Vivek Ramaswamy might not have a background in politics, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the first candidates to announce their run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, behind only former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
The biotech millionaire, who was once the CEO of Roivant, has somewhat struggled for exposure in a crowded field for the Republican nomination, but his past shows he isn’t afraid of a challenge.
Ramaswamy is the son of immigrants from India, was an overachiever at school, and even had a short-lived rap career while at Harvard.
Here’s what there is to know about Ramaswamy.
The son of Indian immigrants, he was born and raised in Ohio
Ramaswamy was born on August 9, 1985, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to parents who had immigrated to the US from Kerala, India.
He was raised in a traditional Hindu family but attended a Catholic high school.
At school, he was considered an overachiever
Ramaswamy graduated top of his class at St. Xavier High School, a private prep school on the outskirts of Cincinnati, where he was a nationally ranked junior tennis player.
He also spent his time playing the piano for Alzheimer’s patients.
Ramaswamy has an Ivy League education
He attended Harvard College, where he graduated summa cum laude with a major in biology.
While at Harvard, he was chair of the university’s political union. He told The Harvard Crimson at the time that he considered himself to be a “contrarian” who liked to argue.
Academically, he thrived. The summary of his senior thesis on the ethics of creating human-animal chimeras was published in The New York Times.
At Harvard, he also moonlighted as a rapper
Ramaswamy would dress entirely in black and take to the stage as his rapper alter ego “Da Vek” during his college days, according to The Harvard Crimson.
The student publication said he rapped “libertarian prose with the utmost of ease.”
In an interview with the publication in 2006, Ramaswamy also said that Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” was his life’s theme song.
Source: The Harvard Crimson
When he wasn’t rapping, he was setting up a business
In 2007, Ramaswamy co-founded StudentBusinesses.com, a resource for college-age entrepreneurs. It was acquired by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in 2009.
Ramaswamy then became a successful Wall Street analyst
He worked at QVT Financial, a Wall Street hedge fund manager, from 2007 to 2014.
Successful trades and his knowledge of the potential of certain drugs quickly impressed his bosses, leading to Ramaswamy becoming a partner at just 28 years old.
He also attended Yale Law School on the side, befriending J.D. Vance
While working at QVT Financial, Ramaswamy attended Yale Law School for “the intellectual experience,” a former professor of his told Forbes.
At Yale, he became friends with J.D. Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author turned senator for Ohio. He also met his future wife, Apoorva, with whom he now has two children.
They got married in 2015.
Source: The New Yorker
Ramaswamy left QVT Financial to start his own pharmaceutical firm
He decided to leave QVT Financial to set up Roivant, his pharmaceutical venture, in 2014.
Ramaswamy raised approximately $93 million from investors, among them his former employer.
The idea behind Roivant was to develop drugs that other pharmaceutical companies had abandoned.
The company started with a modest 10 employees but it soon took off. In 2017, it raised $1.1 billion from an investor group led by SoftBank Vision Fund — one of the largest funding rounds for a life sciences company.
Ramaswamy would later be named by Forbes as one of America’s richest entrepreneurs under 40, and would make it onto the publication’s prestigious 30 under 30 list.
He canceled his honeymoon to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange
Ramaswamy and his wife were meant to be honeymooning in the French and Swiss Alps in June 2015, but instead he brought his new bride with him to ring the fabled bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
Ramaswamy led Roivant to a $315 million IPO in 2015, the biggest biotech IPO at that time.
But the honeymoon period for his business ended with a ‘humiliating’ failure
Roivant acquired one of its first drugs, an experimental Alzheimer’s medication called intepirdine, from GlaxoSmithKline in 2014 for $5 million.
In 2017, the drug failed clinical trials, eventually leading to the discontinuation of its development.
Ramaswamy told The New Yorker that the failure was “humiliating” and that he took it really hard.
The company initially pivoted to gene therapies after the Alzheimer’s drug tanked, and now appears to be focusing on medications for psoriasis and dermatitis.
Ramaswamy stepped down as CEO in January 2021, saying he wanted to spend more time writing books and focusing on his political interests.
He released “Woke, Inc,” and another book slamming identity politics
In August 2021, Ramaswamy released a book, “Woke Inc,” which became a New York Times bestseller.
The book slammed the so-called “modern woke-industrial complex,” which Ramaswamy describes as the mixing of morality with consumerism.
He released another book in September 2022, “Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the Death of Merit, and the Path Back to Excellence,” which was a critique of identity politics in America.
And he also became a conservative firebrand, regularly appearing on Fox News
Ramaswamy has appeared regularly on Fox News, has written op-eds for a variety of publications, and made speaking engagements; gaining him a reputation as a conservative firebrand.
His controversial views on “wokeism” made him some enemies, with Ramaswamy telling The New Yorker that a family member and close friend no longer speak to him because of his conservative positions.
Source: The New Yorker
He’s previously toyed with entering politics, and discussed with Kevin McCarthy
Ramaswamy said he once met with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, then the House Minority Leader, and spoke to him about getting involved in Republican Party politics.
He told the New Yorker that McCarthy had advised him that could have more impact as a thought leader for the GOP than as a junior congressman.
Ramaswamy considered running to be Ohio’s senator in 2022 but ultimately decided against it.
