The final time I used to be despatched purple roses I used to be 15, being courted for a promenade date. But right here I used to be, a decade later, receiving a bouquet from famed Google-investor Sequoia forward of a Zoom brunch date with Luciana Lixandru, the US enterprise fund’s first ever associate in Europe.
Why purple roses? I don’t know. However it got here with probably the most deluxe model of a lunch field this publication has seen, despatched by Lixandru’s workplace for us to eat “collectively” on digital camera (per lockdown guidelines). The bulging hamper revealed a complete cake, a smoked salmon bagel, pancakes, pastries, and a relaxing, celebratory bottle of prosecco. Naturally.
The opulent field of products is each bit an announcement of Sequoia’s standing as one of many top-performing VCs in Silicon Valley, counting Stripe, YouTube, AirBnB, and WhatsApp amongst its finest bets.
Its profitable streak started in 1978, when the fund put $150okay into Apple, then a little-known PC agency. Since then, it’s earnt its title as “the grandfather of VC”, surviving 5 many years of growth and bust in tech investing and constructing a portfolio which managed $1.4tn of mixed inventory market worth by 2014.
Now it’s snagged Lixandru; a younger rising star in European VC who, as a Romanian native, suits the Sequoia mould of immigrant success-stories. She’s within the Zoom name early, trying as polished because the brunch in a pearl-white jumper; I actually ought to have dressed up.
“Is that this background okay? We have now like 17 several types of backgrounds with Sequoia timber,” she asks.
That is, apparently, what life on the high of the VC foodchain seems (and tastes) like.
A giant rent and an enormous plan
Lixandru’s new position at Sequoia isn’t a typical VC job.
Snapped from rival US fund Accel earlier this yr, she’s been tasked with kickstarting Sequoia’s European launch; a transfer which is broadly seen as a vote of confidence that the tech ecosystem right here is lastly catching up with the US.
Sequoia has in follow been working in Europe for years, with investments in large gamers like Klarna, Skyscanner, Tourlane and UiPath.
“I need to retire right here”
However it arrived late to offers and missed out on large winners like AI lab DeepMind, which offered to Google in 2014 for $600m, and chip designer Arm, which is being purchased by Nvidia. Certainly, of Sequoia’s 1000+ investments, simply over 20 have been in Europe so far.
Lixandru’s mandate now, due to this fact, is evident — discover Europe’s first $100bn startup, and discover them early.
With a decade’s expertise within the European enterprise market, she is aware of the foundations of the sport. She lower her enamel backing food-delivery big Deliveroo, software program unicorn Ui Path and cybersecurity agency Tessian, and is able to do the identical once more.
Leaving the lavish unfold of meals untouched, Lixandru explains her plan. She’ll get investing in startups earlier, seeking to give attention to doing extra Sequence A funding rounds.
“In Europe, companies are investing earlier and earlier. Perhaps 5, seven years in the past, it may need been tougher for a group who hasn’t launched but or doesn’t have a product… to seek out the correct capital. I feel that’s altering,” she says.
“We predict actually long run, we need to associate with founders early… We need to be their companions not for 5, seven years [but] for 15 years or 20 years — for so long as attainable,” her Romanian origins faint beneath American undertones.
Europe’s tech ecosystem is getting extra aggressive, she explains, and placing boots on the bottom ought to put Sequoia forward of its US friends.
Sequoia may also be flexing a big warfare arsenal (its international fund reportedly manages a whopping $8bn). The agency hasn’t given Lixandru a finances, she says, giving her free reign to take a position out of the US fund — and opening up the potential of important funding in Europe.
“If it’s 20 [deals], we’ll make 20, if it’s 2 we’ll make 2,” she says, declining to touch upon whether or not she’s but signed any time period sheets since formally becoming a member of in September.
“Ideally we’ll associate with as many as attainable,” including that the fund isn’t deterred by coronavirus and stresses “the world will return to regular ultimately.”
“I like client, however I do assume it’s tougher in Europe”
Nonetheless, it received’t be a simple journey for Europe’s startups.
Sequoia solely plans on backing Europe’s most formidable, global-looking founders; significantly these seeking to broaden into the US. The rationale is that it’s one of many few international companies who can provide sturdy networks throughout China, India, the States, and now Europe — it’s additionally famously ferocious.
