of lung disease. Gaurav has raised multi-million dollars in the form of dilutive and non-dilutive money. He also has progressed long term global strategic partnership deals that authenticate his team, their capabilities, and science with the intent of obtaining investments for his company. He has also created a revenue-generating-business to create value, sustain the company in market volatility and mitigate dilution. While in this capacity, he also advises multiple life science businesses. Gaurav has co-founded multiple companies. His 20 years of building and scaling depth include having led global operations, business transformations, top and bottom-line improvements, M&A execution, and a turn-around. This experience has been across large to small firms around the globe in BioTech, MedTech, digital health, and tech.

Gaurav, so good to see you again and have you with me today!

Gaurav Mehta: It’s so great to see you too, Naji, and thanks for, for having me.

Naji Gehchan: Can you first share with us your personal story from biomedical engineering, manufacturing to now CEO of Alveolus, what’s in between the lines of your incredible journey?

Gaurav Mehta: Wow. That’s a great question. Um, I, I’d be lying if I told you that I was actually, you know, it was all planned because it wasn’t, you know, it, it was more about trying to find my own self journey and the process and trying to figure out what I really wanted to end up doing. I always knew that I, I wanted to help people.

In fact, I started out thinking maybe I should be a doctor, uh, a medical doctor, and it turned out that, I worked under a doctor and I realized, you know, that’s not something that I’m super excited about. Um, so I decided to go down this path of biomedical engineering, and I’m like, okay, is this is exciting.

I love stretching. I love growing, and I just kept trying different things, stretching myself, growing in different, different capacities. But over the years I finally realized that, you know, it’s not, um, I, I can bring value to people and to me, I realized I could take all these skills, these experiences that I’ve accumulated over the years to make a broader impact.

Maybe I can bring, uh, meaningful therapeutics or medical devices or whatever way I can collectively bring a team together, bring the right culture, bring the right mission, help bring these solutions to life. Be part of that equation. That ultimately ended up being where I’m, uh, today. And, you know, it’s been a journey where it’s been a lot of understanding who I am, uh, as part of the process as well.

Naji Gehchan: Can I double click on understanding who I am as you frame it? Yeah. What, what is, what are your learnings? How did you get to learn who you are through this process?

Gaurav Mehta: Yeah, that’s a another, uh, tough question. I think in the beginning, you know, I was confused. I was doing all these different things. I was very much like stretching myself in terms of I love challenges, I love problem solving, but I’ve always had this question about, okay, what is it for?

What am I going after? What’s my compass? Right? And, uh, it’s a process of. Constantly throwing myself in the deep end of the pool and starting to realize, okay, this is what’s interesting. This is what’s exciting me, this is what I can provide value to. But I think entrepreneurship is, uh, especially in the past several years, is what really stretched me so far.

Where it was like almost a breaking point where, I started to understand, you know, it’s okay. It’s not a destination, it’s a journey. And the journey is, you know, we don’t know what that final outcome looks like, and that’s okay. And we may not ever reach that. We may have an idea of what that may be, and we may not reach that.

But every day we’re peeling the onion. We’re kind of sculpting. Who we are, and I’ve come to to terms with that, where I’m much more happier and I’ve realized there’s two things in life. There’s the contentment and then there’s the happiness piece. Contentment is being at peace with yourself and being comfortable in your skin.

And going after what we believe in day in, day out. But then also the happiness is not necessarily the same thing as contentment. I could be doing anything trying to solve a problem, but that necessarily may not bring me happiness. Happiness is some deep calling that I personally believe. We all are unique.

You know what? What we wanna do, our dreams, our values. If we pursue that, we are happy. And especially if you’re content and you’re following your dreams, you’re following your values. I think that’s what really cultivates the happiness aspect of things as well. And so that’s my, I’m much more comfortable in my skin, especially because of this entrepreneurial journey and learning to be more mindful.

And that, you know, I’ve pursued these things, uh, like Headspace, which is like a mindful, uh, guided mindfulness and whatnot, which has just really allowed me to understand myself, witness myself, witness others, and realize what contentment is and what happiness is.