And now he’s joined what is likely to be a crowded field of GOP candidates for president in 2024
Ramaswamy announced that he’s running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on February 21, 2023, while appearing on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
He said in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that by running he was hoping to launch a “cultural movement to create a new American dream” based on the “pursuit of excellence.”
In response to his candidacy, the Democratic National Committee issued a statement saying that Ramaswamy’s appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show to announce his campaign showed that the “race for the MAGA base is getting messier and more crowded by the day.”
He got 1% in CPAC’s straw poll of 2024 contenders. But said he was offered a second-place finish if he paid lots of money.
Appearing on Fox Business on March 7, 2023, Ramaswamy alleged that a consultant called his campaign shortly after he declared his candidacy to make him an offer.
Ramaswamy claimed that the consultant, who he did not name, said he could get him second place on the Conservative Political Action Conference’s (CPAC) straw poll if he paid a “few hundred thousand dollars.”
Ramaswamy said he turned down the offer.
He ultimately received just 1% of the vote in the unscientific straw poll of potential Republican primary candidates, with former President Donald Trump coming first.
In April 2023, Ramaswamy took credit for the firing of CNN’s Don Lemon
After CNN dismissed news anchor Don Lemon in April 2023, Ramaswamy took some credit for his firing.
Ramaswamy had appeared on “CNN This Morning” to defend a controversial speech he made at a NRA event. The conversation quickly turned into a heated argument, with Lemon accusing Ramswamy of trying to explain Black history to him.
According to The New York Times, the incident left several CNN leaders fed up, which contributed to Lemon’s dismissal.
Days later, Ramaswamy told SiriusXM host Megyn Kelly that he thought he played a part in getting Lemon fired.
“And I think that that’s a net positive,” he said.
This summer, he performed a freestyle rap on TV. It didn’t go too well.
Asked about his not-so-secret college rapping career, Ramaswamy entertained viewers of Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” in July with a few bars of freestyle rap.
He rapped: “My name’s Vivek, it rhymes with cake. It ain’t about thee, it isn’t about me, it is about the, the United States is about liberty, so ‘Fox & Friends’ join us on the trail, we’ll have some fun, I’ll see you out the trail.”As Insider’s Madison Hall put it, it didn’t go well.
He also said China can invade Taiwan if the US gets semiconductor independence.
Speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Ramaswamy said that if he becomes president he would ensure that the US is no longer reliant on Taiwan for its supply of the electrical component.
Taiwan dominates the manufacturing of semiconductors, which are crucial to making smartphones and electric cars, with the Asian country producing about 60% of the world’s supply.
“And after that, our commitments to Taiwan, our commitments to be willing to go to military conflict, will change after that, because that’s rationally in our self-interest,” he said.
Ramaswamy added: “I am not going to send our sons and daughters to die over that conflict. And that’s consistent with my position on Ukraine as well.”
Ramaswamy was condemned for his comments on 9/11. He then falsely denied he had been misquoted.
“I think it is legitimate to say how many police, how many federal agents, were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers,” he said in the Atlantic profile.
Ramaswamy added: “Maybe the answer is zero. It probably is zero for all I know, right? I have no reason to think it was anything other than zero.”
He went on: “But if we’re doing a comprehensive assessment of what happened on 9/11, we have a 9/11 commission, absolutely that should be an answer the public knows the answer to.”
The comments were equated by The Washington Post to “9/11 trutherism” and an “intellectually polished version” of former President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories.
At the GOP debate, he got booed for calling climate change a hoax.
Though former President Donald Trump skipped the first 2024 Republican presidential primary debate, Ramaswamy was one of eight candidates who took part.
Ramaswamy was vocal throughout, getting into a notably heated back-and-forth with former Vice President Mike Pence.
But perhaps the most memorable moment for Ramaswamy was when he got booed.
Asked if he believes humans are contributing to the climate crisis, he responded: “Climate change is a hoax.”
The crowd jeered at him.
Elon Musk backed Ramaswamy to be the GOP’s VP pick for the 2024 election
In August, Elon Musk threw his support behind Ramaswamy being on the ticket of whoever is selected as the GOP presidential candidate.
Right-wing blogger Mike Cernovich wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “Vivek is powerful.”
In response, X user @AsTheWorldBurnz speculated that Ramaswamy “wants the VP pick.”
Musk responded: “He should get it imo.”
Last week, Ramaswamy said he would like Musk to be a White House adviser if he is elected president in 2024.
Eminem asked him to stop rapping his music
Music licenser BMI sent a cease-and-desist letter to Ramaswamy’s campaign, asking them to stop using Eminem’s songs on the campaign trail, according to a copy obtained by the Daily Mail and CNN.
The letter, sent on August 23, said BMI has “received communications from Marshall B. Mathers, III, professionally known as Eminem, objecting to the Vivek Ramaswamy campaign’s use of Eminem’s musical compositions.”
Ramaswamy suggested colleges should screen applicants on their physical fitness
Ramaswamy suggested that colleges should in-part screen applicants based on their physical fitness.
In a 190-word post on X, formerly known as Twitter, he said that college boards should “add a physical fitness section to the SAT, instead of just math and reading sections.”
He suggested that the section could possibly resemble the former Presidential Fitness Test, which consisted of a 1-mile run, sit-ups, pull-ups, and more.