Most of what I’ve done as an adult can be traced to something I got obsessed with as a kid. If I had a problem with a computer, I’d stay up three days straight until I figured it out.
I went through the founder journey myself, twice. I started a space-launch company that failed and a cybersecurity company where I’m still on the board.
I’ve helped a lot of highly technical companies navigate the transition from science to a product with customers. What’s most fascinating to me is scaling relationships. Humans are more complex than any computer.
When you’re selling a new product—or any product—empathy is key. You need to understand your customers and how you can help them, long before you close your first sale.
We’re going to enter a quantum revolution over the next 10 years. From discovering candidate molecules for drugs to sensors to network security—pretty much everything will be transformed.
The space industry will be absolutely massive. Now that launch is getting cheaper, we’re going to see a lot of new business models.
I also love areas that have been overlooked, like chemistry. Any big market that people aren’t thinking about is fun and exciting to me.
I believe you can change someone’s life with a very short interaction. When I was seven, my older cousin brought a box of computer parts home from UCLA and we spent Thanksgiving putting them together. Now when I notice a child connecting to something, I try to pay it forward.
In sixth grade, I got to contact the space shuttle Columbia over ham radio and ask the commander, Eileen Collins, a question. That experience made space so tangible to me.
I have a PhD in physics from Caltech, but I got an F in Algebra II. I had the hacker mentality about high school—there’s always a back door. I left two years early and went to community college.
I’ve been to more than 90 countries. Before Caltech, I took a nine-month gap and backpacked around the world, living on $10 a day.
It took me four tries to finish my PhD. The first time, I left school to work on a machine learning program in Afghanistan for DARPA. Then I started a company. Then I became a VC. Eventually, I finished my thesis on nights and weekends.
Studying black holes taught me to work across disciplines, which comes in handy for building companies. I was trying to merge the best tools from three different areas—general relativity, quantum mechanics and mathematics.
There were things about being a founder I deeply loved. But it’s not in my personality to do one thing. As a partner to founders, I can have broad interests and still be involved very early on.
I’m drawn to entrepreneurs who know their industry like the back of their hand. I also look for people who have integrity and both high IQ and EQ.
The thoughtfulness about culture at Sequoia was beyond what I expected. We optimize for the team. There’s a level of generosity that’s made a huge impression on me.