Naji Gehchan: I love it. We’re immediately in deep discussions right about yourself as a person, as a leader, uh, as, as you went through this journey.

And we discussed, uh, last time, uh, both of us, uh, really kind of turbulent. Time we’re in as, uh, in the biotech industry, something we’re both passionate about. Uh, I, I’d love to understand how you’ve been using those capabilities to keep growing, but also to lead teams in those moments at the end of uncertainty.

Right. I love how you framed it. It’s about a journey. We’re kind of wired several times to think about the destination we want to go to, right? And we wanna achieve it and reach it. So how have you managed along your personal growth, uh, as you gracefully shared leading teams to understand that the important piece is this one step at a time for us to uncover the next innovation for healthcare?

Gaurav Mehta: Yeah, no. To me, I, I’ve realized, uh, another piece is that I’m only a piece of the puzzle and part of that piece of the puzzle is the team that we belong to. Um, and so the people that we surround ourselves with can make or break you. Right? And, and I don’t mean just by functional work, but I also mean the energy that is an intangible.

Whether it’s my boss, whether it’s my direct reports, I feed off that energy myself and as a leader, we also have to bring our own energy to the table, which is the whole contentment and happiness aspect. But it’s also so important to, to be around people who are also like inspired and driven and it becomes like a system dynamic, um, where we’re feeding off of each other, right?

And so sometimes, you know, there are people. Within the team who may be down and we come to the table and also bring our energy to the table. And it’s just a self-fulfilling reinforcing loop where if, if you’re negative, it’s going to feed off and create that negativeness. But if you’re positive and you are pushing yourself to think out of the box, or if your team members are pushing you to think out of the box as a team, as an engine.

We, um, we propelled forward and I have a great team around me and, um, whether, who’s our executive chairman, who’s, uh, who’s also our founder, he is, you know, he’s very driven, he’s very motivated, and he’s thinking out of the box. I love that energy that I get from him. At the same time, the people that work within our team, they’re also coming up with different ideas and you’re like, Maybe it is possible, and you know, and so we keep feeding off of this, and I think that ultimately makes you think of different, different ideas.

Whether it’s like, Hey, maybe we can generate revenue off of this thing and try to keep ourselves afloat. And you’re providing value to other companies. At the same time, you’re thinking of grants, you’re thinking of foundations, you’re thinking of different, different things, and you’re like, Hey, that’s promoting our science moving forward, and.

I think we can also provide value to disease X, Y, and Z. You know, and I think that ultimately is progressing us in that direction. And we may or may not get to that destination, but I think we’re chugging along in times. It’s tough at at times. It’s like, Hey, it’s all exciting, but I think every day you have to wake up and.

Remind yourself that it, it’s a journey and if we fail at the end, it’s okay too. And coming to grasp with that takes that whole anxiety, that whole edge off. But when you do, you thrive, in my opinion, at least that’s the case for me.

Naji Gehchan: Can you share a specific example, about, you know, those challenging times. If it’s funding, if it’s data readouts science, like I, I always feel we’re, uh, in our space, we’re humbled with this double uncertainty of biology and business all the time. Right. So, yeah. How, how would you deal with this, with your teams in those times, as you said, that are challenging?

Gaurav Mehta: Yes. No, absolutely.

I think, look, I will say if the science doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out and we can’t do anything about that. It is what it is. And you have to be, integrity is one thing that if you’re not integral in our business, you don’t belong here. Right. And so I think that I can’t do anything about, we have to follow our gut and I personally.

Not only do I feel the science is amazing, but the gut tells me that this is very much de-risk. Now I have to convince that to others who may or may not believe, like for example, whether it’s microbiome, they would like, oh my God, all these other microbiome companies are failing. But I’m like, that’s the gut.

It’s much more variable. But the lung isn’t, you know, this is something that’s uh, found in the lung. And to me, I think. Not only the science, the data speaking very positively, so I wholeheartedly believe it Now to do that, we we’re like, okay, how do we convince people? Now we’re thinking of different animal models.

