Sigrún Davíðsdóttir's Icelog

In search of the Silicon Valley pixie dust – an interview with Roelof Botha, Sequoia Capital

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Entrepreneurs come to Silicon Valley in search of its pixie dust, says Roelof Botha partner at Sequoia Capital. It is not easy for other places to emulate the Valley – it now has a story spanning almost a century. Over the years Sequoia has itself created a bit of pixie dust by being good at picking companies that later soar to success. Now that the Icelandic company Plain Vanilla has had funding from Sequoia Icelog met with Botha to learn about Sequoia’s investment strategy and get an insight into the mind of an investor who knows the start-up world inside out.

At this time of the year, the flaming red leaves in the grove by the offices of Sequoia Capital add glow to the low-key office space, built into the environment much like in Scandinavia or Japan. Sequoia is the legendary venture capital fund, which has seen so many of the companies it invested in at an early stage thrive and blossom ­­– companies like Apple, Oracle, Google, Jive (which earlier this year bought Clara, an Icelandic software company), Dropbox, Airbnb, Y Combinator, Evernote, Tumblr, Square and Instagram to name but a few.

Sequoia recently invested in Icelandic Plain Vanilla. Following its QuizUp fame Icelog had the opportunity to meet Roelof Botha who has been with Sequoia for a decade (and whose partners so far have not spent much time on giving media interviews).

In the interview (listen here; 15:02 min.) Botha outlines Sequoia’s vision: to be a leading investor and business partner for tomorrow’s enduring technology companies. Botha points out that unlike 40 years ago, venture capitalists of today must provide not only money but also expertise: today, venture funds need to be a business partner to the companies they invest in.

Founder of Plain Vanilla Þorsteinn Friðriksson, called Thor by non-Icelanders, is the type of founder Botha loves to meet: Þorsteinn has great energy and a clear vision of his company, says Botha.

In general, founders are the kind of people who can tear down walls when needed, not necessarily easy to get on with. Compared to even just twenty years ago, says Botha, entrepreneurs now are lucky enough to have a global market at their fingertips.

Starting in a small market like Iceland or the Scandinavian countries, which have a high density of talent, can even be an advantage because it pushes companies to look elsewhere for markets. The challenge in small countries is to find the expertise needed – the expertise found at all levels in an ecosystem like Silicon Valley. Starting a company in the Valley is not a prerequisite for success but this ecosystem attracts entrepreneurs from all over the world to the Bay Area in search of some of its pixie dust, says Roelof Botha.

The above and much more can be heard here (15:02) where I started by asking Roelof Botha to describe Sequoia’s investment strategy.

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Written by Sigrún Davídsdóttir

December 3rd, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Iceland

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