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这位深藏硅谷的华人风投家,同时迎来职业巅峰与人生低谷

这位深藏硅谷的华人风投家,同时迎来职业巅峰与人生低谷

乐文澜(Michal Lev-Ram) 2021年06月03日
2021年对他来说,是喜忧参半的一年。

红杉资本的合伙人林君叡。图片来源:PHOTO COURTESY OF SEQUOIA; PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY FORTUNE

我和林君叡坐在红杉资本位于旧金山的办公室里,保持着合适的社交距离。办公室里除了我们俩和这家风投公司的通讯副总裁,别无旁人。

自从2010年起成为红杉合伙人的林君叡并不健谈,对我提出的每一个问题,他都深思熟虑,言简意赅,说完便停下来看着我,等待下一个问题。气氛因此而愈发沉闷。

在我15年的商业记者生涯中,从未遇到过这样的采访对象,他似乎觉得完全没有必要做任何补充。

不过,这种不露声色的低调和空空荡荡的办公室只是假象。林君叡和他所在的公司,这家硅谷最早、最声名显赫的风投公司在过去一年里经历了大风大浪,对科技界内外产生了巨大影响。

回顾2020年,林君叡总结说:“回想起来,我脑海中蹦出的词汇是‘既兴奋又疲惫’,经历过很多高潮,也走过不少低谷。”

他说的高潮很容易理解。2020年,红杉资本投资的7家公司首次公开募股(第8家公司Clover Health采用SPAC的形式上市)。

其中爱彼迎和DoorDash是当年最大的两宗IPO,为投资公司带来了目前市值总价超过230亿美元的股份。退出的巨额回报让2020年成为红杉历史上回报率最高的一年。

这家成立于1972年、以加州巨大的红杉树命名的公司在过去几十年里已经成功投资谷歌、领英、甲骨文和其他众多科技企业,在2020年显得格外辉煌。在红杉呼风唤雨的这一年里,林君叡更是站在了风口浪尖,爱彼迎和DoorDash都是他的“宝贝儿”,他也担任了这两家公司的董事。(就此而言,红杉更倾向于以公司主导的形式开展投资,而非依赖于某位合伙人。)

至于低谷,就一言难尽了。这个方面更难量化,也更难言说,尤其是遇到沉默寡言的讲述者时。

在加入红杉成为风险投资人之前,林君叡曾经与企业家谢家华共同经营过若干家公司,并于2009年将旗下最有名的鞋类电商平台Zappos卖给了亚马逊。当时,林君叡是公司的首席财务官,谢家华担任首席执行官。

有报道称,谢家华近年来一直在尝试戒毒戒酒。去年11月,他在康涅狄格州新伦敦因为房屋失火而受伤,随后去世。林君叡和谢家华是大学同学,曾经作为商业伙伴和密友一起工作了15年,用林君叡的话说:“在我人生相当长的一段时间里,每天都能够见到他。”

悲剧发生在新冠疫情期间,伤痛尤难平复。谢家华去世几天后,向来注重隐私的林君叡在《福布斯》上发表了致友人的“最后一封信”,回忆了老友对自己的鼓励,并利用这个机会做最后的道别。

“想不到,在新冠病毒肆虐的世界里,这种哀悼、告别的方式竟然如此真实。”

林君叡(左)和谢家华在Zappos.com的2008“Bald & Blue”年度慈善活动中。图片来源:Courtesy of Alfred Lin

疫情或许让林君叡在哀悼友人之际显得比平日里更公开,但他仍然刻意远离公众的目光。

与硅谷的其他许多风险投资家不同,林君叡不常公开讲演。他在社交媒体上花的时间不多,在深受科技圈喜爱的音频网络应用程序Clubhouse上也不活跃,只注册账号“尝试”了一下。

“他没有百万推特粉丝,我觉得这不是坏事。”爱彼迎的联合创始人及首席执行官布莱恩•切斯基说。

在此之前,林君叡从来没有接受过深度访谈。不过,我们有幸打过两次交道,一次是在红杉的办公室里,另一次是在Zoom上。他愿意公开谈谈最近几个月的疯狂经历,也就是那些创纪录的经济收益和痛彻的个人损失;也同意聊聊谢家华的意外死亡对自己的影响,以及自己从已故合伙人兼朋友身上学到的东西。

对于自己在红杉异常辉煌的2020年中所扮演的角色,他十分坦率,没有丝毫自吹自擂。

事实上,林君叡与红杉的关系可以追溯到他与谢家华合作之初。那是1997年,红杉投资了他们的第一家公司LinkExchange,随后又投资了两人的第二家公司Zappos。2010年离开Zappos后,林君叡以合伙人的身份加入了红杉。

谢家华和红杉或多或少地塑造了林君叡的职业生涯道路。不过,这种影响绝非是单向的。聚光灯效应让外界往往忽视了林君叡对前合伙人和现就职公司的重要性,但林君叡以他特有的方式,不动声色地给二者留下了无法磨灭的印记。

“安息吧,好时光”

2008年秋天,红杉资本的合伙人给所投资的各公司的创始人发了一份电子邮件,通知他们前来参加紧急全体会议,不得缺席。会议在沙丘路的Quadrus会议中心举行,距离红杉在加州门洛帕克的办公室不远。

参会的创始人和创始团队成员总共只有一百多人,但会上传递的信息却飞出了会议中心的四壁,在硅谷乃至更广阔的创业界激起千层浪。

会议的目的在于向红杉投资的公司发出严肃警告,让创始人们意识到眼下的经济衰退将对全球经济造成怎样的打击,并希望借此机会给他们提供一些生存建议。(一句话:凛冬将至。)

为了确保信息传达到位,公司合伙人准备了一份共计56页的幻灯材料,题为“安息吧,好时光”。在这份笼罩着不祥气息的演示材料里,每一张经济图表数据都一落千丈,第三页干脆不着一字,只有一把尖刀插在猪头上。

结果可想而知,会议奏效了。

引起业界注意的不只是这些图表和图画。红杉是硅谷的王者,只要是被他们选上的公司,就一定会得到认真对待。毕竟,从甲骨文到谷歌,不少最成功的科技公司背后都有红杉的功劳。

因此,事情很简单:红杉一呼,初创界百应。那份不祥的幻灯片一经发布上网,传播速度比最新的手机应用程序测试邀请还快。硅谷新闻网站TechCrunch称之为“末日陈述”。企业家们大惊失色。裁员随之而来,不仅是红杉投资的那些公司,整个行业都在裁员。

彼时,林君叡和谢家华就在沙丘路会议中心的这些企业家中。他们俩共同经营着Zappos,接到通知后即从Zappos总部所在地拉斯维加斯飞来。

虽然猪头幻灯片触目惊心,红杉会议传达出的悲观信息却并没有让他们惊讶。自2008年下半年起,两人已经注意到Zappos上的销量开始放缓。他们知道,此刻生死攸关。

“红杉不会向创始人公布这一类内容,除非真的非常重要、非常严肃。”林君叡说。

回到拉斯维加斯,他们迅速行动,裁掉了大约100名员工,占当时Zappos总人数的8%。经济衰退的结果正如红杉资本所料。

“那段时间,我注意到其中有一天的销售额同比下跌了30%。”林君叡回忆道。“要知道,当时我们的年增长率是30%,因此可想而知,下跌30%是相当惊人的。事先准备好应付这种情况实在太重要了。如果我们当初没有看到那个演示幻灯,就不可能如此认真对待。”

