Every day we sit with some of the smartest people in the world, and they tell us what the future holds.
My dad always said “when your values are clear, decision-making is easy.” He was right. Founders who are crystal clear on what they care about, and why, create cultures in which decisions are made quickly and correctly.
I have plenty of theories about where enterprise technology and financial services are headed, but I'd rather listen than talk. Particularly when I'm listening to founders who are on a mission to fix something they care deeply about.
I used to think that culture was a very fluffy thing that people talked about when they didn't have anything better to say. Boy was I wrong. Culture is everything. It's the most scalable system you have.
Culture and vision are the two essential roles of a founder. You can hire for any aspect of a business, but culture and vision are fundamental. They determine who you are, and why you exist. That can't come from the outside.
The investors we hire and the founders we back are the same in one important regard: they have a desperate need to win.
People at Sequoia have very different backgrounds & very different views of the world, but we work well together because we all care deeply about one thing: helping founders make a dent in the universe.
We tend to make about one investment per person per year. We could make a lot more investments, but constraint forces clarity. Instead of thinking, “Will this investment make money?” we have to think, “Does this company have a chance to be truly special?”
Don could have started Valentine Ventures, but he named it Sequoia for a reason. He wanted to build something that would endure. Individuals come and go, but a team with a cohesive culture can endure.
Look at the 1936 U.S. Olympic rowing team. Each man truly believed that he was the weakest in the boat and, as a result, every man worked ferociously to not let the others down.
Most people don't realize where our money comes from. The majority comes from universities, foundations, and other nonprofits. If we screw up, they lose out on scholarships and cancer research. Now that's motivation.
That probably sounds like BS, but it's something we really care about. I didn't know it at the time, but my scholarship to Boston College was funded, in part, by proceeds from Sequoia investments. Our returns make a real impact, and we have the tremendous privilege of working for some of the best causes on the planet.
In high school and the first part of college, I was a roofer during the summer. Try making $9 an hour putting down T-Lock shingles in 110-degree heat. Studying for midterms in an air-conditioned library is paradise by comparison.
My first job after college was inside sales. Fifty dials a day yielded 200 conversations a month. At any point you could hit the button and see how your metrics ranked. I almost killed myself making sure I was on top every day.
I'm still pretty young, but I've been in this business for more than a decade. I’ve spent time with a few thousand companies. Every business is unique, but knowledge is cumulative and history provides context for the future.
Frank Slootman taught us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The world changes quickly. Your competitors are trying to kill you. If you relax, you’re dead. We believe that about our own business.
Growth creates stress. Great companies are broken in a hundred different ways, but they keep the pressure on. Losing creates stress too. You'd rather have the stress of winning than the stress of losing.
Human beings are emotional creatures that occasionally use reason, not rational creatures that occasionally feel. Logic is beautiful, but life is shades of grey. It took me a long time to appreciate that. Doug and Jim probably deserve credit for teaching me that.
Every founder deserves a tremendous amount of respect for having the courage to start something. To become completely vulnerable. To ignore reason in pursuit of a dream. I've never had the guts to do that. It's an honor to be your wingman, and it's a responsibility we don't take lightly.