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Sonya Huang

What I admire most in a founder is imagination. Technology is a great enabler, but it takes imagination to harness technology and create something useful and delightful. Take computer vision for example: the compute and algorithms get better each day, but we’ve only scratched the surface of possible applications. That’s really exciting to me.

Venture capital is personal for me. My dad started a company with VC funding when I was a kid. The doors it opens for people aren’t just financial—the real benefits come from the power of cold, hard experience.

The rise of consumer choice is fundamentally changing how companies do business. You’re not just delivering a product or service—you need to make people happy. Consumers are in the driver’s seat, and enterprises need to buckle up.

The last five years helped train my eye for operating and financial KPIs. Evaluating companies in the context of M&A, IPOs and buyouts gave me pattern recognition that I think can be valuable, especially to new CEOs.

It’s difficult to disrupt an industry without understanding its incumbents. Working with the world’s biggest financial institutions helped me learn the nuances of how they think—and how startups can disrupt or partner with them.

I’m probably the quintessential #millennial consumer! I use startup tech for everything, from planning my wedding to tracking my runs to brewing my tea.

Nothing makes me happier than discovering a beautiful, well-designed product. I’m a design junkie at heart.

I was born in Mountain View and wrote my first computer program in third grade. I wasn’t a whiz kid; my first lines of code didn’t do much. But I kept at it.

There were pros and cons to growing up in Silicon Valley. But it was fascinating to be in this gravity well of innovation and to live through the highs and lows, from blockbuster IPOs to the dotcom bubble bursting.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a concert violinist. I was obsessed—I just loved playing. I practiced for hours every day.

The only other time I’ve felt that kind of drive was writing my senior thesis. When you feel that you’re on the cusp of creating something great, it’s like this switch flips inside you and you’re brimming with adrenaline. There’s nothing like it.

I trained to be a game theorist in college. I just fell in love with it as a way to understand the world through mathematical first principles, and I think it’s given me a fresh perspective on how competition and markets evolve.

One of the core tenets of game theory is incentive compatibility. If you can’t make the economic incentives work for all involved, even the most delightful product won’t take off. The most compelling companies create wins for everyone involved.

I also spent time in college applying machine learning and computer vision techniques to various fields. My favorite was neuroscience. I applied neural nets to human brain scans—essentially using computer imagery to try to read minds.

I was skeptical about joining Sequoia at first. I was about to start business school, and I didn’t want to be knocked off my path.

I couldn’t turn down the chance to work with some of the most talented founders out there. We get to partner with true visionaries. It’s exhilarating to be part of the ecosystem that helps fuel their success.

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