Fifteen Years of Investment Review by Pat Grady of Sequoia Capital: Fifteen Lessons I Learned from Fifteen People

  1. Eric Yuan: Simplicity Scales

    (Zoom founder)​

Meeting Eric Yuan for the first time, no

Deck, also with no financial data, was just a conversation, but very clear from one topic to the next. Whenever he mentions a priority or a data or anything, those topics are continuous, or they are related, very clear. Because there is such a picture in his mind, what he wants to achieve. Part of that is because he’s someone who especially likes clear thinking. Part of the reason is that I think he’s very good at simplifying things. This simplification has two aspects:

  • In the product, when

    When Eric created Zoom, he kept the product very simple and had a great customer experience.

  • In organizational culture, Eric

    Inspired by zappos, he defines zoom’s culture around customer happiness. Ask Eric

    He mentions customer happiness with any questions. Eirc

    Stick to this one simple message and make sure everyone really understands it.

  • Roelof Botha: It’s not

    about figuring out what’s Wrong, it’s about figuring out what’s

    Right (Sequoia Capital Global Senior Managing Partner, former Paypal CFO)

exist

2007 3

Before I joined Sequoia in May, I was at a private equity firm, where when we were evaluating an investment opportunity, we would try to list all the things that could go wrong and check them out, and if there was nothing wrong, it was a great investment opportunity. When I get to Sequoia and I start looking at these early stage or growth companies, I still immediately look for all the things that went wrong or could go wrong. After about a year or two, Roelof

Pulled me aside after a partner meeting and said: Our job is to invest, and any smart person can come up with a long list of reasons not to invest, the hard part is coming up with reasons to invest, because you already know there are so many things wrong.

Not only has this made me a better investor, it has made me a better person. Now when I meet a new person, I try to think, what’s so special about this person? What can we learn from this person? What makes this person special? And, I think it makes me a better investor and hopefully a better person, and certainly a happier person.

  1. Jess Lee: Become the Best Version of

    Yourself, Not of Somebody Else

    (Sequoia Capital Partner)

my buddy Jess Lee

Before joining Sequoia, she was the founder of a community-driven e-commerce company. She has always loved the community, so her views have always been people-oriented and rooted in the community.

From entrepreneurship to investment is two different worlds, she also asked when she came to Sequoia Capital: What should I do as an investor? The advice she gets is normal advice, like drinking coffee with founders and investors to nurture relationships and network in different industries.

But about six months later, she’s on her own terms: building a community of female founders and female investors that really cares, something she cares about and wants to be a part of. She volunteered to do the work needed to do these things, rather than just asking others to do it. So she put in a lot of time and energy, but the result is these incredible relationships and this incredible community that continues to this day.

By the way, she also expanded on another thing she loves to do, which is building products. Today she helps manage the product organization within Sequoia, which is building products for founders that are starting to provide real benefits to founders, and I think that will ultimately benefit Sequoia.

The moral of the story is that when people join Sequoia, we tell them that we don’t want you to be a better version of us, we want you to be the best version of yourself.

  1. Elon Musk: The Output of an Organization is

    Equal to the Vector Sum of its

    Individuals

I met him once, but we were not friends. He came on a camping trip we did with the founders, and one thing he said stood out to me.

He’s trained in physics, so he tends to think in terms of physics, including tissue dynamics. So when he looks at the output of an organization, he likens it to a vector sum, and a vector sum has magnitude and direction. The output of an organization is the vector sum of its individuals, and you can hire many individuals, but unless they all point in the same direction, the organization will not have optimal output.

I think that’s a really important lesson because for founders you need to hire people who have a huge impact, but it’s not obvious how much time it takes to get everyone pointed in the same direction. So that’s a pretty big unlock for us inside the Sequoia. Hubspot

Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot is also at Base Camp and he likes the metaphor very much, he inbound at Hubspot

The first part of the speech at the conference was dedicated to this vector sum

the concept of. Therefore, the output of an organization is equal to the vector sum of its individuals. Finding heavyweights is important, but making sure all those vectors point in the same direction is more important.

