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You've clearly had a very impressive career but before. Becoming one of it that's not what my mother says before becoming one of the top venture capitalists in the world being knighted by the Queen you were a boy from Wales what did you want to be when you grew up. I actually not that this game or sport has played in America and so it won't translate I wanted to be a cricket player a cricketer but I was a coward and the ball was very very hard and so I spent most of my time in sport whether it was cricket. Or rugby trying to avoid being anywhere near the ball so I have a friend actually who became a spectacular rugby play played for Wales which and I. Told him that the only thing that separated him and me on the rugby field was when he took to the field he wanted the ball to come in his direction and I of course wanted the reverse I. Never wanted to see it come in my direction so but as I got a bit older I became interested in journalism and when I was at Oxford you and I knew that I wanted to be a journalist when I was a dog so I'm interested in. The story of how your family came to Wales it was quite inspiring that your parents actually escaped Germany during the Second World War arriving in Wales as refugee it's in the UK as refugees how did their struggles and their experience shape you early on and sort of what. You wanted to do with your life well they they were very lucky they didn't escape during the Second World War they escaped beforehand not many people escaped Germany during the Second World War and my father left Germany he was born in Munich and went to Britain when he was a four ten year. Old my mother went on something called the Kindertransport which was ten thousand kids from Germany basically that were that were rescued and put in with in foster homes and they then met subsequently in Britain and after the war they they got married and you know there's a searing experiences difficult and I'm sure every. You know there are people here either who have first-hand familial experience of something as disquieting unsettling and wrenching as those sorts of experiences but those are the experiences that come down through generations my father's father served in the German army during World War. One he was decorated who and my father's mother was a nurse in the German army during World War one and then both of them were killed they were murdered. By the Nazis and my father died about 15 16 years ago my mother whom I saw last week is 95 and still vibrant but those experiences they color everything they hang over everything like like a dark cloud it is always the anxiety and the fear of the whole world being ripped out from underneath. You and and it and it colors. The way that you live yeah understandably and that drives you today still well I don't know about that but it certainly had a profound effect on my. My parents and and and they came to Wales as outsiders and obviously britain i owe everything my parents of everything to the fact that britain opened its borders and allowed them to settle there but it was not easy they were in a minority there. Weren't exactly I mean I was one of I think three Jewish kids at the high. School that I went to. So I've always you know one always felt an outsider and the delineation between religions in Britain which is you know 4050 years ago was very very sharp and so if you didn't. Belong to the majority it was very obvious that you were on the outside so that's obviously had. A huge effect well you did them very proud you worked really hard. He would get into Oxford. And I'm sure you had many opportunities professionally in Europe. But you decided to come to the United States why why the United States well I didn't have many professional opportunities in Europe because I grew up in the you're in the Britain. But predated Margaret Thatcher and those were extremely difficult times in Britain I mean obviously Britain's going through its own issues today with brexit but the times in. The 1970s people who weren't around and there's no reason that anyone here should should know about it but it was a strike ridden country where you never knew whether the electricity was gonna work whether there's gonna be a gas strike whether the railways would run or whether the newspapers would. Be delivered because there'd be a wildcat strike and I wanted to be a journalist and I wanted to work on Fleet Street and I wanted to work for The Times. Or The Daily Telegraph or Guardian or one of the big broadsheet newspapers that at that point dominated journalism in Britain but because of Union restrictions the feet street newspapers the big newspapers were not permitted to hire anybody straight out of undergrad you had to go and. Of multi year apprenticeship on small provincial newspapers and I had no appetite in doing that I just I wanted to work on Fleet Street I wanted to sort. Of work in the Premier League so to speak and I had a I went to see a gentleman. Who was the editor of The Daily Telegraph a fellow who he was a Fleet Street legend and a character on whom evil in war had based the novel scoop which is hilarious if you've never read it and he said if I was your age get out. Of Britain go to America and that was the that was what sent me to America was that sort of weird peculiar encounter and I often think about that that's that's what made me up sticks and leave I mean well you know I and I was lucky I got a. Sedentary had I not got a scholarship because I didn't have the money and all the rest of him and but I got lucky and that and I came to America this is 1976 not knowing where anything would lead but have obviously stayed. Here 40 years he said so you started out when you got here as a journalist for Time magazine in San Francisco actually not in San Francisco in a Detroit able place in Detroit covering the first collapse of the Chrysler automobile company and then you made. Your way to San Francisco to cover technology and during this time you got to know Steve Jobs what do you believe made jobs such a unique innovator and leader in the time that you spent with him so this is again this. Is