Even though the FDA doesn’t require us to do it, we’re looking at ferrets, we’re thinking out of the box to make sure that we can, um, de-risk this further, to get people to be more convinced. And, you know, even from an investment standpoint. We’re hitting every single angle. If institutional VCs in the current market are not willing to invest, that’s okay.

We’ll look at angel, angel groups. We’ll look at wealthy individuals, even though you have to be very careful who you, who you, uh, partner with. That’s another thing, but every day if we don’t try, we’re not gonna find that right partner. But at the same time, we’re looking at foundations. We’re like, okay, we’re thinking about Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for tuberculosis.

You okay? That’s one angle that we feel very confident. Cystic fibrosis Foundation, we feel like we can do, you know, and we’re thinking about combinational therapies, all of these things to just to try to see which way makes sense. Can we create a partnership with various different companies? You know, it’s, it’s a tough market.

Um, and we’ve had several that went, but even those companies sometimes may struggle, right? So again, it’s every day you chip away. I’m confident that one day something very favorable is gonna come about, and that’s what keeps me going.

Naji Gehchan: Well, that’s that’s great. And I love this iteration that you’re talking about that’s really this entrepreneurial journey that you said you’ve been embarked in and you’ve been enjoying for the past decade. Uh, so when you think about, uh, transmitting, if we go out of your specific company, I know you mentor a lot, you’ve worked with a lot of startups, biotechs, med techs. What is the one advice you give founders CEOs when they building that company? Is there, after your, all your experience globally and yourself as an entrepreneur and as c e o, what is this one advice you give to leaders founding their companies?

Gaurav Mehta: Um, yeah, no, I think in that regard, there’s several things that come to mind. One that’s very common is who are you serving? Who’s your end customer? What’s your game here? Um, how are you targeting? So there’s that business. Find mindset to make sure that you’re crafting a business around it. But I’ve often found a lot of, uh, companies, a lot of leaders within those companies, they get too hung up with the storylines that people themselves have created.

Whether it’s like, oh, I’m, I gotta have this equity, I gotta do this, and I’m like, A 0% of zero, uh, a 0% of whatever equity is still zero. Right? And so you have to make progress. You have to compromise at times to, to make certain things move in the right direction. And that those storylines goes back to the contentment piece that I was talking about earlier, because we have these storylines in our head to that, you know, prevent us from thinking.

In a peaceful way, thinking about what’s really the end goal? What’s driving them? What are their values? What are their dreams? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say, oh, we should take whatever dilution that comes your way. No, the focus here is don’t get stuck in, in, in your journey thinking about like, okay, you know, this is an end all, be all.

You have to start thinking about. What are the roadblocks and how do I get around it? You know, what are, what are, and those roadblocks are a lot in our head. And um, and I think a lot of the founders, a lot of the entrepreneurs break because of not being able to handle their own mental struggles. And you know, when I first.

Embarked in this journey. People told me, oh, entrepreneurship is is hard. I’m like, I’ve been doing hard work all my life. I’m not afraid of hard work, but I must say it’s been a hard journey and it’s, it’s a very, very hard journey because you realize, It’s a lot of emotions that are involved and it’s emotionally tormenting.

And so I think once you reach the self-reflection, self-understanding aspect of things, you give a whole lot more to your team, to your, uh, to what you’re trying to accomplish. And you are much more content. And, and if you’re following, if, if what you’re doing is aligned to your. Your passion, passion, your, your, your vision, uh, your dreams, your values.

Then you’re happy as well as content. Right? And so I think, I think that’s, that’s what I see a lot.

Naji Gehchan: Thanks for sharing Gaurav. I’m gonna give you our word and I’d love your reaction to it. And the first word is leadership.

Gaurav Mehta: Leadership. What’s my reaction? I think leadership is, It, it goes back to understanding who we are and getting rid of the storylines that are in our head and realizing that it goes back to the whole destination piece. You know, we may strive, we wanna, people wanna make money, we all wanna, you know, all do all these kind of different things, but at the end of the day, we’re not gonna die with all of this.

