I loved Trivial Pursuit as a child, so I was drawn to Thor’s marvelous vision of developing a trivia network on mobile that thoughtfully integrates social features. QuizUp taps our desire to learn, keep in touch with friends and connect with strangers who share our niche interests. — Roelof Botha on our latest partnership QuizUp in VentureBeat
Giving away $30 billion is hard—at least if you want to do it well.
Bill Gates, the world’s greatest active philanthropist, has not only given away that much, but he’s built a foundation that is capable of making sure that money is spent on projects that will make a big difference in the world.
At Sequoia, we’ve long worked with nonprofits and other philanthropic organizations. These groups make up most of our investors, meaning the profits generated by the companies we partner with support their work. So we were thrilled when Bill agreed talk to members of our extended community about philanthropy.
The event took place last month at Airbnb’s new San Francisco headquarters in front of an audience of about 200.
In a wide ranging conversation, Bill and Sequoia’s Sir Michael Moritz discussed which problems are best left to the market and which require philanthropic intervention, the political and geographic problems that often prevent scientific breakthroughs from reaching the people who can benefit from them, and how to get involved in philanthropy even as you work full time.
Here’s a video of the event:
Exceptional entrepreneurs can still succeed in a market that already seems saturated, especially if they combine a simpler product with a better business model. That’s the lesson from Barracuda, which is going public Wednesday.
Dean, Michael and Zach in 2000 founded Affinity Path, a white label ISP for universities, churches and other nonprofit organizations. Email spam was just becoming a big issue. They would have needed to spend 10 times as much on its infrastructure to handle all the unwanted messages.
Companies like Postini and IronPort were already trying to stop spam. But Dean, Michael and Zach concluded they were too costly and complex.
Instead, the team developed its own solution for blocking spam.
Smartphones have redefined people’s expectations for how and where they work. These days, you can respond to an email from an airplane and update a website from the beach.
But don’t you dare get a glass of water when you’re expecting an important call on your office line.
RingCentral is going public today in no small part because it’s managed to fuse office communications with today’s anytime-anywhere reality. Unlike traditional office phone systems that are fixed to a single device and a single location, RingCentral allows employees to send and receive calls, voicemails, texts and other communications on any device from any place. That means no more being tethered to the desk waiting for that client to call.
The modern shopper looks very different from the consumer of just a decade ago. Not only can she buy just about anything she wants from any number of online stores, but now that she has a smartphone, she can buy those things from anywhere and at any time she chooses.
U.S. consumers spent over $4 trillion at retail last year, 95% of it at traditional brick and mortar stores. But each year, consumers shift more and more of their spending online.
The proliferation of smartphones has so far contributed to that shift, most notably with the rise of showrooming, when people find an item they like in a store and order it at a discount from an online retailer.
But smartphones can also fuse the online and real-world experiences in a way that makes in-store shopping better. There’s a large opportunity to help retailers influence shoppers as they’re considering purchases.
Shopular has a unique vision for how to enhance the in-store shopping experience and we’re pleased to announce today that we’ve partnered with them to build a company around it.
Shopular’s founders, Navneet and Tommy, worked at Google and Loopt—two Sequoia partner companies—and we’ve known them for years. They initially built a back-end service for push notifications on mobile, but soon realized that the best application of their technology was in mobile shopping.
Shopular helps people find great deals at the stores they already love. Someone selects his favorite stores, then Shopular uses his phone to detect when he’s near a mall and pushes him the most relevant offers.
Shoppers love it because it’s an easy-to-use way to cut through the clutter of deals and promotions, standing out like a curated list amid a pile of junk mail. It helps retailers build loyalty and combat showrooming.
Navneet and Tommy launched Shopular less than a year ago, but it’s already a hit with early customers, receiving rave reviews the App Store and Google Play.
Meanwhile, Navneet and Tommy are always trying to make it better. You can often find them in the wee hours of the morning sitting at a picnic table in front of the Stanford Shopping Center testing new features. They’re there so often the security guards know to leave them alone.
-Tim Lee on behalf of Sequoia
In September 2004, Ashar Aziz took up residence at Sequoia, working by himself out of a windowless office that’s since become a server closet.
He had recently shared with us his vision for how computer attacks were likely to evolve and an innovative way for detecting them that took advantage of virtualization—the first time we’d heard anyone consider the technology for something other than simulation or efficiency gains. It made a lot of sense to us, so we provided him with seed funding and invited him to work out of our office in Menlo Park. He stayed here for nine months.
Every startup has ups and downs, but FireEye’s story stands out. That the company is now a publicly-traded one with a bright future ahead of it is a testament to Ashar’s and his team’s foresight, conviction and perseverance.
It became clear early on that Ashar was ahead of his time. FireEye looks for malware by opening files in a virtual environment and making sure they behave normally. It’s an elegant way to find advanced persistent threats, or APTs, the sophisticated, targeted attacks that now account for most successful cyber crimes.
