I was standing on hallowed ground. But I was determined not to wither in awe. I glanced quickly around the high-ceilinged lobby of Sequoia Capital, at the flat screen TVs and the framed logos of the once obscure companies that the venture capital fund has helped grow into giants: Apple, Cisco, Google, LinkedIn, Oracle, PayPal, WhatsApp, Yahoo, and—small by comparison but growing ever-faster—Airbnb. Those logos reminded me that Sequoia Capital is more than just Silicon Valley history, that its companies have shaped civilization as we know it. Every CEO in the world wants to meet with Sequoia Capital. I had an hour and I needed to give the pitch of my life.
I was dressed in a casual shirt and smart jeans. This was the Valley not Wall Street after all, a place where billionaires can wear t-shirts to work. Which is not to say I would recommend turning up late to pitch Sequoia Capital in pajamas. A young Mark Zuckerberg tried that. Instead of presenting on Facebook, he presented a spoof presentation about “Wirehog,” one of his side projects. His PowerPoint presentation was called “The Top Ten Reasons You Should Not Invest.” One of the reasons was, “We turned up late for your meeting.”The prank was revenge on behalf of Facebook’s then President Sean Parker, who had been ousted from his previous startup by Sequoia’s powerful partner Michael Moritz, himself worth over $2 billion. The Sequoia partners sat in silence and took a pass on Zuckerberg. When you are Sequoia Capital, you can afford to miss a few extra billion.
Beside me was Mark Platshon, an advisor to one of our early investors, BMW. Mark is a big man with a kind smile whose words come out slow and deep, Solomon-like on discussion points in board meetings. I call him Big Wise Bear. He had picked me up from the Caltrain station in his vintage Porsche and driven me to the Sequoia offices on Sand Hill Road, a wide, nondescript highway running down one side of Stanford University’s sprawling campus. But Sand Hill Road is no ordinary road. It has the greatest concentration of venture capital on the planet. Nowhere else even comes close. The firms headquartered behind the trees on this one road in Menlo Park, Silicon Valley manage over $100 billion of venture capital.
If Sand Hill Road is the center of venture capital, then one address is the center of the center: 3000 Sand Hill Road. Down an avenue fringed with immaculate shrubbery is a complex of understated low-rise buildings that looks more like a posh high school than the office of some of the world’s most successful capitalists. No one here wants to be the center of attention. The firms and their partners are listed in discreet letters on noticeboards by the entrance to each building. The only show was in the parking lot: glistening Teslas lined up beneath maple trees turning red. And if 3000 Sand Hill Road is the center of the center, then the office of the legendary Sequoia Capital is the center of the center of the center.