Yes, it’s important to do all those things, and it’s important to make money for the investors, but I think you can only do. If you realize that you have to be humble, you have to be, uh, you have to be aware of yourself and your team members and your surrounding to. To provide the most productive output that you can and that favors the investors, that favors your team, that favors the product that you’re creating.

It favors yourself. Otherwise it’s misery involved. And that’s, that’s my re reaction.

Naji Gehchan: That’s a great reaction. I’m, uh, we’re we, several times we’re used to have leadership and thinking of others, obviously. I love that your first reaction is, Self-reflection. It’s, uh, it’s deep self-understanding for you to be able to lead others.

That’s, that’s a powerful, the second one is innovation.

Gaurav Mehta: Innovation. Um, I think innovation, you, you have to define the word innovation and the word, in my opinion, innovation is combined with two things. One, It’s the idea, but then two, it’s all the execution that goes behind making that idea something that’s accessible to a broader market.

It’s commercializing it, right? And to do that leadership. And it, it doesn’t mean that you have to be leading a team, it’s just how you bring yourself to the. It goes back to the same story that we’ve been talking about, um, is in order to to to bring that innovation, we have to bring our best self forward.

We have to realize who we are to be our best self forward, and, and that is what takes two. Inspire people to, to get a team of people together, to get investors motivated, to be able to sell that in a passionate way. Um, people will see that people feel that energy and that’s what really ultimately moves the needle in terms of the business, in terms of innovating.

Naji Gehchan: The third word is entrepreneur.

Gaurav Mehta: Entrepreneur, entrepreneur is, um, the first reaction is getting rid of the storylines in your head and to be able to, to able to bring the genius in you out. Uh, I personally am a big believer that we are all born with an innate genius within ourselves. We all have a different offering, a value offering that we give to this world.

And the thing is, we oftentimes, including myself in the past, we sometimes get caught up in the storylines and we stop these beautiful things that we have just because we think that we have to conform to somebody else’s mold that we have to follow something else. To be our best self forward. And I think that is actually self-limiting.

And to be an entrepreneur, you have to be able to create, bring that genius to the table. And the only way that you do that is believe in yourself. And believe in, in the idea that you’re bringing to. But also be realistic. If you find out that the way that you’re doing it is not gonna work, either pivot or stop.

And I’ve realized pivoting is huge in entrepreneurship. It’s like constantly pivoting and you’re constantly trying to find that sweet spot that has to happen. But um, yeah, that’s my reaction.

Naji Gehchan: Get rid of the storyline you have in your head. I, I love it. You said it several times and I think it’s really a, a deep sentence.

When you think of the storyline that we create, the ones that even our parents create, I’m sure you’re familiar with. Yep. Uh, Debra and Kona’s Paper on the Ghost and the exec committee. Right. Like, I think there’s so much in it and so many storylines we built in our heads that sometimes prevent us from. Achieving the greatness we all have. ’cause I’m, I’m a big believer like you, that you all have a genius in us.

Gaurav Mehta: Yeah, yeah. It’s, it’s, you know, we, we unfortunately can’t lead our best life forward. And I finally at, at this age in my life, I finally realized this, we can’t live our best life. Unless we let those storylines go, unless if we’re willing to put our anxieties, put our self-doubts, put our, you know, false sense of securities aside, we just can’t, we can’t accomplish the dream that we want without it, without doing those things right.

Naji Gehchan: I’m going off the question, but I, I’m intrigued if there was a moment or crucifix or something specific that helped you realize this and just transformed, or is it really this continuous journey of, you know, pivoting, learning, facing, uh, yourself?

Gaurav Mehta: Yeah. No, I, um, I think it’s, it’s a very iterative process, but I, I often, you know, even if you asked me two years ago, I’d be like, oh my God, why did it take me so long?