最终,Zappos不仅熬过了凛冬,甚至愈发成功,并于2009年以12亿美元的价格卖给了亚马逊。林君叡和谢家华能够度过那段艰难时期,固然要归功于红杉资本的指导,更要多亏了彼此的支持。

合作十五载

林君叡和谢家华是在哈佛大学的一次宿舍聚会上认识的。当时林君叡四年级,谢家华三年级,两人有很多的共同点。

“我们都戴着大眼镜,穿着卡其裤,宽宽大大的纽扣衬衫下摆散在裤腰外。”林君叡记得,他俩站在角落里,冷静地看着其他人开怀畅饮。别的学生都在狂欢,他们却讨论起了商业创意。“

虽然我觉得谢家华的想法很疯狂,但和他海阔天空地即兴讨论很有趣。”林君叡说。“即便他认为我的想法太保守。”

林君叡一直有种满脑子数学的书呆子倾向,确切地说,不只是倾向。在谈到儿时的乐趣时,他说:“我们经常玩涉及算术内容的纸牌游戏。”

现年48岁的林君叡出生在中国台湾,6岁来到美国读小学一年级。他的父亲在一家国际银行任职,当时被派往纽约开设分行。他的母亲原本也在银行工作,但为了孩子的教育,搬到美国后便辞了职,成为全职妈妈。林君叡有个弟弟,兄弟俩在小学期间转过三次学。

“倒不是为了住进更好的公寓,而是为了进更好的学区。”

以学业为重心的紧张童年和志趣相投的书呆子气让谢家华与林君叡成了好友。林君叡有条不紊,善于分析,谢家华则富有创造力,甚至有时不切实际。不过,他们都有一个大梦想。这一切,始于比萨。

在他们两人居住的哈佛大学学生宿舍的一楼有一家餐厅,名叫昆西烧烤,售卖汉堡和薯条。但谢家华觉得,学生们真正想要的是比萨,尤其是在深夜聚会之后。

这家餐厅每年都会通过竞标的方式招募新管理者,于是谢家华投标了,而且要求两年的管理权。至于报价,他填的是“最高价+1美元”。这一招奏效了。

改卖比萨的想法也同样大获成功。谢家华投资购买了几台比萨烤炉,消息传开,餐厅门口立刻排起了长队。

林君叡当时还不是谢家华的商业伙伴,但他找到了参与比萨投资的门路。谢家华曾经对这个故事津津乐道,甚至把它写进了2010年出版的《传递幸福》(Delivering Happiness,这本书主要讲述的是两人创造Zappos文化的经历)。不过,林君叡回忆的版本略有不同。

两人的关系越来越亲密,林君叡也成了昆西烧烤的最佳顾客。这倒不是因为他自己吃得多,而是因为他每次都会买一整张比萨,然后再一片一片分销出去。

根据谢家华的说法,为了盈利,林君叡会将每片比萨加价转卖。(也正是这一点,让谢家华萌生了有朝一日请这位朋友做自己的首席财务官的想法。)

但林君叡说,那些利润完全是意外所得。他说自己从谢家华的餐厅里买比萨时就谈好了折扣。因为购买量大,餐厅里一片比萨通常卖2美元,但卖给他则是1.25或1.5美元。然后他再把比萨送上楼按片售卖。但加价并不是为了赚取利润。

“我并没有抬高价格。但25美分的硬币是稀缺物,要留着用于自助洗衣机投币。”于是,学生们付给他2美元,而非1.25或1.5美元。

无论故事的真相如何,比萨连接起了二人的长期友谊和商业伙伴关系。他们尊重彼此的商业头脑,相互取长补短,合作了15年。

林君叡(左)和谢家华在Zappos做比萨。年份不详。图片来源:Courtesy of Alfred Lin

毕业后,林君叡和谢家华去了西海岸。谢家华在甲骨文找了一份工作,但未能做长久;林君叡进入斯坦福大学攻读博士学位,也未能坚持下来。他们都一门心思想创业。

1996年,谢家华创办了在线广告平台LinkExchange,林君叡随即加入,成了公司的首席财务官。1998年,他们将LinkExchange卖给微软,然后成立了一家风投基金公司。

他们通过一宗小规模投资发现了一直在努力寻找增长点的Zappos,决定收购。谢家华担任首席执行官,林君叡任首席财务官。两人停下其余的风投基金项目,把所有资金都押在了鞋子上。

投资Zappos不仅是一项商业努力,它也给了两人一个机会,去定义和创造心目中的理想企业文化。(相比之下,LinkExchange则让他们有机会意识到什么样的企业文化是自己不认同的。)他们的理念是要让顾客和员工都满意。这是一个革命性的想法。

Zappos呼叫中心的工作人员并不会因为快速结束与问题顾客的通话而受到奖励。恰恰相反,他们与顾客沟通的时间越长,得到的认可就越高(最长的客服电话记录为10小时51分钟,至今仍然为公司称道)。

他们为Zappos设立的使命包含一些非传统的价值观,比如“创造乐趣,与众不同”和“敢于冒险,富于创造,思维开阔”。凭借这种独特的文化和创新的客服方式,公司成了行业分析的经典案例。与此同时,林君叡和谢家华也建起了价值数十亿美元的网上鞋店。

Zappos被亚马逊收购后不久,林君叡离开公司加入红杉资本,谢家华则继续留任首席执行官直到2020年8月,也就是他去世前的几个月。林君叡说,是谢家华帮助自己学会了如何与企业家共事,并且他的影响至今犹存。

“我觉得,我可以和谢家华愉快共事,与我擅长同许多创始人合作,这背后的原因是一样的。因为我会试着分析他们的想法,并找出完善的途径。我试着成为他们的搭档和教练。这种尝试,从我与谢家华共事时就开始了。”

围绕谢家华的死,仍然有不明朗之处,林君叡不愿意对细节发表评论。但谢家华去世后的一些文章提到了他滥用毒品和行为不稳定的情况,以及他对火的迷恋。(谢家华严重受伤正是因为吸入了浓烟,他当时就住在康涅狄格州的那栋失火房屋内。)

谢家华去世后,林君叡受邀参加了一场在Zoom上举行的亲友追思会。但他说,此举并不能够寄托他的哀思,也未能让悲伤终结。于是,尽管向来行事低调,他还是在网上发布了致谢家华的一封信。

“我想让其他人读到的,是我眼中的谢家华,是他身上的方方面面。有些人在谢家华一生的某个阶段看到了他的某些部分。而我有幸看到他经历的不同阶段,从一个对商业感兴趣、想在宿舍楼里开办最佳餐厅的计算机专业的书呆子,到建立自己的第一个互联网帝国,再到爱上Zappos。”

林君叡见证了谢家华将疯狂的想法从概念变为现实,见证了他一次又一次筹措资金、一次又一次被拒绝。亲身参与的经历促使林君叡成长为一名企业家、一位投资者。

2020年的黑天鹅

2020年3月9日周一,红杉资本的合伙人齐聚一堂,而这也是新冠疫情前合伙人的最后一次碰面。

早在1988年就加入红杉资本的合伙人道格•莱昂内表示:“我敢说7月1日前复工无望,我赌20美元。但我希望自己不是赢家。”

2008年,莱昂内与资深投资者迈克尔•莫里茨牵头发起了《R.I.P. Good Times》报告。如今,主角换成了红杉资本年轻一代的合伙人:以林君叡和罗洛夫•博塔为主要推手的《黑天鹅备忘录》再一次引起了人们的注意。该电子邮件于3月5日发出,几天后就是红杉资本合伙人最后一次碰头的日子。

