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Shailesh Lakhani
Shailesh Lakhani

Two places where I learnt a lot - Summer camp at age 17 and B-school. Get a bunch of smart, driven people with different backgrounds in a room, you can really learn amazing things.

Can’t say that the world lost a great programmer when I moved away from that field. Being a programmer today is like being a painter in the Renaissance. If you can write great code, you can do anything.

Using technology to build a competitive advantage and differentiator, and building businesses that last a long, long time – that’s what excites me.

I do tinker with code from time to time in my current job. For me, it’s easier to understand something if I know how it’s built.

Staying relevant and plugged in becomes more challenging as you get older.

I don’t like the word ‘investor’. It suggests that you are rich, laid back, and looking for places to park your money. Sequoia is a business partner. The money bit can be provided by anyone.

I have a tough conversation with myself everyday. I’m always asking myself - am I any good at this? And I won’t know for the next 10 -15 years. Because that’s how long it takes to build companies.

I want to try and do the right thing every day, help build companies that will continue to thrive.

I think Indian companies are doing more things right than they give themselves credit for. But they need to look for problems that resonate with the local market, not force fit these from other geographies.

The biggest risk is that companies are not building enough differentiation.

In India the market has more friction – so you need better navigation. An entrepreneur’s ability to assemble a team and then orchestrate it is truly what makes magic happen.

Founders need some combination of real world experience and the idealism of youth. Most young people will learn more in a startup than anywhere else.

The best way to make amazing things happen is to go after crazy goals that have a really low probability of success, that are out of your league. Some of them will work, some not.

At Sequoia, we go through a similar roller coaster as founders. We may not feel the bumps as much, but we do experience the same ride.

The hardest thing to do in the venture business is to manage a leadership transition at a company – especially when it involves a founder. That’s like performing brain surgery on your baby. You never want to have to do that. People think that’s what VCs do all the time. That’s not true at all.

Every company deserves every fighting chance to survive and make it. In that sense, a company is not too different from a human life.

The greatest part of my job? I get to stay current – and I get to see the founder evolve – as a person and a leader. Watching a human being make that transition - that’s a beautiful thing.

My greatest fear is that we will miss getting involved in market defining companies that come through our doors. There is always the danger of us failing to see what a company could be.

Things that are hot today may not be tomorrow. Make sure you are taking advantage of real, long-term trends.

Things like culture are easy to neglect when you are working on short-term goals - but they are important.

Pick your co-founders carefully. I have seen many more fights break out between co-founders than I ever thought I would.

The journey can be long. Six to seven years at a minimum and, ten to twelve years, in many cases. Be prepared to run both a marathon and a sprint at different times of the race.