  1. Michael Moritz: Don’t Put a

    Ceiling on Greatness (Sequoia Capital Partner)

2010

In 2009, Klarna was the most valuable private company in Europe, and it had 80 or 90 percent of its operations in Sweden, so no one in the U.S. really knew about it. That year, it may have

2000

million or so, and it’s pretty unpopular.

My colleagues and I spent three days asking all the detailed questions we could possibly ask about financial models, interest rates and income, and everything else we thought was important. Remember, this is

2010, is 2008 and 2009

years after the financial crisis. Most of the top issues we think revolve around the balance sheet, so my colleagues and I did all of that, Moritz

Walked every step with us, but more of sitting there watching.

I was an energetic young investor in my 20s, and

Moritz was already a legend on multiple occasions at the time. So anyway, at the end, we’re eager to hear more of Moritz

idea.

When we went to eat, Moritz

It’s always been quiet. We said: Michael, tell us what you think. The question, he said, is, will the company have hundreds of millions in net income? It all comes down to the quality of the engineering team.

From this perspective, neither my colleagues nor I have seen this far. In our wildest dreams, can’t even see

300 million in revenue. Michael

The scale of the ambitions is far beyond what we could have dreamed of. Second, during our week in Stockholm, we asked a lot of questions, but we didn’t really try to understand the quality of the engineering team.

We kind of take it for granted that there’s an engineering team and they’re building something that works and customers love it, but we really haven’t looked into the quality of the engineering team. Sure enough, Moritz

It was absolutely true in the years that followed. The quality of the engineering team will determine how well they can make the product frictionless, since this is a checkout product embedded into the merchant’s website. There are a lot of different content management systems and e-commerce systems and other things that they have to integrate with. So the quality of the engineering team can end up being the most important thing in the business.

Klarna

It was a monster business lately and we didn’t sell any shares. In fact, over time, we bought more. So over 12 years Klarna has become

Moritz

The scale imagined, not the scale my colleagues and I imagined.

So for me, there are two lessons. One is about the scale of ambition, the other is about what is really a first-order question.

  1. David & Elias: Slow is Smooth and

    Smooth is Fast (Drift CEO

    and founder)

This experience came from my friends, David Cancel and

Elias Torres, we’ve had the pleasure of working together twice, first at HubSpot and then at Drift. We knew David just as we were back in 2011, when

HubSpot acquired their previous startup performable. They join the team to lead HubSpot

The middle part of the funnel of the product, which eventually develops into the whole product. During their three-plus years at HubSpot, they actually rebuilt HubSpot

, and they left HubSpot to start Drift.

Originally, Drift was an HR

The business, which was little known but it quickly transformed into a conversational sales and marketing platform where they built a new feature or product that moved like a needle every month and then released it. The cadence of marketing is built around these monthly product releases. So everybody gets excited about new things, and then they release new things, people sell new things, and everybody gets excited. The problem is, 18

After a month, everyone has indigestion. Like customers, we’re not sure what they’re buying, we’re not sure what to sell. The support staff is not quite sure how to support everything. They basically had to slow down and spend a year and a half refactoring everything to bring all these disparate applications together into this cohesive platform and this logical flow and really clean up the build and delivery of the product Way. Then, once they did that, they started playing again. So the lesson I learned is that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. So you think that in a startup, the more super momentum you have, the faster you go, the better you are, but it turns out that sometimes you go faster than your customers can keep up, or you go Faster than your own employees can keep up, especially when you’re adding new people to the team all the time.

  1. Michelle Bailhe: If you see a Problem, Solve

    it

    (Sequoia Capital Partner)

The lesson is that if you see a problem, fix it. I remember she told me there was a saying in her family that if you walk through the kitchen, don’t ask if you can help, just grab something and start washing it.