a long time ago this is 1980 and Microsoft was a company that I remember going to an event at Apple one of these sort of management events small management events probably this is 1982 or 83 and Steve had a sort of fireside chat like this and he asked the guest fellow who at that point was a Morgan. Stanley analyst called Ben Rosen who later went on to found a very successful venture capital firm use it so Ben pick the year when Microsoft you think Microsoft will break the ten million dollar revenue barrier right ten million dollars and Ben was scratching his head so it's a very very long time ago but well that. Was the only point I was lamely trying to make and but I realized I hadn't met anyone like Steve. I'd spent time with a fellow called Lee Iacocca who was a living legend in American industry at that. Point and had been the president the Ford Motor Company and then became the CEO of Chrysler and Steve was the first person who salesmanship was on a par with Iacocca's Iacocca was just mesmerizing character but he didn't have the product and engineering attributes that Steve had obviously. There was a difference in age of probably 35 40 35 years or so but Steve was a Spellbinder and I and obviously as everybody knows these days a a very difficult and complicated character but he was an extraneous extra. And even though. I had lots of I had all sorts of issues and dealing with him have nothing but you know massive admiration for what it is that he eventually went on and went on and did and but as I said it's a long time ago and I think at that time I probably. Held a minority opinion of how spectacular and individual he was because later he was again ancient history he was fired from the company and that he found it which to me always seemed like a real travesty so following your time with Time. Magazine you would make the switch to the venture capital industry by joining Sequoia which is very uncommon how did that happen well I'd left time because while I'd enjoyed four years or so as a journalist I also. Got frustrated it was a big company I was working on the periphery of it and sort of for some reason it always felt I didn't want to be a journalist if I do when I was thirty years old and I. Had that as some sort of mental benchmark Koons. Knows where that came from I think was largely because again back then I saw what happened to people he was eye-opening to me I saw what happened to people who stayed in journalists and was 60 years old and certainly if they worked for time which was a sort. Of cushy job. But you got sent all over the. World and you wound up as an alcoholic which appear to me to be a really beckoning career trajectory left and together with somebody else I started a little company the published newsletters staged conferences about the technology industry and so. Much for mine and and that fella stuck with it and eventually many years later no thanks to me Dow Jones bought that company and but I always felt it was going to be a small company and I heard through my work at time through my work. At this little company I'd met a lot of people around the technology industry and had met a lot of people in the venture capital business time had run a cover story that I had reported on that about the venture industry that had Arthur. Rock who was the original founder of int investor in Intel and then of apple on the coven and during the process of that had met a lot of people in the venture business and had horses and had when I came to California I didn't. Know anything about Silicon Valley didn't know anything about the venture industry and had got interested in it and and made a list of five firms where I knew somebody wrote to them you wrote to them in those days he didn't email and God interviewed at all got rejected at four. Of them journalist history major no experience working in a Silicon Valley company therefore totally useless probably correct on most of those camps and then Don Valentine who was the founder of Sequoia decided that he needed to do something to change the Correa's image with minority hiring and so decided to hire a history major and but it. Was a head scratcher for most of Don's peers in the venture business wondering why on earth he was wasting his time with somebody like me so that's how it happened it. Was a great good fortune I if Don had said voted like the others and I don't know what I'd be doing so in. The era of the prized engineering degree in Silicon Valley what value. Does that broad-based humanities education bring given that about 50 percent of last year's incoming class came in with. A humanities undergraduate degree what value does that bring to the technology ecosystem here in Silicon Valley what do you think well I obviously have a prejudice and bias and knowing full well that I wish I understood more about the details of technology and engineering and all the rest. Of it but if you're in the investing business in. Silicon Valley you cover such a wide waterfront of investing that it's very difficult you can't be no matter how numerous and technical you are you cannot be an expert in everything so the ability to be able to and this is much like being a journalist to start on in an endeavor. Where you know nothing where you gather a lot of materials and facts where you have to distill all of those facts and then form a cogent opinion and make a decision it's not unlike writing a story writing. A history essay or making an investment or helping to determine an investment what comes after that after making. The investment all. The sorts of things that these days go to helping a little company in that might be composed of three people becoming something significant that's very different. Set of skills which I think just experience brings along it doesn't matter whether or not you have a technical degree or anything but and then the ability to be a storyteller and a clear communicator I think those are really very very helpful pursuits but again as I said I have a bias and. Prejudice and I was looking at the numbers you know a Stanford for example you had 64 600 if I've got the numbers right which is roughly right you had 647 