Sequoia Capital loosens up the neckties

I started covering venture capital in 2000, and over that time two things have largely held true: Sequoia Capital has remained right at the top of the venture heap, and it’s maintained an exceedingly low profile when it comes to the press. I get the second part; when you’ve helped launch everyone from Apple to Zappos, you don’t need to go beating your chest for attention.

But lately, a type of glasnost has been under way. First, Sequoia hired Andrew Kovacs away from Google to be its in-house press person, complementing longtime marketing honcho Mark Dempster (who’s historically been more focused on the firm’s portfolio companies than on the media). Earlier this week, Sequoia convinced Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Worthen to defect; he’s now something called head of content, working with the firm and its startups on their blogs and social media.

And on Wednesday, fresh off the Worthen news, Sequoia did a wildly uncharacteristic thing: It held a press party. The “Spring Mix” gathering was a place for ink-stained wretches — OK, pixel pushers — to mingle with Sequoia partners like Doug Leone, Jim Goetz and erstwhile journalist Michael Moritz. Even more important from the firm’s perspective was having the media hordes get to know some of its CEOs, who included Vlad Shmunis of RingCentral, Ryan Smith of Qualtrics and the voluble Tony Zingale of Jive Software (who was accompanied by baby-faced co-founder Matt Tucker).

Also on hand was Kevin Hartz, Kevin Hartzwho’s founded not one but two Sequoia-backed companies (Xoom and, with his wife Julia, EventBrite) and is also something called a “special technology partner” at the firm. I’d drop more names, but the event was officially off the record. Suffice to say, there was a lot of brainpower – and financial firepower – in the room.

In keeping with the media theme, the bash was held at Local Edition, an oh-so-trendy Market Street speakeasy that used to house the San Francisco Examiner’s presses. The old manual typewriters and yellowed broadsheets proclaiming news like Harvey Milk‘s assassination were both powerfully nostalgic and, truth be told, a little sad for this old journalistic warhorse.

And in an effort to show off their entrepreneurs’ creativity (and, perhaps, loosen some inhibitions), Sequoia included a competition as part of the fun. Two bars were laden with an impressive collection of whiskeys, mixers and garnishes, and the journalists were supposed to pair with CEOs to see who could come up with the most refreshing cocktail. The winner was cooked up by Bloomberg reporter Ari Levy and Clarissa Horowitz, chief flack at app-management startup MobileIron.

“They had egg whites in their drink,” noted Kovacs. “‘Nuff said.”


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  • Atul

    Are they really loosening their neckties or simply imitating a16z;s hollywood agency model –

    • It’s an interesting question, Atul. I haven’t heard anything to make me think Sequoia’s having any trouble getting into the deals they want. At the same time, there’s no doubt the model a16z has rolled out is compelling venture firms to offer a full slate of value-added services like help with recruiting, marketing, etc – and the top entrepreneurs, as they’re weighing term sheets, are going to be considering those services as part of the mix.

  • sounds like a drink bonanza…..