Jeff Pashalides, Head of Corporate Development at Sequoia Capital
Jeff Pashalides: We are the one team at Sequoia that focuses exclusively on large companies. Our work tends to fork into two directions, the business side and the technology side. The benefit of this, for us, is we spend half of our time with CEOs and half of our time with CIOs. Our goal is to be a trusted access point within Silicon Valley. We find bands of mutual interest with our partners and then dive as deeply as we can into those areas.
High: How do you think about the relationship between CIOs and the venture capital community? What value do CIOs bring to you and to Sequoia, and likewise, what value do you return back to them?
Pashalides: I will speak a touch more broadly. The relationship between practitioners, the venture community, and the founding community is symbiotic. These are three different types of businesses, but we find that people can learn from each other when they work together around specific things. If we take an example like micro services, which is a trend that became obvious a couple of years ago, Sequoia had a unique vantage point as a venture firm in that ecosystem for several reasons: We were talking to new founders who were building tools for that ecosystem. We were working with our portfolios that were replatforming around micro services. We had strong relationships with large consumer web companies that create and run micro services at scale. We had deep relationships with CIOs in the corporate community. These were all essential because as an ecosystem grows, these things need to work together. The cause and effect is sometimes unclear, but if you have an access point around each of the ecosystems, you can achieve clarity on pain points. For instance, as microservices is pushed into production, there might be a pain point with security. Having all of these relationships, allows us to recognize the best techniques to deal with issues that arise.
High: Can you expand on this and provide and describe more specifically how you engage with chief information officers?
Pashalides: Most often we are introduced to CIOs through our founders or through CIOs who are already in our network. It works the same way as the investing side of our business, warm intros are meaningful. We have a steady cadence of activities we do with CIOs. These include an annual event, a cadence of executive briefings, topic specific events, and informal touch points. Most CIOs are interested in a handful of things we do. Some of them love coming in for briefings. Some of them come to every one of Sequoia C.I/O events. We interact with some CIOs on a more informal basis, others we have standing calls with because they care about something like artificial intelligence and want to get our pulse on that every three months. Our interactions with CIOs are specific to their interests and how they like to interact - we try to meet them there. We find since we do six or seven things in the CIO community, we usually have something for everybody.
High: As someone who has frequent conversations with CIOs, what things are they prioritizing and bringing to the top of their agendas?
Pashalides: A couple of things come to mind. Security has consistently been a top two item over the handful of years I have been at Sequoia. Artificial intelligence is another one. It was the No. 1 topic at our annual CIO event earlier this year, by a landslide. It was also clear nobody in the group was doing anything meaningful with it today. Another one is the public cloud. In some ways, it is the elephant in the room. Usually, at Sequoia, we are focused on emerging technology, but the public cloud is already a big thing for big business and for large consumer web companies. Despite this, from an enterprise adoption perspective, and from defining which workloads are there today and which will be there tomorrow, the public cloud is an open question that is top of mind for CIOs.