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Roelof Botha

  • Seed/Early
  • +
  • Growth
If you’re going to be really successful in this business, you have to be contrarian—and right.

Backstory

I’ve always thought, “What can I do that opens up possibilities?” I grew up in South Africa and went to an Afrikaans high school, and we didn’t speak English at home. But I pushed myself to go to an English-speaking university, and that opened up a door. Then I chose to work for McKinsey, because I thought it would open another door and maybe I’d get a chance to work overseas.

I was reading about what was happening in Silicon Valley in the mid 90s, before I came to the U.S. Already, I’m starting to see the beginnings of the internet. Did I fathom how big it would be? Absolutely not. I didn’t know what venture capital was. I didn’t know that I would join a startup. I just had an intuition that I needed to be here. A friend of mine introduced me to Elon in 1999 and I joined PayPal. Then when Mike Moritz asked me to come interview at Sequoia, that was just another door opening. Where might this one lead?

Whenever I interview people, I ask about those key moments in somebody’s life where they’ve made career decisions. And I think about companies in the same way—there are these crucible moments that have an enormous bearing on ultimate outcomes.

On the lookout for

The unconventional. So many times, I’ve led an investment and been made fun of. YouTube. Instagram. MongoDB. There’s a little defiance in saying, “We’ll show you!” I remember in 2001, when I was at PayPal, there was an article titled “Earth to Palo Alto.” It said we were deranged, we didn’t know what we were doing. In the meantime, I was inside the building, knowing that we were months away from being profitable and on our way to being a public company.

There’s something intriguing to me about somebody who’s an original thinker, who is quirky, and maybe an outsider. I love spending time with people like that. Often, I judge based on how I feel when I meet someone the second time. With most people, you can have a pretty interesting conversation once. The real test is the second conversation—do I lose interest? Or does my imagination start to run off as I think about what this company can become, and understand the depth and significance of the person’s idea? There are few things as exhilarating as sitting in a room with a founder and riffing with them on their idea.

Get in touch with Roelof

Personal Side

  • Science
  • Science fiction
  • Foodie
  • Family
  • Snowboarding at 60 mph
  • Table Tennis

Press & Media

Companies

Current Companies

Company Name  Short Description Current Stage  Founders First Partnered  collapse
EthosEthos uses technology to provide accessible and affordable life insurance coverage.Growth
  • Peter Colis
  • Lingke Wang
Early (2017)Collapse
EvernoteEvernote is a digital workspace for storing and sharing.Growth
  • Phil Libin
  • Stepan Pachikov
Growth (2010)Collapse
GenEditGenEdit is revolutionizing gene therapy and gene editing with its nanoparticle delivery technology.Early
  • Kunwoo Lee
  • Niren Murthy
  • Hyo Min Park
Seed (2016)Collapse
LandisLandis help renters become homeowners.Growth
  • Cyril Berdugo
  • Tom Petit
Early (2020)Collapse
mmhmmmmhmm is a new and better way to create clear, compelling communications via video.Growth
  • Phil Libin
Seed (2020)Collapse
PendulumPendulum is a biotechnology company working to improve the human microbiome.Growth
  • James Bullard
  • Colleen Cutcliffe
  • John Eid
Early (2017)Collapse
SkiffSkiff is a privacy-first collaboration platform.Early
  • Jason Ginsberg
  • Andrew B Milich
Seed (2020)Collapse
Temporal TechnologiesTemporal enables any software application to handle failures gracefully and in a user-friendly way.Growth
  • Samar Abbas
  • Maxim Fateev
Seed (2019)Collapse
The OrgThe Org is a network of public org charts for employees at fast-growing startups.Growth
  • Andreas Jarbol
  • Christian Wylonis
Seed (2019)Collapse

Enduring Companies

Company Name  Short Description Current Stage  Founders First Partnered  collapse
23andMe23andMe is the leading personal genetics information company. IPO
  • Anne Wojcicki
Growth (2017)Collapse
BirdBird is an electric vehicle maker and bike-sharing network focused on sustainability.IPO
  • Travis VanderZanden
Growth (2018)Collapse
BridgeBioBridgeBio makes targeted treatments for genetic diseases.IPO
  • Neil Kumar
Growth (2018)Collapse
EventbriteEventbrite is a marketplace for events.IPO
  • Julia Hartz
  • Kevin Hartz
Early (2009)Collapse
InstagramInstagram, now part of Meta, is the world's most popular photo-sharing app.Acquired
  • Mike Krieger
  • Kevin Systrom
Growth (2012)Collapse
MongoDBMongoDB is the leading general-purpose database platform.IPO
  • Eliot Horowitz
  • Dwight Merriman
Early (2010)Collapse
NateraNatera provides DNA testing across multiple clinical areas including women's health and oncology.IPO
  • Matthew Rabinowitz
  • Jonathan Sheena
Early (2007)Collapse
SquareSquare is a payment service that helps more people start, run and grow their businesses.IPO
  • Jack Dorsey
  • Jim McKelvey
Early (2011)Collapse
TumblrTumblr, now part of Yahoo, is a short-form, mixed-media blogging platform.Acquired
  • David Karp
Growth (2010)Collapse
UnityUnity is a 3D and VR content development platform.IPO
  • Joachim Ante
  • David Helgason
Early (2009)Collapse
XoomXoom, now part of PayPal, is a global money transfer service.Acquired
  • Alan Braverman
  • Kevin Hartz
  • John Kunze
Early (2003)Collapse
YouTubeYouTube, now part of Google, is the world's leading video-sharing service.Acquired
  • Steve Chen
  • Chad Hurley
  • Jawed Karim
Early (2005)Collapse