The Best Founders and Investments Don’t Fit into Convenient Buckets

I listened to Michael Moritz share his thoughts on venture capital investing. Michael is a former journalist turned venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital (he joined in 1986). He isn’t just an investment partner—he’s been part of the firm’s leadership team for decades. He played an integral role in the firm’s international expansion and expansion into investing beyond venture capital stages. Given his unusual path to venture capital and the firm’s success, I was curious to hear what he had to say.

One of Michael’s insights that jumped out to me was his perspective on classifying founders and ideas:

To me, the best investments are the ones that don’t fit into a convenient bucket.

He cited Airbnb, Yahoo, Uber, and others as examples. The concepts behind those businesses were different than the norm at the time. It’s obvious now that they’ve worked out, but back then, the founders and their niche ideas weren’t obvious winners. Michael and others had to intentionally look past that.

I like Michael’s perspective. Sequoia’s investments in non-consensus ideas and people led to outsize results. Even though those founders and ideas didn’t fit into logical buckets at the time, investors still made the leap of faith to partner with them. This wasn’t just one or two lucky investments. Sequoia has a history of doing this, which implies that it’s core to their strategy and contributes to their success.

It makes sense that nonobvious people, ideas, and problems won’t fit into buckets. If they did, they’d be obvious.

I think other VC investors can learn a lot from Sequoia. The best people and problems can seem odd. But if you look past the surface, ignore the consensus feedback, and take the leap of faith, you could find yourself with a series of outsize returns and lifelong partnerships with founders who change the world.