undergrads in 1965 who a history major in nineteen. In 2014 which was the last set of data that I saw you had 84 so there are threatened species around here well I think you put those skills to good use at Sequoia given that it's consistently listed as one of the top venture capital firms and I have to get this statistic right because it kind of blew my. Mind when I first saw it so since 1972 Sequoia has backed companies that now have an aggregate public market value of over three point three trillion dollars to put. That in relative size that's larger than the current GDP of the UK. What are the most that's work so so what do you think are the most important leadership traits needed to build enduring organizations such as Sequoia well it's nice of you to say obviously that's a question that's at the heart of our heart of our pursuit a Sequoia. And also the heart of the pursuit of the very distinctive companies that we would like to be an investor with and being able to think and work in 20-year increments is such an. Advantage and I know that sounds a little weird and a little peculiar but and obviously you can talk in a grand. Fashion about a 20-year plan and it all sounds very good but then you also have to work on what this afternoon brings but having a sense of eventually where your compass is. Heading and where it's set and the trajectory you want to go on and then breaking it down into all sorts of little steps knowing that every step along the journey is going to require different people different skills different relationships different virtues that you're constantly gonna have to change along along the course. And reacting to changing circumstances changing market conditions and all the rest of it but never losing sight of eventually where you want to go I think that's the biggest thing that that has helped with us and help with some. Of these companies that we've had the good fortune to be involved with now obviously not everything works out like that a lot of companies start and. Maybe they flourish for a certain period of time and then they're sold or but the ones that we're looking for I mean it's now where 20:19 it's 20 years since we invested in Google I still learned the majority of my Google shares and when. When somebody asked me today why are you interested in why is the coin interested in investing in our company I'll always say to them if I think it happens to be true in their particular regard because some companies don't fit into that it's because if we're all fortunate if the Sun. Shines on us we can be shareholders in your company 20 years from now that's what we're today. A B&B I think we invested in Airbnb $600,000 in 2008 I think it may be 2009 it's 10 years happens like that and the company still prime stripe which is a payment services company we invested in when it was three or four people that was 2010 again nine years nine years. Later these are very very long journeys that were on and it takes time and patience and spectacular people and the massive market opportunity to build the real companies that matter and have an. Influence and great impact on on society in you and Sir Alex talked about the importance of identifying high potential talent in building these types of organizations so the example he used is a footballer some of you may know by the. Name of David Beckham who was pretty good what characteristics are you looking for when trying to identify this high potential talent whether it. Be a founder or somebody you hire at Sequoia you know whether it's whether it's in part of the reason either the reason that I approached Alex to write the book about Manchester United was the for whatever perverse reason people have been asking me to write a book about Silicon Valley or Sequoia and I had. No interest in doing that but I was interested in writing out enduring organizations and. I picked United because it was a long way away from Silicon Valley but because I knew that he shared the approach that. We cherished as well one of which who Patrick was the one that you just fingered which was identifying. People when they are young and then helping them develop and why part of it is because you're not taking a lot of risk Beckham I think you know. They they are they knew about Beck and when Beckham was eight years old at Manchester United now we're not going around Stanford looking for eight-year-olds but we do like hiring at Sequoia people who were young because it's a business that even though it looks simple and today I. Understand everybody's an investor from someone who writes five thousand dollar checks to somebody who writes a much bigger kind of cheque but to do it well in the fashion that we like. To do it takes time and patience and persistence and a willingness to learn and assuming people like that flourish you. Have incredible loyalty and they'll stay with you forever and so that was true for a lot of the players who played for us our Alex it's and I think being able to grow organically like that it's such an enormous competitive advantage where you have a stable team of people which are always amending you're. Always changing someone is perhaps no longer playing as well as they used to play so you figure out a way to deal with that but then you're always replenishing the bench but you're doing it in an imperceptible fashion. To people on the outside so that all they see is you know in the soccer metaphor the winning team on the field without realizing that actually you know there are two players on there today who weren't on that team 24 months ago but that's work spectacularly for us we've got. These great roll-off toto who's a graduate of GSB and he became he went to PayPal and after. PayPal he joined us a Koya and that was probably now 8 17 18 years ago and you know he's just spectacular he's just one example we've got a whole bunch of other people like that so it's great one of the characteristics you mentioned that I was I. Was really intrigued by is this idea of obsession so the best founders the best athletes tend to be. Obsessed with whatever it is the thing that they're working on I was curious what do you think obsession means to