Wannabe VC meets actual VCs

15 Apr

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Wednesday morning we visited two of the top venture capital firms in the world – Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins. Between them they have invested in some of Silicon Valley’s, and the world’s, top companies including Apple, Google, Amazon, Sun, Genentech and many, many more.

At Kleiner Perkins we met Valley legend Randy Komisar. It was like having a meeting with Ed Harris – he looks and sounds like him. He also commands the room like I imagine Harris does. He gave us his opinion on a whole bunch of things entrepreneurial. At Sequoia we met Mark Dempster. One of the interesting things he said was that he would rather invest in a B team in an A market, which is the opposite of what most VCs (including Komisar) usually say.

Everyone at the Sequoia meeting was given the opportunity to pitch their start-up ideas to Dempster. He was positive to them all and gave us all some great feedback. He could see the need for my startup and could see how the solution could work and suggested that cost of customer acquisition could be an issue, which is indeed the case. It was damn cool to be able to pitch Sequoia – now I can drop that in to conversation any time I am talking to potential investors – “yeah, when I was pitching at Sequoia…”

Surprisingly neither Dempster nor Komisar mentioned that they read the WannabeVC blog. I presume that they do but didn’t want to bring it up in front of everyone else.

In the afternoon we had lunch with Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn. We spent an hour with him discussing various issues about LinkedIn and the Valley. Some question weren’t answered due to LinkedIn being in a “quiet period“, but I did get his opinion on the proliferation of second market trading (such as on SecondMarket where employee stock options are traded in companies like Facebook, even though they are not yet public): a “local aberration” – not allowed at LinkedIn.

Then we had one of the most eagerly awaited trips of the trek – Facebook. We had a Q&A session with COO Sheryl Sandberg and a bunch of product managers for various departments. We then got a tour of Facebook HQ, which looks like a pretty cool place to work – though they are actually due to move building again due to expansion. We did not meet Mark Zuckerberg but some of the students did see him in a meeting room as we were walking round. I wonder if when he sees us he might be thinking, “yeah, I just whupped your alumni predecessor’s identical asses (again)”. Probably not.

Finally in the evening we had an alumni mixer event (no Winklevii in attendance unfortunately. That would have been interesting) at Nickies bar in Lower Haight. Lots of alumni turned up – including a couple who flew up from San Diego – so it was a great night.

Overall – a great, packed, and very tiring day!

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