So I think the generalized version of this sentence is, if you see a problem, fix it. Michelle

The background is mainly around the biological field, where there is a little mix of technology and some software. When she came to Sequoia, it was no surprise that she started working in these fields. So she did a lot in biology. She has done some work in software, insurance and other fields, in

2021

At the beginning of the year, about six months after she joined Sequoia, it became clear that cryptocurrency, which had been a big theme for us for a decade, didn’t have enough energy to focus on it.

but

Michelle

Instead of waiting for someone else to hire crypto natives, she saw a problem and she went to fix it. So, so she dived headfirst into the world of cryptocurrencies and ended up leading a bunch of interesting investments. exist

In 12 months, she went from someone who had never heard of or really understood cryptocurrencies to someone who was very respected and well-known in the space. For me, in

12

Going from zero to world-class in a matter of months is remarkable.

I think it’s just an extension of that mindset. If you see a problem, fix it. And, there’s nothing better than having someone with that mindset on your team, whether you’re a founder, operator, investor, or whatever.

  1. Ravi Gupta: Bring Joy (Sequoia Capital Partner, former Instacart

    COO & CFO)

Ravi

Joined us about two years ago after four or five years as Instacart’s COO and

CFO, take it from thousands of shoppers to hundreds of thousands of shoppers. I pass by Ravi every day

a million times, noticed a small note in the corner of his desk. It was there the day he joined, and it is still there today. On the back of this little note card, there are only two words, Bring Joy.

I asked him what is this? At some point, he says, you have to stop auditioning for your life and start living your own life. The time you spend is precious, no matter where you spend it.

Wherever you are, go there with intent and purpose, and bring joy, because you only have one life, it is better to have fun.

  1. Frank Slootman: Push to the Extremes

    (CEO of Snowflake)

This is my first impression of Frank. 2011

I first met Frank himself when Frank joined ServiceNow’s first board of directors as CEO. my colleague Doug

I’m the board member and I’m the little guy in the room. The board meeting begins, and Doug has some advice for Frank. In my eyes, especially today, Doug

Just like God, he possesses a powerful and omniscient power. I’m used to seeing founders and

CEO, stunned at every word that came out of his mouth.

Within five to ten minutes of the start of the board meeting, Doug

There are some suggestions or some suggestions to give to Frank, and Frank’s response is: Doug, thank you for the suggestion, now I want to tell you what I have to say to the board and the CEO

The idea that the job of the board is to hire and fire

CEO. If you think I’m not doing my job well, you should fire me. Otherwise, I will have to ask you not to meddle in my affairs.

It’s a shocking conversation, yes

That’s true for Doug or any board member. It’s still fresh in my memory because Frank

Not being a jerk, there is no malicious intent behind this statement.

Frank

Believe in extreme clarity. So the point he wanted to pre-build was, let’s be super, super clear about who’s role is what, my job is to make sure this company is successful. If I can’t do that, your job is to kill me. So the lesson, which I think is general, is extremely clear.

Whether it’s a product, whether it’s pursuing a customer, or someone, Frank

There’s this philosophy, he borrowed it from Steve Jobs, I think Steve Jobs said it, or Frank

That being said, there’s insanely huge, not compromising on what’s important.

  1. Alfred Lin: Effort Compounds

    (Sequoia Capital Partner) Alfred has been with Sequoia for maybe 10 or 11 years. When he joined, he was already COO and CFO of Zappos

    And Chairman, from that experience, he is a legendary operator.

Once we made an investment together, flew to the east coast and went straight into a full day of management meetings, went straight to dinner, went straight to the company, then got up around 3am, went back to the airport, and took the 6am plane back San Francisco. So neither of us got any sleep, I probably only got two hours of sleep. I just want to sleep in the car, and

Alfred

Energetic, clean shaven, freshly showered and all good.

I’m probably wearing sweatpants and a hoodie and trying to hide. Then, Alfred

Let’s start dissecting investment theory: where have we improved? Where are we losing ground? I was a little squeamish and dubious, and at that moment, I thought, man, this guy is made of different things. So if you look at

Alfred, and what he’s been able to achieve in Sequoia and elsewhere in his life, to me, is a compound function of effort. He’s been working hard, and there’s no time off, and I don’t recommend that to everyone. but i think

Alfred to me is a great example of the compounding nature of effort.

