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Jim Goetz

All of us look up to these legendary founders, but every one of them started out as an unknown underdog. This was true for the founders of WhatsApp, Carbon, Nimble Storage, AdMob, and Palo Alto Networks and it’s true for the seed-stage founder who walks in our door tomorrow.

I loved the years I had as an entrepreneur.

Today I’m most interested in mobile and the post-PC transition, and in disrupting the enterprise IT stack.

What’s really interesting to us is new categories where there is no market. There’s no TAM, there’s no SAM, and it’s all about those early beachhead customers.

The common thread through Sequoia’s most legendary founders: Misfits. Unknowns. All focused on personal pain. All willing to put something out early and iterate.

Reinventing the IT stack is the here-and-now opportunity. So whether it’s storage, or compute, or software architectures, the post-PC delivery methodology — they’re all going to shift.

Enterprise startups — they have one competitor typically, maybe two, and those are the incumbents. They’re large, slow, flat-footed. So it’s almost blue-ocean.

Compare that to consumer: The categories that are interesting often have a couple dozen companies, and they’re well-funded. It borders on the Malthusian.

I was raised in the Midwest, studied as an engineer, and gave up on a PhD to start my career as a rookie product manager.

How are you going to build long-term competitive barriers? We’re not comforted by patents, I can tell you that. Patents are fine, but it’s more of a defensive tactic.

If you’re an engineer, and I was guilty of this, you love talking about technology. But as an investor it’s more about understanding how that technology or business process creates an unfair advantage.

It’s very easy to convince yourself that an idea is unique and compelling if you’re not intellectually honest.

Probably one in 15 entrepreneurs who walks through our doors can really convey their initial marketing position in under five minutes. If you can get to that stage, boy, are we interested.

We get tingly when we meet with a bunch of engineers who just knocked out some fabulous code. They may not talk a lot in the meeting, but that lends a great deal of credibility.

You see these stacked founding teams and — where are the times-ten programmers? Where’s that wonderful architect? Where’s that individual with the fabulous sense of simplicity and market expertise?

Pedigree is not important at Sequoia. It’s not part of our criteria.

It’s that team dynamic. The cadence of the weekly, the monthly, the quarterly successes. Competing in the marketplace. Taking the hill together.

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