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Often referred to as the grandfather of Silicon Valley, venture capitalist Donald Valentine founded Sequoia in 1972 as a venture capital firm focused largely on the technology sector. Founded in the heart of Silicon Valley, Menlo Park, Sequoia has been behind rise of some of the biggest brand names in the technology industry. Companies such as Apple, Google, Oracle, PayPal, Stripe, YouTube, Instagram, Yahoo!, and WhatsApp all have investments from Sequoia. The companies that Sequoia funded now control a total of $1.4 trillion in combined stock value.
Prior to founding Sequoia, Valentine started his career as a Sales Engineer at Raytheon, after graduating from Fordham University. Following his stint at Raytheon, he became Head of Sales at Fairchild Semiconductor. After founding Sequoia, Valentine made his first investment in Atari in 1975. Sequoia took a unique approach to venture funding by not focusing on the founders of companies.
By ignoring whether the founder went to the right school or had the right credentials, Valentine focused on market size and dynamics. This ethos was embedded in Sequoia’s funding practices, which have always focused on potential market size over all other factors. Sequoia’s approach is not a surprise given Valentine’s own blue collar background, and plain speaking style.
Seqouia was also an early investor in Apple. Valentine knew Steve Jobs personally and had worked with him as a line engineer at Atari. Sequoia’s first investment in Apple was $150,000 given in 1978. The company would go on to later invest in Cisco Systems, LSI Logic, Oracle and Electronic Arts.
In the mid-1990s, Sequoia’s leadership was taken over by Doug Leone and Michael Moritz. In the late 1990s, Sequoia expanded its operations overseas. Today, it has investing arms in Israel, India and China. Sequoia has invested in over 250 start-ups since its founding.
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