  1. Don Valentine: Winning Creates Culture

    (Sequoia Capital founder) Jim Goetz was a founding investor in Palo Alto Networks, and he still serves on the board. 2013

    Years or so, the company has gone public and the stock has performed, but it has a lot of drag and the company’s morale has taken a hit. Jim Goetz asked me to help make a pep slide, and he wanted to

    10 or 15

    Putting together slides that are kind of like, the best days are yet to come, hold on, that sort of thing. I thought, ok I’m going to figure out what makes a really great culture and a really great company.

So I thought, where can I learn what a culture is, and what a real company is? Ah Don

Valentine, Don Valentine on Cisco’s board of directors for 25

In 2018, was also one of the first investors in Apple, Atari, Electronic Arts and Oracle and all these amazing companies. He’s very knowledgeable and can definitely tell me what makes a great culture. So I went and found him and I sat down and even recorded this because I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose any of my wits.

I turned on the recorder and said, Don

, which is what I’m trying to figure out, what makes a great culture. Don

Valentine looked at me, smiled, and said one word: win. If you have a killer product that is winning in the market, you’re halfway there, he said.

Now I think there are a lot of nuances on the fringes of this issue, because there are some successful cultures that go off the rails and some successful cultures that last for decades. But the gist of it is that if the product wins in the market, everything else is just noise, or everything else becomes much easier.

So, I’ve always believed that when companies start putting the cart before the horse and morale is low, we need employees to get involved. No, no, you don’t need to. This actually hurts because morale is low because the company isn’t winning in the market.

The more time you take away from fixing a product or selling it, the more it affects the growth of your company.

  1. Doug Leone: Lean In!

    (Former Sequoia Capital Global Senior Managing Partner)

Doug Leone

A man of excellence, his background before Sequoia was sales. When it comes to sales, you always tend to go after customers hard. In Sequoia, Doug

Always been a lean investor, always willing to try new things, always willing to flip another card, always willing to break things that work and see if we can make them better. This is also the magic of him as an investor and operator

He turned 50 a few months after I joined Sequoia, but he was already a legend in the venture capital industry. I only had

24, Me and Doug Leone

There’s a big gap, but we’ve worked together on a lot of things because our investment growth-stage team was only four or five people at that point.

exist

In early 2019, our partners discovered this company in New York called Attentive Mobile. We asked Doug to meet the team. I remember Doug

Called my cell phone as soon as I walked out of the meeting and said: Hey, fool, what are you waiting for? Fly to New York. I said, oh, okay. So me and my colleagues and Doug

Got on a plane to New York. We spent a few hours with the team. At the end of that meeting, we decided that we wanted to do business together. Thank goodness we did because I think

Attentive Mobile

Now positioned as a very important company, and I didn’t immediately understand the real long-term potential of the business.

I think Doug

Don’t know, but he sees it clearly has potential. So his instinct is to lean in, haven’t we done that? We are no longer investors. Therefore, from Doug

Most things in life are learned there, and just because you didn’t fully understand it at some point doesn’t mean you should wait for it to come to you.

  1. Sarah Guo: Suck the Oxygen out of the

    Air (Greylock GP)

Sarah Guo

is a competitor, she’s Greylock

Investor, also my wife, the story is we were going to wine country one weekend and I forgot what it was, but we had three or four dates. We set off in the morning and I was driving and she was in the passenger seat and about five minutes later she said, hey, do you mind if I make a call? I said, okay, let’s go, we’re going to drive for two hours. So she got on the phone, and for the entire two-hour drive, there was only one call. Then another call, then another call, then another call.

When it comes to things at work, we have a strict Chinese wall between us, otherwise we would get into too many problems. She’s actually kind of vague, you know, about the company’s name and that kind of thing. Then we went to a date and she called again before the next, and she jumped on the phone again before the next. Then she started calling again, calling all the way. And then that night she ended up, you know, staying up late and writing a memo.

The next morning, she called her partner again, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But anyway, the point is that we could have been hanging out in wine country this wonderful weekend, but she had something to do and she started. I forgot what company she was talking about, but I found out a week later that we were Sequoia and

Andreessen Horowitz and Benchmark

Wait, everyone is following this company.

