Roelof Botha’s career is the stuff dreams are made of — that is, if the dream is to become one of the topmost investors in the U.S. venture capital industry.
Not only has Botha had tremendous success in his investing career, including an early bet on the mobile payments company Square (on whose board he still sits five years after its IPO), but in 2017, Botha was made the U.S. head of the venture firm he first joined 17 years ago, Sequoia Capital.
Considering that Sequoia is widely considered the most powerful venture firm in the country, that’s quite a position to hold. In fact, on Forbes’s 2020 Midas List, Botha was ranked the third-best VC in the world, just two spots behind the number-one ranked investor. That person: Neil Shen, who is the founder and managing partner of Sequoia Capital China. (Doug Leone is the firm’s global managing director.)
It’s because of Botha’s position and the insights that he brings to the role that we’re very pleased to announce that he is joining us this year at Disrupt 2020, which runs September 14 to September 16.
Certainly, there’s a lot to talk about. While Botha’s career has seemingly moved in one direction, he has lived through numerous economic ups and downs dating back more than 20 years, and has seen what it takes to get through tough times.
When he first came to the U.S. from his native South Africa, it was as a former McKinsey consultant looking to nab an MBA from Stanford. He graduated just as the tech economy was imploding in 2000, but he managed to connect with a fledgling payments startup, PayPal, joining as a director of corporate development before becoming its VP of finance and later its CFO.
A role at Sequoia Capital would follow, and a young Botha didn’t waste the opportunity. Instead, he led the firm’s investment in YouTube, sitting on its board before Google purchased the then 1.5-year-old startup in 2006 for what seemed at the time like an ungodly sum: $1.65 billion. (Last year, YouTube produced $15 billion in revenue for the company.)
It hasn’t all been a walk in the park. Today, in fact, Botha has portfolio companies that are facing an uphill battle. Eventbrite, for example, on whose board he sits, had to cut 45% of its staff last month because of the impact of COVID-19 on the events business. Another of his portfolio companies, Bird, the buzzy micromobility company, has conducted its own mass layoffs, as much of the U.S. remains at home in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
We’ll talk with Botha about how he’s advising these startups, as well as about his outlook for the broader venture industry. More specifically, we’ll discuss how startups strike a balance right now between continuing on their paths and succumbing to false optimism about how quickly the “black swan of 2020,” as Sequoia has described the coronavirus in a letter to its founders, is resolved.
If you care about the global shifts that are reshaping the tech industry right now, this is one conversation you won’t want to miss.
Disrupt 2020 runs September 14 to September 16, and we have several Digital Pass options to be part of the action or to exhibit virtually, which you can check out here.
We’ll be announcing more speakers over the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
(Editor’s Note: We’re watching the developing situation around the novel coronavirus very closely and will adapt as we go. You can find out the latest on our event schedule plans here.)