只是这一次,信息并未遭到泄露。红杉资本在Medium平台上公开发布了电子邮件的内容。

备忘录的开篇第一句话就非常不吉利:“冠状病毒是2020年的那只黑天鹅。你们(以及我们)当中的某些人已经受到了这种病毒的影响。我们了解你们所承受的压力,我们愿意为你们提供帮助。鉴于生命受到威胁,我们希望情况可以尽快好转。在此期间,我们应该做好应对动荡的防范,并做好可能出现情况的思想准备。”

备忘录最后的署名是“红杉团队”。但结尾部分被单独拎出来的合伙人却只有林君叡。

《黑天鹅备忘录》引用了林君叡的一段话:“2008年金融危机之前,我被叫到红杉办公室听取那个臭名昭著的《R.I.P. Good Times》报告,那时候我正担任Zappos的首席运营官/首席财务官。和现在一样,那时我们不知道将要面对的衰退会持续多久,也不清楚是急剧衰退还是缓慢下行。我能够确认的是,那次报告让我们的团队和企业变得更加强大了。竞争对手遭到重创,而Zappos则挺过了金融危机,已经准备好抓住他们留下的机遇。”

红杉资本和林君叡的预测基本上是正确的。但他们肯定会因为这个标题(以及其他几个预言,我们将在后面进行讨论)而遭到诟病。

林君叡称:“有人说(疫情)是完全可以预见的,所以它不是一只黑天鹅。”他还补充道,那么多人因为疫情突然来袭而措手不及,这个事实就能够用标题来加以凸显。

不仅如此,他还表示:“这个标题可以吸引人眼球。”

红杉资本对疫情给投资组合公司带来直接冲击的影响范围或持续时间一无所知。但该公司认为,这种病毒的影响至少会持续几个季度,供应链将受到极大影响。

和2008年一样,红杉资本再次建议其投资组合公司低调行事,重新评估员工数量和其他支出。

担任爱彼迎、DoorDash等十多家公司董事会成员的林君叡与几位企业家一起经历了数次重大危机。在2009年红杉资本早期押注爱彼迎之际,林君叡还未加入红杉资本。2012年,担任爱彼迎董事的合伙人离开了红杉资本,留出了一个职位空缺。爱彼迎的首席执行官及联合创始人切斯基请求莫里茨让林君叡担任公司董事。

切斯基说:“我是艺术学校出身,没有公司运营经验。(林君叡)懂运营,具有非常出色的分析能力。我们之间有点类似阴和阳的那种共生关系。”

爱彼迎首席执行官布莱恩•切斯基(左)和林君叡在2016年红杉大本营。图片来源:Courtesy of Sequoia

林君叡还帮助Zappos打造了令爱彼迎创始人钦佩的企业文化。他和谢家华共同经历了两次经济衰退(除2008年金融危机外,“9•11”事件后Zappos的销售额也受到了冲击)。事实证明,对切斯基而言,这些经验和知识都非常宝贵。

2013年左右,林君叡实际上每周都会有一天时间在爱彼迎办公。当时正值爱彼迎的高速增长期,切斯基也在努力壮大与之相匹配的高管团队。除此之外,切斯基还需要应付监管诉讼和平台上的歧视事件,急需一位帮助他处理日常管理事务的首席运营官。此时,林君叡登场了,他至少能够临时性协助切斯基加强客户服务和内部运营。

切斯基称:“我和他一起经历了很多。”但此次新冠疫情将会以一种全新的方式考验爱彼迎。

2020年3月,爱彼迎的业务量下降了80%。

切斯基说:“危机也是识人的机会。林君叡的身上具备了所有我期望的特质。他乐观而稳重。他支持我们,并且实际上也以捍卫者的身份挺身而出。”

为了应对营收大幅下降的困境,爱彼迎必须做出举债或股本融资的决定。举债风险更高,但成本相对较低。林君叡是举债的坚定支持者。他不想让爱彼迎经历增发股票带来的一轮“降价融资”:股本增加,但公司估值降低。他对公司后续反弹能力充满信心。

切斯基在谈到董事会和林君叡处理这一决定的方式时指出:“这有点像是罗夏测试,看你站在哪一方。”

爱彼迎最终选择举债20亿美元。该公司推迟了原定于2020年早些时候的首次公开募股,并最终在去年12月上市。红杉资本共计向爱彼迎投资了3.75亿美元。如今,红杉资本持有的爱彼迎在短租市场的股份价值高达150亿美元。IPO后,林君叡应允了切斯基让其继续担任董事会成员的邀约。

在新冠疫情最严重的时候,两人每周会交谈数次,有时是每天都交流,也有时一天交谈好几个小时。

切斯基称:“我们的关系非常密切。”两人之间也从最初的商业关系发展成了友谊。

切斯基说:“他总是一本正经,表情严肃。他说话的时候声音起伏不大。初次见面根本无法判断他对你项目的喜好程度。但他非常有激情,而且他实际上是一个很感性的人。”

即便是面对面交流,一般人也很难在林君叡身上看到这些特点,至少对那些没有切斯基那么了解他的人来说是这样。

但为了证明林君叡更情绪化的一面,切斯基还提供了另一个证据:“谢家华不会让非人文主义者做他的合伙人。”

从最初的拒绝到后来的欣然同意

除了弄错《黑天鹅备忘录》的标题外,红杉资本还误判了疫情引发的一个经济影响:它预测民间借贷会像2001年以及2008年到2009年那样,出现“显著疲软”。最终,虽然众多企业和生命因为疫情而遭受重创,但疫情也对其他方面起到了推动作用。并且风投资金非但没有枯竭,其流动性反而更胜以往。

在这场疫情风暴中,除了爱彼迎很快挽回颓势外,红杉资本的另一项投资,以及林君叡的董事会职位,实际上最终从疫情中获得了丰厚回报,并因此诞生了年度第二大IPO:外卖应用程序DoorDash。

在谈到这款外卖应用程序面对疫情的最初反应时,林君叡称:“他们真的很害怕餐厅会难以存续。那段时期一切都充满了不确定性。”

但林君叡从未动摇过。他和DoorDash的首席执行官及创始人徐讯已经成了朋友;自2014年红杉投资DoorDash以来,林君叡一直是徐讯的董事会成员。林君叡花好几个小时和徐讯一起研究数据,寻找趋势,并对财务预测进行建模。

DoorDash不仅没有迎来末日,与去年同期相比,2020年前9个月DoorDash的营收还翻了三番。究其原因,宅在家中的美国人订购的外卖比以往任何时候都多。

与爱彼迎一样,DoorDash也于去年12月上市。上市首日,公司股价收于190美元,比102美元的IPO价格足足上涨了86%。

然而,当林君叡第一次见到徐讯时,他并未坚定看好DoorDash这笔投资。当时,徐讯正在试图筹集种子轮融资,并向林君叡提出了这笔交易。但林君叡认为,外卖市场已经非常拥挤,竞争过于激烈,还有Postmates、Caviar、Grubhub等一大批老牌竞争对手。他打电话给徐讯,告知了自己准备放弃这个投资机会的决定。

林君叡表示:“我真的感到很抱歉,因为我并不知道当时他在参加婚礼。”虽然那并不是徐讯的婚礼(两周后徐讯也结婚了)。但当徐讯接到电话时,他正在给朋友做伴郎。

DoorDash首席执行官徐讯(左)和林君叡参加2018年度《财富》科技头脑风暴大会。图片来源:Stuart Isett—Fortune

徐讯回忆道:“感觉就像是:‘好吧,对着镜头微笑。’要接受被拒绝的现实真的很难,特别是在你的公司急需资金的情况下。”