Sarah

Win, she’s super talented, charming, and very good at her job. She is a good partner for the founder. So it’s not surprising that founders would choose her, but one thing I’ve observed is that I think she and other really capable people have amazing qualities. It’s also a humbling thing for me and the rest of Sequoia, and something we have to keep in mind. What she’s doing is sucking all the oxygen out of the air, and all these calls are made with different members of the founding and management teams and all the people around them, so she’s 100 percent in the know. By the end of that weekend, they had spent so much time together, and so densely together, that they couldn’t imagine going with anyone else. So I mention it’s very humbling for us at Sequoia because we have all the good in the world, but if someone puts in a heroic effort, we could lose to anyone any day, and she paid for this A heroic effort.

So the lesson is, don’t take anything for granted, just get the oxygen out of the air. If you take the oxygen out of the air, there is nothing left for other people to breathe. It’s almost always the right thing to do when you’re in competition and the killer instinct kicks in.

  1. Jim Goetz: Have the Courage to use Your own

    Understanding (Sequoia Capital Partner)

Jim Goetz

There are two super powers, one is his incredible ability to understand people, I’ll put that aside for now. The second, and the theme this time, is his ability to see the future. The story that comes to my mind is

In 2007, I joined Sequoia, March 5, 2007

day.

In 2007, I was a big believer in the value of on-premise software, Salesforce

At that time, although it was already on the market, the product experience was not good and the latency was high, so from the user’s point of view, I didn’t believe in SaaS, and I didn’t believe in cloud computing. In mid-2007, I remember

Jim Goetz

Was thinking of a cloud computing investment and I was very skeptical, and he pulled me aside and said with the most incredible belief, Grady, everything is going to go into the cloud.

Then I said, well, not everything is going to go. He said, no, no, no, you didn’t listen to me, everything was going into the cloud. This is

In 2007, fast forward 15 years.

This is an obvious point now. but even 15

Years later, not everything is in the cloud. He is more than a decade ahead of his time in really understanding where the world is going, and in doing so he has only the smallest data points pointing in that direction, but he has a broader understanding of the arc of history. This is an important lesson for me because it allows me to dream about where some early trends are headed, rather than just looking at the data. If I just looked at the data, I’d say, well, gosh, I don’t know, relative to this cloud-based

Salesforce System, Siebel Inside

The system is quite good. But if I notice where the trend is going, maybe I’ll get the right answer. Like him until a few years later, even with Jim

Working together, I just really saw what he saw and I really believed what he believed. So have the courage to use your own understanding.

  1. Luciana Lixandru: Every Day is Game Day

    (Sequoia Capital Partner)

Luciana

is my partner in Europe with a solid track record of investing before joining Sequoia, she led UiPath’s Series A and Miro

‘s seed round, is such an incredible track record, which is in a very good position in the European ecosystem.

She always has some insightful comments at partner meetings, so I’m trying to figure out, how did she become so good? She’s an excellent investor, how could she be so good? It wasn’t until last fall that I finally made a trip to our London office.

I was in the London office for a week and I followed

Luciana, want to see every minute of every day, what she’s doing and why she’s so good? That’s why the experience is that every day is a game day. There’s no downtime, it’s not that our schedules are full, as we actually are every minute of the day, it’s that when she’s in a meeting, she’s in a meeting. For those who don’t necessarily know our calendar, we may have a day

10 or 15

a meeting.

So even the best investors get a little tired at some point. Also, we may have lower energy levels in one meeting than another. but

Luciana

Every meeting is 100% listening, 100% thinking, 100% pushing, it’s unbelievable. It was inspiring to me because it made me realize, yes she is very smart, she has good judgment, she works hard, and she leaves a good impression on every meeting, no matter what the outcome of the meeting , and these good impressions begin to compound over time.

It doesn’t just mean that when she meets the founder, he’s going to be the next great founder. It also means that in her game she is that founder, and she is in her game for everyone else. So people remembered her, had a positive view of her, and created this virtuous circle around everything she did.

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