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Jess Lee

  • Seed/Early
When I work with founders, my hope is to share some of what I went through with my startup, combined with the mistakes and trials and lessons (and successes) of five decades of Sequoia founders.

Backstory

I wanted to draw manga, but my parents wouldn’t let me go to art school. So computer science at Stanford led me to Google as a PM. Then I fell for Polyvore, a product that combined my love of self-expression with my training in software development. I emailed with some suggestions and complaints, and the founders hired me as employee #1. I wore many hats, from writing code to designing UX to community building, from fundraising to selling ads. There were epic highs and lows. Most of these roles were new to me, but my love for the product and our user community was my guide. Eventually the founders named me a cofounder and even gifted me some of their own shares. Four years in, I became CEO.

My first meeting with Roelof wasn’t the pitch opportunity I was hoping for. He was pitching me to become a VC! A couple years later, after Polyvore was acquired by Yahoo!, we met again and the timing worked out. I worried I didn’t fit the mold, but when Roelof and Jim showed up with an offer letter in hand, dressed as Buzz and Woody from Toy Story, I knew there was a place for cosplay (and me) at Sequoia.

I came here to be the partner I wish I’d had as a founder, the first person you text with good news and bad. In addition to investing, I work closely with our engineering, product, design, and data science teams, and help run our Company Design program. I also helped cofound All Raise, a community of female founders and funders dedicated to changing the gender balance in tech. I’m so grateful to be part of a partnership that not just accepts, but encourages, difference.

On the lookout for

Spike. Grit. Spark. The best founders have something that sets them apart. And yet, when you are that spiky, gritty, high-slope founder, it doesn’t always feel fantastic. It can feel like a rollercoaster that swings daily, hourly, with each moment. It’s easy to doubt yourself. Grit and tenacity are essential for survival. I look for distance traveled, mission orientation, and underdogs with something to prove. It also helps to be a great storyteller who can convince people to join you on the adventure.

Consumer is my natural habitat. The greatest consumer companies fundamentally change the way we live or work, so I pay close attention to generational shifts like the rise of the side hustle, the aging population, Gen Z attitudes and the future of flexible work. Some of the great consumer ideas seem crazy at first. When you start, most people think, That will never work.” And then it works.

Get in touch with Jess

Personal Side

  • Cosplay
  • Manga
  • Pop culture nerd
  • Bacon
  • All Raise

Press & Media

Companies

Current Companies

  • Dia&Co is a personal styling service and clothing company for plus-size women.
    Current Stage

    Growth

    Partners

    Alfred Lin,
    Jess Lee

    Partnered In

    2016

  • Ironclad's contract solutions empower legal teams to do more legal work and less paperwork.
    Current Stage

    Growth

    Partner

    Jess Lee

    Partnered In

    2018

  • Maven is a women's health telemedicine network.
    Current Stage

    Growth

    Partner

    Jess Lee

    Partnered In

    2018

  • Mos is a neobank for college students and Gen Z.
    Current Stage

    Growth

    Partners

    Jess Lee,
    George Robson

    Partnered In

    2020

  • NEWNESS is a livestreaming platform for the beauty community.
    Current Stage

    Early

    Partner

    Jess Lee

    Partnered In

    2019

  • Otter matches parents who need childcare with stay-at-home parents who can care for their kids.
    Current Stage

    Early

    Partners

    Jess Lee,
    Alfred Lin

    Partnered In

    2021

  • Pendulum is a biotechnology company working to improve the human microbiome.
    Current Stage

    Growth

    Partners

    Jess Lee,
    Roelof Botha,
    Sonya Huang

    Partnered In

    2017

  • Protégé is a platform where you can get your talent discovered by the best experts in the world.
    Current Stage

    Early

    Partner

    Jess Lee

    Partnered In

    2021

  • The Wing is a network of work and community spaces designed for women.
    Current Stage

    Growth

    Partner

    Jess Lee

    Partnered In

    2018

  • Wonolo is an on-demand staffing platform for frontline workers.
    Current Stage

    Growth

    Partner

    Jess Lee

    Partnered In

    2017

Enduring Companies

  • Embark Trucks is transforming how goods move with self-driving trucks.
    Current Stage

    IPO

    Partners

    Pat Grady,
    Jess Lee

    Partnered In

    2018