you and how does it how does it feel what I like how do you know it when you see it there's a gentleman called approver Mehta who's the founder and CEO of instacart the online grocery. Company and where we've been with approver on his journey from considerable period of time now and before we invested I asked him how he had happened on grocery delivery as a business that he wanted to be in and he said he'd played around with and toyed. With a variety of other businesses that he wanted to start and he'd got down the road on I forget two three four of those but he said the only one oh here. Are realized instacart was the one for him when it was the last in the idea of the business was the last thing that he thought about when he went to sleep and the first thing that he thought about when he woke up in the morning and to me that was as good a definition of. Obsession as as any of I've heard but it's that sort of full-on experience that that you can never stop thinking about new and and you don't switch off I'll give you another example from yesteryear which was again this is back to the early 1980s and I had been not in Seattle working on the story about Microsoft for. Time and again this was when Microsoft was still private and they're still quite small. And Bill Gates gave me a ride to the airport in his car and not many. People can say that they were chauffeured by Bill Gates in fact I may put that on my LinkedIn profile above all other forms of Education. And there the radio was missing in the car big gaping hole in the dashboard and I said bill so what happened to it you get ripped off and he said no I had it taken out why do you have it taken out well. I Drive from my home to the office which is seven minutes and 32 seconds and then I'll drive from the office. To the airport which is however long and he said if I've got the radio I'm afraid that I'll switch it on and I won't be thinking about Microsoft that's obsession I believe you so the funding environment right now as you alluded to. Is becoming extremely competitive there are a record number of programs to it you true there a record number of new venture firms and capital in the market Softbank just raised a hundred billion dollar vision fund Sequoia just raised an eight billion dollar fund are there too many. Investment dollars chasing too few and best of all opportunities right now so that's the line I've heard since 1986 with one or two exceptions maybe 1991 1992 and then right after the dot-com. Blow-up when capital was everybody understood that capital. Was scarce it's always been a competitive funding environment they've always been look how many how many companies get financed and then how many become worth an you know become tremendously important companies so if you just do that we knowing and look at the the funnel there are very very few great companies so everybody is madly in pursuit of those. Companies and and therefore and obviously there are these tangible examples of the enormous value that's been created in the world of technology in the last 30 or 40 years and so money has poured into the sector but for us it's always being this sort of an almost always been this. Sort of environment where a really spectacular idea can. Get raised capital where somebody who's starting your company usually has choices of capital I mean that's the world that I grew up in it's the world that we've always operated in and I suspect will be the world we always. Operated it's just part of life in our business so no bubble you're good well there there are always look there are always things that we will have done others will have done that five ten years from now will say to ourselves how did we ever do something as silly as that or wasn't. It in nein or crazy or we didn't anticipate this that or the other so I'm sure we'll have a conversation time to time again it's just an occupational hazard so I want to talk a little bit about how. Silicon Valley has changed there's content there continues to be many discussions happening about how to make make both technology companies and venture capital more diverse potentially beyond history majors. What responsibility does the venture industry have to fostering diversity in the technology ecosystem the responsibilities of the valley of firms like ours is to identify burgeoning talent and the more the merrier from irrespective of gender irrespective of background irrespective of color now that's easy to say and it's a bland statement and you will. Then rightly say well what are you doing about it and what are you doing about it actively so we're doing what we can but there's only so much that we can do firms like ours a representative of social trends and know a sort of sense that. This question might come up so I turn the question around because I dug up the data on diversity at Stanford in majors and it's shocking so let me give you some statistics so because I think it's a this whole issue is one that all. Of us have something to do about so. And I'll give you one little example say from the math department in the undergraduate program here and this is germane I have a friend of mine whose daughter is in the math department at the moment and is thinking about leaving the math department and switching to another major because she is surrounded by men and so in. 1983 if you were an undergraduate at Stanford there was only 22% of the students who had elected math as their major were women guess what. That number was in 2014 which is the last year when data was available 22 percent in 1983 16 percent in 2014. If you're computer science graduate at Stanford the percentage of women in the class in 1983 was 21%. In 2014 20% and the only point I'm making is we'll hire as quickly and as merrily as we possibly can we have seven female investment partners today we've got I think close to half a dozen female CFO. CEOs that we've that we've backed but we're a reflection of society and we can only change as fast as the rest of society will change but we're more than happy to do our part we funded all these different. Initiatives to help help women in particular in technology we have one of our partners