But I think it’s constantly throwing yourself out there and taking risks and sometimes just following the path of, you know, what’s ahead of you. Um, my parents think I’m crazy. My, my sibling, one of my siblings thinks I’m crazy for, for, um, you know, putting my career on hold and going back to, to, to grad school, to, to upskill myself and go after this journey wholeheartedly and again, that’s the storyline saying, well, you know, Go to school, work hard, you know, make decent money and then you’ll be fine.

That’s a storyline. That’s a storyline of itself. Like you said, you know, we’re. And so yeah, your family members are like thinking you’re crazy and sometimes you doubt yourself thinking, oh my God, I must be crazy, but you, you keep following it. And I think there was no special point. I think that iterative process and allowing my perfectionism to also let go that comes with the engineering mindset is, is at least for me, and, and then just allowing myself to witness my own behavior.

Eventually that came about and I think there’s some great mindful, uh, tactics out there too that really helped the process.

Naji Gehchan: I certainly relate and. I think your openness, humility, and willingness actually to really test yourself. You’re not talking a lot about this, but you, you can transform if you don’t start being vulnerable yourself and willing to transform as a leader for you to, to bring this great transformations and growth.

The last word is spread love in organizations.

Gaurav Mehta: Yeah, the spread love, I think it comes naturally. Um, and it comes naturally if you’re willing to be, like you said, vulnerable, uh, like to be humble and to understand that you yourself are not perfect and that you are also work in progress just like everyone else, but it, you know.

Inspiration is one, but when you are opening up your own vulnerabilities, um, and you’re able to connect with people, I think people are also able to emotionally connect with you and they feel like, okay, they understand you have to treat people in a way that if you were to put yourself in those same shoes, do they, um, do they get it?

Now, don’t get me wrong, like if you asked me 10 years ago, I was more functionally oriented. Right. But now it’s like, over the years I started to realize we all have a very limited time on this planet and we, we need to, you know, just explore how best we can live this. And the best way, again, it goes back to the contentment, happiness piece, but it, it’s more like, how do you how do you make yourself, um, real? And if you’re real with yourself and you’re real with others, that love genuinely comes about because they, your team members also feel like they can also connect with you and you don’t create these arbitrary, like ridiculous rules that people feel like, oh my god, you know, has a high sense of anxiety.

When you’re able to connect and when you’re able to talk about difficult items, which is also very important. You can’t be just very much, you know, you know, never have to work. No, you have to be pretty aggressive, but at the same time, you’re, you’re also being vulnerable. You’re also being able to connect with people and understand and help.

The love aspect naturally comes when you bring yourself to the table.

Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world?

Gaurav Mehta: healthcare leaders around the world? Um, I would say, you know, everything that I’ve said here today, um, I think it doesn’t just apply to healthcare, it applies to. Any type of work that you’re trying to do. But I would also go far as saying, you know, one thing is, and this is going to, what I was saying just a moment ago, is you have to stretch ambitious goals.

You have to set ambitious goals. You have to go after it. Don’t, if you don’t aim high enough, you’re not going to be able to solve bigger problems. And I. We as humans also tend to have this self-limiting thoughts of saying, this is as best as it’s gonna get. And I think unless if you push the envelope, unless if you go after the big problems, you’re not gonna be able to solve the big problems that are out there.

And I think people limit themselves just because of that mindset. And so whether it’s healthcare, I’m a huge believer. I mean, I love the fact that now we have orphan drugs and all of that. Previously, all of these rare diseases people couldn’t tackle. But I think if you’re passionate, if you think that, you know, you wanna go after these things, don’t be afraid.

And I’m not a, I’m not a medical doctor, I’m not a PhD. Um, I don’t know every little thing that’s going around me, but I can put a team around me and I can connect with people and try to understand what they’re trying to accomplish. So you don’t have to have that. But set ambitious goals, I guess, is the last thing I would like to say.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much, Gaurav for being with me today and for this deep chat we had.

Gaurav Mehta: Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to SpreadLove in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform

Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on spreadloveio.com. We’re eager to hear your thoughts and feedback. Most importantly, spread love in your organizations and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement, our world so desperately needs