But the landscape was different back when FireEye got started. The big threat was “worms” that replicated themselves automatically, stealing bandwidth and deleting files. Standard anti-virus software did a pretty good job in these cases.
Ashar would demo FireEye’s product, it would work perfectly, but it wouldn’t find anything other products couldn’t. Several years on, sales were still modest.
Nonetheless, Ashar remained convinced that he had found a better way to stop cyber attacks. Sequoia thought so, too, as did some other early investors like Promod Haque of Norwest Venture Partners.
The rest of the world started to find out in 2008. That’s when FireEye started focusing more closely on the Web as the delivery vehicle of choice for malware.
In hindsight, this doesn’t sound like a big insight. But at the time most content on the Web was still curated by companies. User-generated content was just starting to burst into the mainstream and cyber threats were proliferating with it. APTs became prevalent and traditional anti-virus software was completely overmatched.
This time, when FireEye demoed its product for a big Silicon Valley tech company, it found 300 machines that had been compromised.
Meanwhile, FireEye faced another challenge. The recession had hit and the company hadn’t yet established itself. A lot of security companies would have tried to sell themselves—many did—but Ashar never wavered. He had total conviction that FireEye’s approach was right and that it was just a matter of time until everyone else realized it, as well.
Much of the outside world viewed FireEye as a dead company. When it struggled to raise money, Gaurav Garg, then at Sequoia and now an alumnus, and Promod led an inside round.
They were convinced that FireEye still had a big future. The company was starting to gain traction in the market as APTs became more common. Ashar guided the company through this sudden-growth phase as ably as he kept it together when it was struggling.
As the growth continued, Ashar and the board worked together to find a CEO who could get the company to the next level. Last year, we were fortunate to get Dave DeWalt. (I had joined FireEye’s board a few months earlier.)
Dave is a proven public company CEO, having led Documentum and McAfee, and was very much in demand. In his time at FireEye he’s managed to double the size of the company and set it up well for today and the future.
We can look at FireEye now and see a company that makes success look easy. It rarely is. But as FireEye shows, with passion, conviction and a really good idea, it’s possible to overcome even the most daunting challenges.
Congratulations to Ashar, Dave, Gaurav, Promod and the entire FireEye team. Today’s IPO is an important milestone, but it’s also just the beginning.
- Bill Coughran on behalf of Sequoia
People are buying an ever-growing number of things through app stores, including music, games and productivity tools. This has given rise to a new digital economy that has emerged over the last several years with app stores at the epicenter.
There are whole companies that only sell through app stores and these days one would be hard pressed to find a large business that isn’t trying to reach customers that way, too. Airlines, banks, media companies and retailers all have their own mobile apps.
But it’s still hard getting any sort of meaningful information about how this new economy really works. App Annie is the first company we’ve found that offers meaningful market data and an analytics platform that allows people to see how mobile apps are faring. More than 300,000 apps are being tracked by their creators using App Annie, providing them with analytics on downloads, revenue, and rankings across several app stores. So far, the company has tracked over 25 billion downloads and $6 billion in app-store revenue.
The way people work is changing in profound ways, as a new class of company - the data factory - makes powerful tools accessible to the masses for the first time. The changes wrought by these data factories may come to exceed the changes and dislocations produced by the companies that sprung up during the industrial revolution.
We are at the dawn of the “Personal Revolution”. While the epicenter of the Personal Revolution has been California’s Silicon Valley – its shocks are being felt around the world. The Personal Revolution is changing the way people work, live and play. For the educated, skilled and enterprising, it promises much. For many others it means great hardship.
We spelled out our thoughts about the Personal Revolution at TechCrunch Disrupt this week.
So much of our lives are public these days. We share updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and, in the age of smartphone cameras and 4G networks, every interaction we have could end up online somewhere.
One byproduct of this digital life is that we’re always on, making sure we present the versions of ourselves we most want people to see. That creates a lot of pressure, especially for students and recent college graduates who spend so much of their lives in the presence of friends and roommates.
That’s why Whisper makes so much sense. Whisper is a mobile social network where people share secrets anonymously. You choose a picture, write a short confession and post it. Others respond with their own whispers or send direct messages, which are also anonymous.
A lot of high-school students spend their summers lifeguarding, scooping ice cream or mowing lawns.
Twenty young women in the San Francisco Bay Area spent the last eight weeks learning how to write code, design games and build mobile apps. More than 300 hours of training culminated last week in one of our conference rooms on Sand Hill Road where the girls pitched their ideas.
One of the girls was Lexi Grubman, a 16 year old from San Jose, who’s on her school’s robotics team.
But when her vice principal approached her about the summer program, run by the non-profit organization Girls Who Code, she hesitated. “I wasn’t sure about coding,” she says. She didn’t want to be a programmer.