Who is Roelof Botha?

Roelof Botha is a South African venture capitalist, company director, and actuary who was born on 19 September 1973. 

Botha is a partner at Sequoia Capital where he has invested in companies that:

  • Create global user communities (YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr). 
  • Disrupt via innovative business models (Xoom, Evernote, Weebly), and 
  • Democratize access to technology (Square, Unity, Eventbrite).

Read Also: PayPal Mafia


Botha attended an Afrikaans high school and did not speak English at home. But he forced himself to enroll in an English-speaking university because he believed it would open doors for him later in life.

In 1996, Botha graduated from the University of Cape Town with a BSc in Actuarial Science, Economics, and Statistics.

Like many of his counterparts in the 1990s, Botha was aware of the emergence of the internet and the limitless opportunities it could provide.

Early career

Botha joined the Johannesburg branch of McKinsey & Co. where he worked for two years until 1998.

Shortly thereafter, he moved to the United States to pursue an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Whilst still a grad student at Stanford, Botha joined a fledgling PayPal after a friend introduced him to Elon Musk.

He started as director of corporate development before moving to VP of finance and then company CFO in 2001 at the age of 28. 

He remained in this role until 2003 after eBay acquired PayPal.

Sequoia Capital

At some point, Welsh billionaire and venture capitalist Michael Moritz asked Botha to interview for Sequoia Capital.

Botha joined the company in January 2003 and oversaw many of the investments we mentioned at the outset.

Starting from his early days with the company, Botha used to write 109 on the corner of his notepad every week.

This number reminded him to focus on picking quality start-ups that would enable him to realize his goal of $1 billion in gains

Botha would later reach $10 billion in gains in 2020.

Investment philosophy

Botha tends to invest in unconventional companies that sometimes expose him to criticism and ridicule.

Examples include Instagram, YouTube, MongoDB, and PayPal where he decision to invest was called “deranged” and incompetent.

To that end, Botha loves spending time with original thinkers who may be a little quirky or even societal outcasts.

When meeting with an individual, he reserves judgment of their business idea until the second conversation.

Botha feels that having one interesting conversation with someone is easy, but whether it can be repeated a second time is the real test.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Botha finds himself “captivated when a founder recounts what inspired them to strike out in their own” and that he is also “drawn to business models built on transparency and responsiveness.

Redefining venture capital firms

Traditionally, the role of a VC firm in a company ends after an acquisition or IPO.

But Botha – who enjoys working with founders from the early days until well after the company goes public – wants to upend this notion for both Sequoia and the wider industry.

Part of this belief is due to Botha’s passion for helping founders build superior businesses, but this level of involvement could also help Sequoia retain its status as a top-tier firm amid increased competition from private equity firms.

Key takeaways

  • Roelof Botha is a South African venture capitalist, company director, and actuary who was born on 19 September 1973.
  • Whilst still a grad student at Stanford, Botha joined a fledgling PayPal after a friend introduced him to Elon Musk.
  • At some point after eBay acquired PayPal, Welsh billionaire and venture capitalist Michael Moritz asked Botha to interview for Sequoia Capital. He is now a partner at the firm and wants to revolutionize the venture industry itself.

Read Also: PayPal Mafia

Read Next: Bill Gates Companies, Jeff Bezos Companies, Elon Musk Companies.

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