Kara Visits Sequoia's Roelof Botha
I first ran into Sequoia Capital venture capitalist Roelof Botha in the green room of our recent D5 conference, where he was there to see the demo being done by Jason Calacanis for Mahalo, a “human-powered” search service that Botha had recently invested in.
Though I jokingly congratulated Calacanis on the investment from a “toddler VC,” because of the 33-year-old Botha’s freshly-scrubbed and youthful looks, I’d be pretty pleased if my two sons–2 and 5 years old–could be involved in a multibillion deal after only a few years on the job.
“You have to put yourself in a position to be lucky,” said the South African-born Botha over lunch at the Sundeck on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley recently.
Here’s a video I did of my visit with Botha, where I both incorrectly note the address of Sequoia and willfully refuse any effort at pronouncing his name with any grace:
Botha, who is the clear protege of Silicon Valley uber-VC Mike Moritz of Sequoia (of Yahoo and Google fame), seems to be awfully good at that, after scoring a big win for the firm when he turned a $12 million investment in YouTube into a $450 million windfall after the online video site was sold last year to Google for $1.65 billion.
Botha’s previous stint at PayPal (where he met the team that later put together YouTube), a job he got to earn money while at Stanford Business School, ended with him being CFO at the time of its 2002 IPO. It was soon sold for another $1.5 billion to eBay.
His background is actually more in math, with his first job as an actuary. Botha later became a consultant, before he came to Silicon Valley to get his MBA from Stanford.
While many mistakenly think he is related to former hard-line South African Prime Minister P.W. Botha, he actually is the grandson of a well-known former foreign minister Pik Botha, a liberal politician at a time of not-very-liberal policies related to apartheid.
He arrived at Sequoia after PayPal, although he noted that he had no experience in being a VC, and he has been intent on finding companies that “solve consumer problems.”
Currently, he is invested in another online video start-up, the high-profile Joost, as well as instant-messaging site Meebo and shoe and accessory online retailer Zappos.com.
He is also foraging around in the world of “bioinformatics,” which he thinks is a promising new arena marrying Web and medical technologies.