林君叡表示,虽然他已经放弃了这笔投资,但徐讯给他留下了深刻的印象:“我始终对此耿耿于怀。”

徐讯在公司情况分析中极尽细致地分析了餐厅厨房的运营方式,以及如何优化流程(从烹饪流水线到送货上门)。这给林君叡留下了深刻的印象。而徐讯的坚韧同样也让林君叡印象深刻。

林君叡说:“创始人在创办公司的时候通常不会理会别人的建议。如果他们认真听取所有反馈意见,那么他们就办不成公司。”

谢家华创办Zappos就是如此,林君叡也多次见证过这一点。

林君叡称:“在谢家华带领红杉资本投资LinkExchange前,LinkExchange被投资人和机构拒绝了太多次。我想可能不下十几次。”

距离与徐讯的初次碰面又过去了几年,在风险投资家艾琳•李举办的晚宴上,林君叡碰巧与这位企业家比邻而坐。这一次,徐讯成功说服了他。在拒绝种子轮融资后,红杉资本参与了DoorDash的A轮融资。(艾琳•李说:“天哪,那天的晚宴我也在场。我为什么没有投资DoorDash?”)

最终,红杉资本共计向DoorDash投资了4.15亿美元,持有该公司的股份价值超过85亿美元。

风投公司Cowboy Ventures的创始人艾琳•李也是林君叡的朋友。在被问及林君叡业绩记录的时候,艾琳•李开玩笑说:“我的理想就是把工作做得足够出色,从而有机会可以和林君叡一起投资。”

把握当下

林君叡擅于挑选赢家,并以此而闻名。但与他共事过的企业家表示,他不仅仅是一位擅长数据处理的成功人士,在他的身上还有更多闪光的特质。

徐讯表示:“私底下,说到真正关心企业家的人,我首先想到的就是林君叡。顺便说一句,我认为他在某种程度上必须这么做,因为你单纯只看数字,那么当这些数字不存在、当你不得不怀着某种程度的坚信去相信一些东西的时候,你就会面临太多棘手的时刻。”

林君叡还是Houzz的董事会成员,这是一家由联合创始人阿迪•塔塔科运营的家居设计网站。

塔塔科说:“从外表上看,他是一个强硬的人,他非常擅长分析、绝顶聪明。但我相信在内心深处他还是一个善良的人。他会与你并肩奋斗。他会大力帮助和支持他投资的创始人,并以我们希望的方式给我们提供支持。”

Houzz联合创始人及首席执行官阿迪•塔塔科。图片来源:Stuart Isett—Fortune

与林君叡密切合作的红杉合伙人杰斯•李表示,林君叡之所以能够吸引企业家,在很大程度上归功于他对人和文化的关注。

杰斯•李说:“Zappos堪称范本地展示了如何打造成功的公司文化。而且,我认为就这一点而言,林君叡可以与谢家华平分秋色。”

在《黑天鹅备忘录》发布大约一年后,红杉资本又向包括塔塔科、徐讯和切斯基在内的创始人发出了另一条信息。

这条信息被贴上了《新冠疫情让未来提前到来:现在抓住这个机遇》的标签。这一特殊信息采取了更为乐观的语气,预计美国将在2021年下半年迎来几十年来“更为强劲的经济增长”。

也许是因为坏消息总比好消息传播得快,这份特别的宣言并没有像之前的《R.I.P. Good Times》和《黑天鹅备忘录》那样掀起太大的波澜。还有一个不同之处在于,红杉资本对初创公司创始人的建议还有另一个要素:关注其团队的福祉。

《备忘录》中写道:“我们看到,业务指标的表现与这些公司中敏感人员的数量各有不同。开诚布公地讨论员工面临的挑战。以人为本的有力领导将继续发挥关键作用。”

这种论调不无道理,不仅仅是因为疫情对许多人的心理和身体健康造成了明显的损害,同时也因为,特别是对林君叡而言,这是喜忧参半的一年。史无前例的职业巅峰与前所未有的个人低谷并存。

红杉资本的《黑天鹅备忘录》签署人一栏又是简简单单的“红杉团队”。但就像爱彼迎和DoorDash,以及林君叡与已故合伙人谢家华运营的那些公司一样,即使他的名字没有出现在最醒目的位置,我们还是不难从中辨别出林君叡的风格。(财富中文网)

译者:胡萌琦、唐尘

我和林君叡坐在红杉资本位于旧金山的办公室里,保持着合适的社交距离。办公室里除了我们俩和这家风投公司的通讯副总裁,别无旁人。

自从2010年起成为红杉合伙人的林君叡并不健谈,对我提出的每一个问题,他都深思熟虑,言简意赅,说完便停下来看着我,等待下一个问题。气氛因此而愈发沉闷。

在我15年的商业记者生涯中,从未遇到过这样的采访对象,他似乎觉得完全没有必要做任何补充。

不过,这种不露声色的低调和空空荡荡的办公室只是假象。林君叡和他所在的公司,这家硅谷最早、最声名显赫的风投公司在过去一年里经历了大风大浪,对科技界内外产生了巨大影响。

回顾2020年,林君叡总结说:“回想起来,我脑海中蹦出的词汇是‘既兴奋又疲惫’,经历过很多高潮,也走过不少低谷。”

他说的高潮很容易理解。2020年,红杉资本投资的7家公司首次公开募股(第8家公司Clover Health采用SPAC的形式上市)。

其中爱彼迎和DoorDash是当年最大的两宗IPO,为投资公司带来了目前市值总价超过230亿美元的股份。退出的巨额回报让2020年成为红杉历史上回报率最高的一年。

这家成立于1972年、以加州巨大的红杉树命名的公司在过去几十年里已经成功投资谷歌、领英、甲骨文和其他众多科技企业,在2020年显得格外辉煌。在红杉呼风唤雨的这一年里,林君叡更是站在了风口浪尖,爱彼迎和DoorDash都是他的“宝贝儿”,他也担任了这两家公司的董事。(就此而言,红杉更倾向于以公司主导的形式开展投资,而非依赖于某位合伙人。)

至于低谷,就一言难尽了。这个方面更难量化,也更难言说,尤其是遇到沉默寡言的讲述者时。

在加入红杉成为风险投资人之前,林君叡曾经与企业家谢家华共同经营过若干家公司,并于2009年将旗下最有名的鞋类电商平台Zappos卖给了亚马逊。当时,林君叡是公司的首席财务官,谢家华担任首席执行官。

有报道称,谢家华近年来一直在尝试戒毒戒酒。去年11月,他在康涅狄格州新伦敦因为房屋失火而受伤,随后去世。林君叡和谢家华是大学同学,曾经作为商业伙伴和密友一起工作了15年,用林君叡的话说:“在我人生相当长的一段时间里,每天都能够见到他。”

悲剧发生在新冠疫情期间,伤痛尤难平复。谢家华去世几天后,向来注重隐私的林君叡在《福布斯》上发表了致友人的“最后一封信”,回忆了老友对自己的鼓励,并利用这个机会做最后的道别。

“想不到,在新冠病毒肆虐的世界里,这种哀悼、告别的方式竟然如此真实。”

疫情或许让林君叡在哀悼友人之际显得比平日里更公开,但他仍然刻意远离公众的目光。

与硅谷的其他许多风险投资家不同,林君叡不常公开讲演。他在社交媒体上花的时间不多,在深受科技圈喜爱的音频网络应用程序Clubhouse上也不活跃,只注册账号“尝试”了一下。

