Sequoia etc. close barn door after horse

by Mathew on October 9, 2008 · 14 comments

It’s nice that the smart folks at Sequoia Capital are ringing the “good times are over” bell for their portfolio companies, as my friend Om Malik is reporting on his blog (other venture capitalists are sounding a similar warning, says Mike Arrington). My only question would be: Why the hell did they wait until now? The meltdown of the banking sector and the collapse of global credit markets is undoubtedly worse than many people (including me) expected, but it’s not as though it was a lightning stroke out of a clear blue sky. The U.S. has likely been in a recession for most of the past year, if not longer, and plenty of people have noticed. What were Sequoia’s portfolio companies doing up until now?

Seriously, though — isn’t it a little late (not to mention ironic) to be telling companies that they should cut their burn rate, refocus, etc.? They arguably should have been doing all of those things for the past six months, if not longer. Venture capitalist and entrepreneur Howard Lindzon has a good take on things on his blog, where he says the savvy players have already become as small and nimble as they can, and are preparing to look for opportunities. “Too Small to Fail” is Howard’s new motto. Silicon Valley’s venture firms may be just coming to that realization, but by the time you get one of those letters from Ron Conway, it’s probably too late. If you’re a Canadian startup and are feeling nervous, Jevon has some good advice worth reading.

Update:

Om has posted more details on the Sequoia meeting, with comments from several of the senior partners, including Mike Moritz and Eric Upin.

  • http://jasonkolb.com jasonkolb

    “Too small to fail”…. I like that.

    I have a feeling that ego is the main cause for all the slow reflexes we're seeing. People love to think they're smarter than everyone else. They can jump off the same cliff, not get hurt, and hit the ground running.

    Reality has a way of smacking sense into people sooner or later.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I think you are probably quite right about that, Jason.

  • http://techdirt.com/ Michael Masnick

    Actually, I can understand the late response on this. Most people thought that tech was relatively protected — and even (reasonably) that as money would need somewhere else to go, it might go into venture capital (that's what happened after the last bubble burst).

    Also, VCs have *tons* of capital raised but not yet put to work.

    But what perhaps wasn't taken into account was the exposure of the big university endowments and pension funds that make up VCs' biggest LPs. Those are the guys who have been pulling their money out of Wall St. and they're whispering about failing to live up to capital calls from VCs. *THAT* is what's spooking VCs.

    To be honest, I think the whole VC thing is overblown as well. They're basically telling the companies they urged to spend stupidly to stop doing that. Big deal. That only impacts the companies who were silly enough to believe that raising money is more important than revenue.

    Howard is absolutely right. There's so much opportunity in this mess, I barely know where to start. I'm more excited than ever before about some of the opportunities in front of us because some of the clutter is out of the way, and we're not burdened down by a scared VC demanding that we do dumb things reacting to the herd mentality.

    My biggest fear right now? That we can't move fast enough to take on some of the opportunities out there…

  • http://carrieanddanielle.com Daniel Gibbons

    In this case I like Valleywag's take on things — wait until you've raised another $1.7 billion for your funds, then scare the crap out of everyone else by doing some public hand-wringing about the apocalypse!

  • caddidy

    yes, they've been late. but it's not as if we've not known about this. Going back at least to the late summer, CNET, the WSJ and Valleywag (probably others, but i can't recall off the top) have run articles reporting the link between the financial market meltdown and web 2.0.so now that it's finally risen to the top of techmeme, the rest of the world is noticing. it's about time.

  • MikeLou

    Look. Recession is defined as 2 quarters in a row of GDP reduction. This isn't that hard a concept. You can't say, “The U.S. has likely been in a recession for most of the past year, if not longer,” That is nonsensical.

    Every time people hear reporters and bloggers misuse “recession”, it is interpreted as political mumbo jumbo.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That's a handy thumbnail description, but it's by no means an official definition: according to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, a recession is “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.”

  • MikeLou

    Certainly the most important aspect of “recession” is it rhyming with “depression”. Okay fine, Bush's USNBER describes it as more than a few months. Bush has a history of messing up lots of other stuff too. The widely accepted definition is EXACTLY two quarters, using the revised numbers. Just FYI.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Things that are widely accepted are often also wrong — and in any case, the NBER doesn't officially declare a recession until it has at least six months of data. And the NBER was using that description I gave long before Bush came along. Just FYI.

  • MikeLou

    Fair enough. I encourage you to fight your fight in defining what “recession” means. Americans need accurate info.

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  • http://allantyoung.com Allan

    Venture capitalists can only react to the market as most other people do. They are not prescient. Most people cannot predict the twists and turns of the market from day to day or even quarter to quarter.

    If they really could predict the market, they wouldn't be venture capitalists. They'd be hedge fund traders making a lot more money.

  • http://allantyoung.com Allan

    Venture capitalists can only react to the market as most other people do. They are not prescient. Most people cannot predict the twists and turns of the market from day to day or even quarter to quarter.

    If they really could predict the market, they wouldn't be venture capitalists. They'd be hedge fund traders making a lot more money.

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