jess lee is working with something called female founders but it's imperative for the high schools and for the universities of america to change before we'll see the real acceleration. In technology which i've gotta say is a lot better today than it was ten or fifteen years ago. And I think you know if you look at the computer science numbers those are the best numbers. That I could find at Stanford but even so they're not overwhelming in 1983 the. Computer science proportion the computer science class here undergrad was 18% it progressed but in 2014 it was still only 28% so there's tons of work for. All of us to do that's my only point so I want to take our discussion beyond the valley because investing outside of Silicon Valley has become a very. Popular topic as well for a lot of people including Sequoia do you think this. Is still the best place in the world to start a company it's it's here and it's in China and their trials and tribulations and involve with with both places and obviously everybody knows about how expensive it is and the cost of living and gross receipts tax in San Francisco and all. These other impediments that we wish weren't here but my goodness gracious me much as people here will complain and moan about different aspects of Silicon Valley you go to places elsewhere around the world they all wish they were Silicon Valley. So it's a spectacular fantastic place in which - in which to start a company and then I was saying to your illustrious teen before I came while we were chatting backstage that. I spent the last three weeks traveling in China and Southeast Asia I mean there was a vibrant places one. Of the very big changes you know China obviously everybody's read about but Southeast Asia is really pulsing with entrepreneurial activity and that's a big change in the last five five six years everybody knows about India and talked about India. But Southeast Asia is. Surprisingly vibrant so there are lots of you know the big change from when I. Started in the in the venture business a long time ago now was the Silicon Valley largely Silicon Valley to some extent Boston we had a hundred percent market share give. Or take on the most important technology companies of tomorrow that's completely changed so that so much of the investment now occurs outside of the United States for a whole variety of reasons so I want to get a little bit of advice before we turn it over. To the audience so I think we're all trying to determine how to focus our time energy and resources upon graduation if you were to put yourself in our shoes today what. Problems or industries would. You be focusing on maybe another way to ask that. Question is where is Sequoia going to be investing so we can skate to where the puck is going to be well that's the assuming that we know what we're doing I've always found you know you go to any website and every investors website despite the window dressing they. All look the same and everybody's kind of invested you know your your whatever the buzz phrases of the ear are you will read them on all the sites and you know today it may be data science and machine learning and artificial intelligence and whatever the attributes are. To me the best investments are always the ones that don't in a convenient bucket and and so you think about. I mentioned Airbnb a few minutes ago you think about Airbnb what bucket would you have. Put a three couchsurfers in in 2008 and in retrospect it all looked so obvious oh they're upsetting the hotel industry and all the rest of it but at the time that we met the company it was three young founders who were sort of sleeping on. Air beds and it was sort of pigeon-holed as this very niche service for young people who would ever have imagined and I can point to any number of other investments that seemed. Similar so to me it's you know with years and years ago Stanford you know this was an option yet another offshoot of the incredible fertile Stanford campus when we invested in Yahoo the idea of investing in a company that gave its service away. For free this is 1995 was totally foreign came out of left field so it's those investments the ones that aren't the obvious ones that are the. Really interesting ones we invested some years ago in in DJI which is a drone company in China nobody had imagined. It at the time that. We invested to do I think it did I may be a bit off with the numbers but two billion dollars in sales last year from what seemed like a sort of little you know nice little consumer toilet or the beginning of the investment but. Which is now becoming a company of substance particularly as it expands into industrial applications so it's the or we're not in an unfortunate Lee we want an early investor in uber but who would you know luxury black car executive. Ride-sharing is that ever going to become a business you know if you switch the clock back 10 years whenever over got started it's. Another one of those sorts of examples so that's thing to look out for it's the unexpected I'm gonna move to the lightning round what last chance anyone okay so I'll explain the format as we go these are supposed to be fun one-word answers generally. But a couple lists so prioritize the following in order of importance product team market equal weight unbelievable it depends fill-in-the-blank the greatest entrepreneur of all time is whoever invented the wheel wow talk about yesteryear the greatest individual investor outside of the Sequoia partnership is it's obvious you know where he is in Omaha what is one. Company you passed on that you wish you had invested in I wish it was only one uber we became late stage investors in the company but I wish would invested very early on what percentage of success in VC is luck 101 percent. The most underrated skill and. A leader is listening I thought you would have said discipline what I thought you were gonna say discipline for sure listening listening listening listening shows would you rather beat Liverpool or benchmark we just concentrate on beating them both please join. Me in thanking mr.. Michael Morris for. Coming today.

 


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