“他没有百万推特粉丝,我觉得这不是坏事。”爱彼迎的联合创始人及首席执行官布莱恩•切斯基说。

在此之前,林君叡从来没有接受过深度访谈。不过,我们有幸打过两次交道,一次是在红杉的办公室里,另一次是在Zoom上。他愿意公开谈谈最近几个月的疯狂经历,也就是那些创纪录的经济收益和痛彻的个人损失;也同意聊聊谢家华的意外死亡对自己的影响,以及自己从已故合伙人兼朋友身上学到的东西。

对于自己在红杉异常辉煌的2020年中所扮演的角色,他十分坦率,没有丝毫自吹自擂。

事实上,林君叡与红杉的关系可以追溯到他与谢家华合作之初。那是1997年,红杉投资了他们的第一家公司LinkExchange,随后又投资了两人的第二家公司Zappos。2010年离开Zappos后,林君叡以合伙人的身份加入了红杉。

谢家华和红杉或多或少地塑造了林君叡的职业生涯道路。不过,这种影响绝非是单向的。聚光灯效应让外界往往忽视了林君叡对前合伙人和现就职公司的重要性,但林君叡以他特有的方式,不动声色地给二者留下了无法磨灭的印记。

“安息吧,好时光”

2008年秋天,红杉资本的合伙人给所投资的各公司的创始人发了一份电子邮件,通知他们前来参加紧急全体会议,不得缺席。会议在沙丘路的Quadrus会议中心举行,距离红杉在加州门洛帕克的办公室不远。

参会的创始人和创始团队成员总共只有一百多人,但会上传递的信息却飞出了会议中心的四壁,在硅谷乃至更广阔的创业界激起千层浪。

会议的目的在于向红杉投资的公司发出严肃警告,让创始人们意识到眼下的经济衰退将对全球经济造成怎样的打击,并希望借此机会给他们提供一些生存建议。(一句话:凛冬将至。)

为了确保信息传达到位,公司合伙人准备了一份共计56页的幻灯材料,题为“安息吧,好时光”。在这份笼罩着不祥气息的演示材料里,每一张经济图表数据都一落千丈,第三页干脆不着一字,只有一把尖刀插在猪头上。

结果可想而知,会议奏效了。

引起业界注意的不只是这些图表和图画。红杉是硅谷的王者,只要是被他们选上的公司,就一定会得到认真对待。毕竟,从甲骨文到谷歌,不少最成功的科技公司背后都有红杉的功劳。

因此,事情很简单:红杉一呼,初创界百应。那份不祥的幻灯片一经发布上网,传播速度比最新的手机应用程序测试邀请还快。硅谷新闻网站TechCrunch称之为“末日陈述”。企业家们大惊失色。裁员随之而来,不仅是红杉投资的那些公司,整个行业都在裁员。

彼时,林君叡和谢家华就在沙丘路会议中心的这些企业家中。他们俩共同经营着Zappos,接到通知后即从Zappos总部所在地拉斯维加斯飞来。

虽然猪头幻灯片触目惊心,红杉会议传达出的悲观信息却并没有让他们惊讶。自2008年下半年起,两人已经注意到Zappos上的销量开始放缓。他们知道,此刻生死攸关。

“红杉不会向创始人公布这一类内容,除非真的非常重要、非常严肃。”林君叡说。

回到拉斯维加斯,他们迅速行动,裁掉了大约100名员工,占当时Zappos总人数的8%。经济衰退的结果正如红杉资本所料。

“那段时间,我注意到其中有一天的销售额同比下跌了30%。”林君叡回忆道。“要知道,当时我们的年增长率是30%,因此可想而知,下跌30%是相当惊人的。事先准备好应付这种情况实在太重要了。如果我们当初没有看到那个演示幻灯,就不可能如此认真对待。”

最终,Zappos不仅熬过了凛冬,甚至愈发成功,并于2009年以12亿美元的价格卖给了亚马逊。林君叡和谢家华能够度过那段艰难时期,固然要归功于红杉资本的指导,更要多亏了彼此的支持。

合作十五载

林君叡和谢家华是在哈佛大学的一次宿舍聚会上认识的。当时林君叡四年级,谢家华三年级,两人有很多的共同点。

“我们都戴着大眼镜,穿着卡其裤,宽宽大大的纽扣衬衫下摆散在裤腰外。”林君叡记得,他俩站在角落里,冷静地看着其他人开怀畅饮。别的学生都在狂欢,他们却讨论起了商业创意。“

虽然我觉得谢家华的想法很疯狂,但和他海阔天空地即兴讨论很有趣。”林君叡说。“即便他认为我的想法太保守。”

林君叡一直有种满脑子数学的书呆子倾向,确切地说,不只是倾向。在谈到儿时的乐趣时,他说:“我们经常玩涉及算术内容的纸牌游戏。”

现年48岁的林君叡出生在中国台湾,6岁来到美国读小学一年级。他的父亲在一家国际银行任职,当时被派往纽约开设分行。他的母亲原本也在银行工作,但为了孩子的教育,搬到美国后便辞了职,成为全职妈妈。林君叡有个弟弟,兄弟俩在小学期间转过三次学。

“倒不是为了住进更好的公寓,而是为了进更好的学区。”

以学业为重心的紧张童年和志趣相投的书呆子气让谢家华与林君叡成了好友。林君叡有条不紊,善于分析,谢家华则富有创造力,甚至有时不切实际。不过,他们都有一个大梦想。这一切,始于比萨。

在他们两人居住的哈佛大学学生宿舍的一楼有一家餐厅,名叫昆西烧烤,售卖汉堡和薯条。但谢家华觉得,学生们真正想要的是比萨,尤其是在深夜聚会之后。

这家餐厅每年都会通过竞标的方式招募新管理者,于是谢家华投标了,而且要求两年的管理权。至于报价,他填的是“最高价+1美元”。这一招奏效了。

改卖比萨的想法也同样大获成功。谢家华投资购买了几台比萨烤炉,消息传开,餐厅门口立刻排起了长队。

林君叡当时还不是谢家华的商业伙伴,但他找到了参与比萨投资的门路。谢家华曾经对这个故事津津乐道,甚至把它写进了2010年出版的《传递幸福》(Delivering Happiness,这本书主要讲述的是两人创造Zappos文化的经历)。不过,林君叡回忆的版本略有不同。

两人的关系越来越亲密,林君叡也成了昆西烧烤的最佳顾客。这倒不是因为他自己吃得多,而是因为他每次都会买一整张比萨,然后再一片一片分销出去。

根据谢家华的说法,为了盈利,林君叡会将每片比萨加价转卖。(也正是这一点,让谢家华萌生了有朝一日请这位朋友做自己的首席财务官的想法。)

但林君叡说,那些利润完全是意外所得。他说自己从谢家华的餐厅里买比萨时就谈好了折扣。因为购买量大,餐厅里一片比萨通常卖2美元,但卖给他则是1.25或1.5美元。然后他再把比萨送上楼按片售卖。但加价并不是为了赚取利润。

“我并没有抬高价格。但25美分的硬币是稀缺物,要留着用于自助洗衣机投币。”于是,学生们付给他2美元,而非1.25或1.5美元。

无论故事的真相如何,比萨连接起了二人的长期友谊和商业伙伴关系。他们尊重彼此的商业头脑,相互取长补短,合作了15年。

毕业后,林君叡和谢家华去了西海岸。谢家华在甲骨文找了一份工作,但未能做长久;林君叡进入斯坦福大学攻读博士学位,也未能坚持下来。他们都一门心思想创业。

1996年,谢家华创办了在线广告平台LinkExchange,林君叡随即加入,成了公司的首席财务官。1998年,他们将LinkExchange卖给微软,然后成立了一家风投基金公司。

