Generational Transition In VC Firms

Today, sometime around 5:30/6pm PT at the Upfront Summit, my partner Andy and I are going to talk about generational change in VC firms, in a talk moderated by Lindel Eakman, who has been our lead limited partner investor at USV since we started the firm in 2003.

The subject is timely with the news that the leadership of Sequoia, surely one of the greatest VC firms in the business, is transitioning a third time, from Jim Goetz to Roelof Botha and Alfred Lin.

I don’t want to steal our thunder for what is going to be a lively conversation with Lindel this afternoon, but I think this is a very important topic. When my partner Brad Burnham and I started USV in 2003, we told prospective investors, including Lindel, that we had no intention of building an institution. We said we just wanted to create a place we could do great work and when we were done, the firm would be done as well.

That was naive. Whether we like it or not, we did create an institution at USV and the key stakeholders in that institution are not the partners of USV, or the team at USV, or the limited partners at USV. The key stakeholders are the founders, leaders, and team members of the 80ish portfolio companies of USV. They have attached their companies to our brand and we owe it to them to sustain it and build it over time.

I didn’t understand that in 2003, but I do now. And so did Don Valentine in 1996 when he passed the baton to Mike and Doug. That is an act of courage and respect for what is special about a venture capital firm and I think it is something to emulate. Which we are doing at USV now and which Andy and I will talk more about later today.