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COVID has accelerated the future and it’s time to seize the opportunity: Sequoia’s advice to founders

Sequoia, the blue chip among venture capital firms, has offered advice to all its founders and CEOs navigating the challenges of COVID-19: step on the gas if you are confident as the world has thrown up a new opportunity.

A year back, Sequoia came out with its advisory to founders on how to navigate the pandemic – a “black swan” event – but things have changed since then. There is now more optimism as the VC sees a new world of opportunity, driven by technology and vaccinations.

The letter from Sequoia, which was released on Medium, details areas founders and CEOs should focus on and is peppered with famous quotes and some dry humour.

covid-19 vaccine

“The current moment in our road to recovery represents an opportunity. If you feel confident about your business post-vaccine, now is the time to start carefully stepping on the gas (or accelerator pedal, if you’re driving electric),” Sequoia said.

For young companies, the start of the pandemic was a bewildering event but founders and entrepreneurs from the startup ecosystem showed remarkable resilience and agility to navigate through this ongoing crisis.

As Sequoia said, there is no clear deadline on when the pandemic will end but hopes rest with the vaccination drives across the world.

This also bought about certain irreversible changes. “In many ways, COVID pulled forward the future that technology companies have been building. Behaviours that would have taken decades to go mainstream were normalised in a matter of weeks.”

Key messages to founders

  • Reassess/reaffirm your why
  • Remain measured
  • Prepare for more volatility
  • Listen with ‘Dumbo ears’
  • Focus on what matters 
  • Most importantly, focus on the wellbeing of your people

Sequoia is quite clear that enduring companies will focus on the things that matter and build value for their customers, communities, employees, and shareholders.

It quotes economist Benjamin Graham, “In the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.”

Though at the same time, there is an element of caution. The letter advises founders to remain deliberate and measured as “being unafraid to dream and be optimistic”.

It urges the founders to have “dumbo ears” where one is able to anticipate customer pain points and being nimble to response to the new needs.

It also quotes Tony Xu, “Choose optimism and have a plan.”

“The last year has been trying in ways we couldn’t have imagined. It’s been exhausting. However, change also brings opportunity and constraint breeds creativity,” the letter said.

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