他们通过一宗小规模投资发现了一直在努力寻找增长点的Zappos,决定收购。谢家华担任首席执行官,林君叡任首席财务官。两人停下其余的风投基金项目,把所有资金都押在了鞋子上。

投资Zappos不仅是一项商业努力,它也给了两人一个机会,去定义和创造心目中的理想企业文化。(相比之下,LinkExchange则让他们有机会意识到什么样的企业文化是自己不认同的。)他们的理念是要让顾客和员工都满意。这是一个革命性的想法。

Zappos呼叫中心的工作人员并不会因为快速结束与问题顾客的通话而受到奖励。恰恰相反,他们与顾客沟通的时间越长,得到的认可就越高(最长的客服电话记录为10小时51分钟,至今仍然为公司称道)。

他们为Zappos设立的使命包含一些非传统的价值观,比如“创造乐趣,与众不同”和“敢于冒险,富于创造,思维开阔”。凭借这种独特的文化和创新的客服方式,公司成了行业分析的经典案例。与此同时,林君叡和谢家华也建起了价值数十亿美元的网上鞋店。

Zappos被亚马逊收购后不久,林君叡离开公司加入红杉资本,谢家华则继续留任首席执行官直到2020年8月,也就是他去世前的几个月。林君叡说,是谢家华帮助自己学会了如何与企业家共事,并且他的影响至今犹存。

“我觉得,我可以和谢家华愉快共事,与我擅长同许多创始人合作,这背后的原因是一样的。因为我会试着分析他们的想法,并找出完善的途径。我试着成为他们的搭档和教练。这种尝试,从我与谢家华共事时就开始了。”

围绕谢家华的死,仍然有不明朗之处,林君叡不愿意对细节发表评论。但谢家华去世后的一些文章提到了他滥用毒品和行为不稳定的情况,以及他对火的迷恋。(谢家华严重受伤正是因为吸入了浓烟,他当时就住在康涅狄格州的那栋失火房屋内。)

谢家华去世后,林君叡受邀参加了一场在Zoom上举行的亲友追思会。但他说,此举并不能够寄托他的哀思,也未能让悲伤终结。于是,尽管向来行事低调,他还是在网上发布了致谢家华的一封信。

“我想让其他人读到的,是我眼中的谢家华,是他身上的方方面面。有些人在谢家华一生的某个阶段看到了他的某些部分。而我有幸看到他经历的不同阶段,从一个对商业感兴趣、想在宿舍楼里开办最佳餐厅的计算机专业的书呆子,到建立自己的第一个互联网帝国,再到爱上Zappos。”

林君叡见证了谢家华将疯狂的想法从概念变为现实,见证了他一次又一次筹措资金、一次又一次被拒绝。亲身参与的经历促使林君叡成长为一名企业家、一位投资者。

2020年的黑天鹅

2020年3月9日周一,红杉资本的合伙人齐聚一堂,而这也是新冠疫情前合伙人的最后一次碰面。

早在1988年就加入红杉资本的合伙人道格•莱昂内表示:“我敢说7月1日前复工无望,我赌20美元。但我希望自己不是赢家。”

2008年,莱昂内与资深投资者迈克尔•莫里茨牵头发起了《R.I.P. Good Times》报告。如今,主角换成了红杉资本年轻一代的合伙人:以林君叡和罗洛夫•博塔为主要推手的《黑天鹅备忘录》再一次引起了人们的注意。该电子邮件于3月5日发出,几天后就是红杉资本合伙人最后一次碰头的日子。

只是这一次,信息并未遭到泄露。红杉资本在Medium平台上公开发布了电子邮件的内容。

备忘录的开篇第一句话就非常不吉利:“冠状病毒是2020年的那只黑天鹅。你们(以及我们)当中的某些人已经受到了这种病毒的影响。我们了解你们所承受的压力,我们愿意为你们提供帮助。鉴于生命受到威胁,我们希望情况可以尽快好转。在此期间,我们应该做好应对动荡的防范,并做好可能出现情况的思想准备。”

备忘录最后的署名是“红杉团队”。但结尾部分被单独拎出来的合伙人却只有林君叡。

《黑天鹅备忘录》引用了林君叡的一段话:“2008年金融危机之前,我被叫到红杉办公室听取那个臭名昭著的《R.I.P. Good Times》报告,那时候我正担任Zappos的首席运营官/首席财务官。和现在一样,那时我们不知道将要面对的衰退会持续多久,也不清楚是急剧衰退还是缓慢下行。我能够确认的是,那次报告让我们的团队和企业变得更加强大了。竞争对手遭到重创,而Zappos则挺过了金融危机,已经准备好抓住他们留下的机遇。”

红杉资本和林君叡的预测基本上是正确的。但他们肯定会因为这个标题(以及其他几个预言,我们将在后面进行讨论)而遭到诟病。

林君叡称:“有人说(疫情)是完全可以预见的,所以它不是一只黑天鹅。”他还补充道,那么多人因为疫情突然来袭而措手不及,这个事实就能够用标题来加以凸显。

不仅如此,他还表示:“这个标题可以吸引人眼球。”

红杉资本对疫情给投资组合公司带来直接冲击的影响范围或持续时间一无所知。但该公司认为,这种病毒的影响至少会持续几个季度,供应链将受到极大影响。

和2008年一样,红杉资本再次建议其投资组合公司低调行事,重新评估员工数量和其他支出。

担任爱彼迎、DoorDash等十多家公司董事会成员的林君叡与几位企业家一起经历了数次重大危机。在2009年红杉资本早期押注爱彼迎之际,林君叡还未加入红杉资本。2012年,担任爱彼迎董事的合伙人离开了红杉资本,留出了一个职位空缺。爱彼迎的首席执行官及联合创始人切斯基请求莫里茨让林君叡担任公司董事。

切斯基说:“我是艺术学校出身,没有公司运营经验。(林君叡)懂运营,具有非常出色的分析能力。我们之间有点类似阴和阳的那种共生关系。”

林君叡还帮助Zappos打造了令爱彼迎创始人钦佩的企业文化。他和谢家华共同经历了两次经济衰退(除2008年金融危机外,“9•11”事件后Zappos的销售额也受到了冲击)。事实证明,对切斯基而言,这些经验和知识都非常宝贵。

2013年左右,林君叡实际上每周都会有一天时间在爱彼迎办公。当时正值爱彼迎的高速增长期,切斯基也在努力壮大与之相匹配的高管团队。除此之外,切斯基还需要应付监管诉讼和平台上的歧视事件,急需一位帮助他处理日常管理事务的首席运营官。此时,林君叡登场了,他至少能够临时性协助切斯基加强客户服务和内部运营。

切斯基称:“我和他一起经历了很多。”但此次新冠疫情将会以一种全新的方式考验爱彼迎。

2020年3月,爱彼迎的业务量下降了80%。

切斯基说:“危机也是识人的机会。林君叡的身上具备了所有我期望的特质。他乐观而稳重。他支持我们,并且实际上也以捍卫者的身份挺身而出。”

为了应对营收大幅下降的困境,爱彼迎必须做出举债或股本融资的决定。举债风险更高,但成本相对较低。林君叡是举债的坚定支持者。他不想让爱彼迎经历增发股票带来的一轮“降价融资”:股本增加,但公司估值降低。他对公司后续反弹能力充满信心。

