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Roelof Botha

I think it’s very hard to be in venture capital if you haven’t walked in the shoes of a founder or entrepreneur, or been involved in building a company.

When it would have been easy to see YouTube as risky or frivolous, we saw it as having the potential to change the way the planet consumes media. We partnered with YouTube from the very beginning, incubating the three founders in our office. In the early days of YouTube, what mattered most was a clear-eyed vision of how the world would change once it felt the impact of user-generated content at a global scale.

I’d rather not prescribe what areas I’m interested in. My interests are eclectic, so I prefer the flexibility of keeping an open mind.

It is rare to find someone who can clearly and concisely identify a problem, and formulate a coherent approach to solve it.

My greatest frustration is that I buy books faster than I can read them.

Your best teacher, your best mentor, was probably not the one you necessarily liked the best at the time. But they were the ones who pushed you the furthest to help you accomplish your best.

Schopenhauer said that talent hits a target no one else can hit, but genius hits a target no one else can see. That is precisely what sets founders apart.

The temptation for someone with an operating background is to step in and to try to solve the problems on their own, and tell the entrepreneur what to do. I think it’s not about supplying an answer. It’s having a conversation, because I don’t have the context of being inside the company 80 hours a week.

I didn’t know what I was going to do. I never had a plan to be in venture capital, or to be the CFO of a tech startup. I just knew there was a lot of opportunity in Silicon Valley and I had an intuition that I needed to be here.

If you take the safe path, you’re probably not going to end up doing something special.

It’s odd to me when entrepreneurs fear, “Oh my goodness, there’s a board, there’s authority, you guys now control my company.” We never control the company. We’re there to help.

Obviously some board meetings are testier than others because that’s part of the point: to push people to do even better.

The motto inside Sequoia is that we’re only as good as our next investment.

Empathy. The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is an under-appreciated skill.

I studied actuarial science, and our professor had this great quote that always stuck with me: “Accountants are trained to think one year in arrears. Actuaries are trained to think 25 years into the future.”

Imagination is ingrained in the training. Your brain is wired to think: What does the world look like in 2030, 2040? And it’s how I approach thinking about startups.

I wouldn’t send my brother to most VC firms, but some are great.

By the last semester at Stanford I’d run out of money. I came to the US in ‘98 right after the emerging markets currency crisis, so the money I’d saved up in South Africa to come to business school lost 40% of its value overnight. That’s when I joined PayPal.

Of course I was attracted to the company as well, but there was a very real need to pay rent the next month.

When I interviewed here, Sequoia had a spec: they were looking for someone with a computer science background who was working in product management at an enterprise software company.

All the nuances, all the third-order issues you see from inside the company, are very different from what a board member sees — even well-intentioned — when they’re only there once a month or even once a week.

There’s a very strong sense of humility inside our walls. Every day there are spectacular businesses being built, and there are more that we’re not involved with than that we are.