To this finish, client startups are decrease down on Lixandru’s precedence checklist, having struggled to scale in comparison with B2B companies.
“I like client, however I do assume it’s tougher in Europe. Scaling…is not only about translating the app,” she explains.
As a substitute, Lixandru lists enterprise software program, productiveness instruments, and the underserved SME house as key areas of curiosity in Europe.
Fintech is one other large focus for the agency, she says, having introduced on George Robson, a former product lead at Revolut, to assist lead this area in Europe (though, officially-speaking, Sequoia is retaining its sector-focus vast open).
Other than Robson, Lixandru may also be supported regionally by a group of “scouts” in Europe and associate Matt Miller who’s relocating right here subsequent summer time.
A 3rd funding associate can be set to be introduced on within the subsequent few months, with Miller telling CNBC they need any individual comparatively contemporary out of college with “an funding background.”
The making of Luciana
Lixandru was maybe an unlikely candidate to grow to be a world investor.
Born in communist Romania, in a city of 100,000 folks, she had by no means left the nation till her late teenagers.
Rising up, she stated she anticipated to grow to be a maths instructor.
“I used to be at all times somewhat little bit of a nerdy child. I preferred math and I like science loads. It’s humorous, as a result of, you recognize, in Romania…there’s no idea that boys could be higher at maths than women,” she remembers
It was her personal instructor who advised Lixandru research within the US, ultimately prompting her to review maths and economics at Georgetown College in Washington on a scholarship.
But Georgetown was a good distance from the West Coast tech valley, and the land of VC was nonetheless far off her radar.
Instantly after college, Lixandru fell into her first job as a dealer at Morgan Stanley. It wasn’t a pure selection; she’d by no means studied accounting or finance and utilized within the hope she would be taught on the job.“I needed to google EBITDA on my first day,” she says.
The financial institution quickly despatched her from New York to London, the place she was put in a “tech seat.” It was right here she found a want to work in “the world of tomorrow”, and inside 18 months joined enterprise agency Summit Companions as an early-stage investor.
In 2011, she was scouted by Accel, ascending to associate 6 years later, aged simply 32.
Secrets and techniques of VC success
By the point we’re half an hour into our brunch interview, I’ve misplaced hope that Lixandru could be tempted to pop the cork on her bottle.
Satisfying myself by choosing on the plate of berries as a substitute, we transfer on to discussing her philosophy as a VC and her early errors on this world.
Lixandru remembers she initially struggled to be sufficiently “open-minded”, failing to see enterprise as a “dreamers” job.
“It’s important to enable your self to dream as a enterprise capitalist. Each single firm can die in 1000 alternative ways and reach only a couple,” she says, singling out Index’s Jan Hammer as one of many friends she most admires.
She provides: “[It’s like], this might go mistaken and this might go mistaken. And also you simply have to remove that form of factor and never lose the forest from the timber, (no pun meant). And also you simply want to consider the fundamentals. Can this be an enormous market? Can this be a class of its personal? Is the founder the correct founder to deal with this drawback?… You simply have to stay with first rules. And let your self dream somewhat bit.”
Lixandru additionally buys into the “founder genius” narrative (“I be taught a lot from them…they’re difficult the established order”) and says constructing belief is on the coronary heart of her job.
It appears to have labored; she will be able to’t recall having ever been ghosted and ignored by a startup chief.
Now, she’s taken a excessive profile job heading up a model new workplace, which she says got here from wanting to maneuver exterior her consolation zone.
“It’s a as soon as in a lifetime alternative. It’s simply very completely different from something I’ve ever carried out earlier than,” Lixandru explains. “Establishing a presence from the bottom, that may be very distinctive. And candidly, that’s why it was so thrilling. It’s a problem.”
So enthused is she that she says she foresees a life-long marriage with Sequoia. “I consider these [career] strikes in many years or extra, I need to retire right here,” she says.
Sequoia appears equally wedded to the thought of Europe, prompting its first worldwide transfer since 2006, and apparently eyeing a 10-year workplace lease in London.
Europe’s startups are in for a deal with, Lixandru concludes.
“Europe is simply actually, actually hungry…for all of the help that comes with being a Sequoia founder.”
Luckily, by all accounts, Sequoia is able to placed on a feast.