切斯基在谈到董事会和林君叡处理这一决定的方式时指出:“这有点像是罗夏测试,看你站在哪一方。”

爱彼迎最终选择举债20亿美元。该公司推迟了原定于2020年早些时候的首次公开募股,并最终在去年12月上市。红杉资本共计向爱彼迎投资了3.75亿美元。如今,红杉资本持有的爱彼迎在短租市场的股份价值高达150亿美元。IPO后,林君叡应允了切斯基让其继续担任董事会成员的邀约。

在新冠疫情最严重的时候,两人每周会交谈数次,有时是每天都交流,也有时一天交谈好几个小时。

切斯基称:“我们的关系非常密切。”两人之间也从最初的商业关系发展成了友谊。

切斯基说:“他总是一本正经,表情严肃。他说话的时候声音起伏不大。初次见面根本无法判断他对你项目的喜好程度。但他非常有激情,而且他实际上是一个很感性的人。”

即便是面对面交流,一般人也很难在林君叡身上看到这些特点,至少对那些没有切斯基那么了解他的人来说是这样。

但为了证明林君叡更情绪化的一面,切斯基还提供了另一个证据:“谢家华不会让非人文主义者做他的合伙人。”

从最初的拒绝到后来的欣然同意

除了弄错《黑天鹅备忘录》的标题外,红杉资本还误判了疫情引发的一个经济影响:它预测民间借贷会像2001年以及2008年到2009年那样,出现“显著疲软”。最终,虽然众多企业和生命因为疫情而遭受重创,但疫情也对其他方面起到了推动作用。并且风投资金非但没有枯竭,其流动性反而更胜以往。

在这场疫情风暴中,除了爱彼迎很快挽回颓势外,红杉资本的另一项投资,以及林君叡的董事会职位,实际上最终从疫情中获得了丰厚回报,并因此诞生了年度第二大IPO:外卖应用程序DoorDash。

在谈到这款外卖应用程序面对疫情的最初反应时,林君叡称:“他们真的很害怕餐厅会难以存续。那段时期一切都充满了不确定性。”

但林君叡从未动摇过。他和DoorDash的首席执行官及创始人徐讯已经成了朋友;自2014年红杉投资DoorDash以来,林君叡一直是徐讯的董事会成员。林君叡花好几个小时和徐讯一起研究数据,寻找趋势,并对财务预测进行建模。

DoorDash不仅没有迎来末日,与去年同期相比,2020年前9个月DoorDash的营收还翻了三番。究其原因,宅在家中的美国人订购的外卖比以往任何时候都多。

与爱彼迎一样,DoorDash也于去年12月上市。上市首日,公司股价收于190美元,比102美元的IPO价格足足上涨了86%。

然而,当林君叡第一次见到徐讯时,他并未坚定看好DoorDash这笔投资。当时,徐讯正在试图筹集种子轮融资,并向林君叡提出了这笔交易。但林君叡认为,外卖市场已经非常拥挤,竞争过于激烈,还有Postmates、Caviar、Grubhub等一大批老牌竞争对手。他打电话给徐讯,告知了自己准备放弃这个投资机会的决定。

林君叡表示:“我真的感到很抱歉,因为我并不知道当时他在参加婚礼。”虽然那并不是徐讯的婚礼(两周后徐讯也结婚了)。但当徐讯接到电话时,他正在给朋友做伴郎。

徐讯回忆道:“感觉就像是:‘好吧,对着镜头微笑。’要接受被拒绝的现实真的很难,特别是在你的公司急需资金的情况下。”

林君叡表示,虽然他已经放弃了这笔投资,但徐讯给他留下了深刻的印象:“我始终对此耿耿于怀。”

徐讯在公司情况分析中极尽细致地分析了餐厅厨房的运营方式,以及如何优化流程(从烹饪流水线到送货上门)。这给林君叡留下了深刻的印象。而徐讯的坚韧同样也让林君叡印象深刻。

林君叡说:“创始人在创办公司的时候通常不会理会别人的建议。如果他们认真听取所有反馈意见,那么他们就办不成公司。”

谢家华创办Zappos就是如此,林君叡也多次见证过这一点。

林君叡称:“在谢家华带领红杉资本投资LinkExchange前,LinkExchange被投资人和机构拒绝了太多次。我想可能不下十几次。”

距离与徐讯的初次碰面又过去了几年,在风险投资家艾琳•李举办的晚宴上,林君叡碰巧与这位企业家比邻而坐。这一次,徐讯成功说服了他。在拒绝种子轮融资后,红杉资本参与了DoorDash的A轮融资。(艾琳•李说:“天哪,那天的晚宴我也在场。我为什么没有投资DoorDash?”)

最终,红杉资本共计向DoorDash投资了4.15亿美元,持有该公司的股份价值超过85亿美元。

风投公司Cowboy Ventures的创始人艾琳•李也是林君叡的朋友。在被问及林君叡业绩记录的时候,艾琳•李开玩笑说:“我的理想就是把工作做得足够出色,从而有机会可以和林君叡一起投资。”

把握当下

林君叡擅于挑选赢家,并以此而闻名。但与他共事过的企业家表示,他不仅仅是一位擅长数据处理的成功人士,在他的身上还有更多闪光的特质。

徐讯表示:“私底下,说到真正关心企业家的人,我首先想到的就是林君叡。顺便说一句,我认为他在某种程度上必须这么做,因为你单纯只看数字,那么当这些数字不存在、当你不得不怀着某种程度的坚信去相信一些东西的时候,你就会面临太多棘手的时刻。”

林君叡还是Houzz的董事会成员,这是一家由联合创始人阿迪•塔塔科运营的家居设计网站。

塔塔科说:“从外表上看,他是一个强硬的人,他非常擅长分析、绝顶聪明。但我相信在内心深处他还是一个善良的人。他会与你并肩奋斗。他会大力帮助和支持他投资的创始人,并以我们希望的方式给我们提供支持。”

与林君叡密切合作的红杉合伙人杰斯•李表示,林君叡之所以能够吸引企业家,在很大程度上归功于他对人和文化的关注。

杰斯•李说:“Zappos堪称范本地展示了如何打造成功的公司文化。而且,我认为就这一点而言,林君叡可以与谢家华平分秋色。”

在《黑天鹅备忘录》发布大约一年后,红杉资本又向包括塔塔科、徐讯和切斯基在内的创始人发出了另一条信息。

这条信息被贴上了《新冠疫情让未来提前到来:现在抓住这个机遇》的标签。这一特殊信息采取了更为乐观的语气,预计美国将在2021年下半年迎来几十年来“更为强劲的经济增长”。

也许是因为坏消息总比好消息传播得快,这份特别的宣言并没有像之前的《R.I.P. Good Times》和《黑天鹅备忘录》那样掀起太大的波澜。还有一个不同之处在于,红杉资本对初创公司创始人的建议还有另一个要素:关注其团队的福祉。

《备忘录》中写道:“我们看到,业务指标的表现与这些公司中敏感人员的数量各有不同。开诚布公地讨论员工面临的挑战。以人为本的有力领导将继续发挥关键作用。”

这种论调不无道理,不仅仅是因为疫情对许多人的心理和身体健康造成了明显的损害,同时也因为,特别是对林君叡而言,这是喜忧参半的一年。史无前例的职业巅峰与前所未有的个人低谷并存。

红杉资本的《黑天鹅备忘录》签署人一栏又是简简单单的“红杉团队”。但就像爱彼迎和DoorDash,以及林君叡与已故合伙人谢家华运营的那些公司一样,即使他的名字没有出现在最醒目的位置,我们还是不难从中辨别出林君叡的风格。(财富中文网)

译者:胡萌琦、唐尘

Alfred Lin and I are seated—at an acceptable social distance—in Sequoia Capital’s San Francisco office. It’s empty. No one is here except for me, Lin, and the venture capital firm’s VP of communications. The quiet is even more pronounced because Lin, a partner at Sequoia since 2010, isn’t a big talker. He answers each of the questions I pose thoughtfully and economically. When he’s finished, he stops. He looks at me, waits for the next question. Unlike almost every other person I’ve interviewed in the past 15 years of my career as a business journalist, he feels no need to fill the silent gaps in conversation.

But Lin’s disarmingly low-key presence—and his vacant office—are misleading. Both the man and the firm, one of the oldest and most venerable venture capital shops in Silicon Valley, have had a hell of a year, generating plenty of noise in the tech world and beyond. “Reflecting on it, the words that come out of my head are ‘both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time,’” Lin says when asked how he would sum up his 2020. “There were a lot of highs and a lot of lows.”

The highs are easy enough to unpack. Seven of Sequoia’s portfolio companies IPOed in 2020 (an eighth, Clover Health, joined the public markets via a SPAC). Two of those, Airbnb and DoorDash, were the biggest IPOs of the year, earning the investment firm stakes currently worth more than $23 billion, collectively. These so-called exits helped make 2020 one of Sequoia’s strongest years ever in terms of returns, a notable achievement especially when you consider that the firm, founded in 1972 and named after California’s giant redwood trees, has invested in the likes of Google, LinkedIn, Oracle, and many other humongous tech successes over the decades. Lin was at the forefront of Sequoia’s monster year: Airbnb and DoorDash are his “babies,” and he sits on the boards of both. (Sequoia, for its part, prefers to present its investments as firm-led as opposed to affiliated with any one particular partner.)

The lows are more complicated. They are also harder to quantify—and much harder to talk about, particularly if you’re someone who is not prone to talking much.

Before becoming a venture capitalist at Sequoia, Lin had run several businesses with the entrepreneur Tony Hsieh—their most famous venture was the online footwear marketplace Zappos, which they sold to Amazon in 2009. Lin was the company’s CFO; Hsieh was its CEO. Hsieh, who had reportedly been struggling with drug and alcohol use in recent years, died last November, after suffering injuries in a house fire in New London, Conn. The two had been college classmates and spent 15 years working together as business partners—and close friends. “This is someone that, for a period of my life, I saw every single day,” says Lin. The fact that the personal tragedy struck in the midst of a pandemic made it that much harder to digest and heal. Lin, who tends to be very private, published a “final letter” to Hsieh in Forbes just days after his friend’s death, in which he highlighted some of the ways Hsieh had inspired him. He also used the opportunity to say a final goodbye. “It was a surprisingly authentic way of mourning and grieving and getting closure in the COVID world,” says Lin.

But while the pandemic may have pushed Lin to be more public than usual in his healing process, he remains very much out of the limelight—by design. Unlike a lot of other Silicon Valley venture capitalists, Lin doesn’t do a lot of public speaking. He doesn’t spend much time on social media. He’s never been been active on Clubhouse, the audio-based networking app that went viral in tech circles. (He set up an account just to “test” it out.) “He doesn’t have a million followers on Twitter, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” says Brian Chesky, cofounder and CEO of Airbnb.

Lin has never participated in an in-depth profile; this is his first. But he sat down with me twice, once in Sequoia’s office and once over Zoom, and was willing to talk openly about the wild ride he has been on in recent months, the record financial gains and deep personal loss. He agreed to talk about the impact Hsieh’s unexpected death had on him, and what he learned from his late partner and friend. And he was open, though definitely not boastful, about the part he played in Sequoia’s exceptionally fruitful 2020.

Lin’s relationship with Sequoia actually started back in the days when he was first working with Hsieh, after the VC firm invested in their first company, LinkExchange, in 1997. Sequoia also invested in Zappos, the duo’s second company. And then, after leaving Zappos in 2010, Lin joined Sequoia as a partner.

Both Hsieh and Sequoia have shaped Lin’s career in ways large and small. But that influence has been far from a one-way street. It’s easy to miss in the blinding spotlight that has shone on his former partner and his current firm. But Lin, in his characteristically quiet way, made an indelible mark on each of them as well.

“R.I.P. Good Times”

In the fall of 2008, Sequoia’s partners sent an email to the founders of all of their portfolio companies, asking them to come in for a mandatory, all-hands emergency meeting. More than 100 founders and founding team members gathered for the event, which took place in the Quadrus Conference Center on Sand Hill Road, close to the firm’s office in Menlo Park, Calif. But the message that was relayed at the meeting reverberated way beyond those four walls—prompting a sonic boom throughout Silicon Valley and the broader startup world.

The aim of the meeting was to issue a dire warning to Sequoia’s portfolio companies about just how far south the unfolding recession might send the global economy and, hopefully, provide some tips for how to survive. (In a nutshell: Hunker down.) To drive the message home, the firm’s partners had prepared an ominous, 56-slide presentation, titled “R.I.P Good Times,” which featured all sorts of economic charts sloping downward precipitously. The third slide was simply a knife plunged into a pig’s head—nothing else. Not surprisingly, the deck was effective.

It wasn’t just the visuals that got the industry’s attention. Sequoia was a kingmaker in Silicon Valley—if the firm invested in your company, you were taken seriously. After all, Sequoia was behind some of the biggest tech successes around, from Oracle to Google. So it was simple: When the firm spoke, the startup world listened. The foreboding slide deck was posted online, spreading faster than a beta invite for the latest mobile app. Silicon Valley news site TechCrunch called it a “presentation of doom.” Entrepreneurs freaked out. Layoffs ensued, not just at Sequoia portfolio companies but across the industry.

Lin, who was running Zappos with Hsieh at that time, was one of the entrepreneurs who had piled into the Sand Hill Road conference center. So was Hsieh—the two had flown out together from Las Vegas, where Zappos is headquartered.

But while the Sequoia presentation rattled them—it’s hard to ignore a pig head—its pessimistic message didn’t come as a surprise. The two had already seen sales at Zappos begin to soften in the second half of 2008. They knew it was a dire moment. “Sequoia doesn’t publish any of this stuff to founders unless it’s super important and serious,” says Lin.

Back in Las Vegas, they acted quickly, laying off around 100 employees, 8% of the Zappos workforce at that time. The downturn turned out to be as bad as Sequoia had predicted. “During that time, I noticed there was one day where our sales dropped 30% year over year,” Lin recalls. “I mean, we were growing 30% year over year. To see sales drop 30%, it was quite jarring. And to be able to be prepared for that was quite important. I think if we had not seen that presentation, we wouldn’t have taken it as seriously.”

In the end, Zappos was able to weather the storm. The company even managed to come out stronger, selling to Amazon for $1.2 billion in 2009. But it wasn’t just Sequoia’s guidance that had gotten Lin and Hsieh through the tough times. It was also each other.

A 15-year partnership

The two met as college students, at a dorm party at Harvard University. Lin was a senior, Hsieh was a junior. They had a lot in common. “We were both wearing big glasses and khakis, oversized button-down shirts that were hanging out,” says Lin. As he remembers it, the two of them stood toward the back of the room, observing the others as the crowd got more and more tipsy. While the other students partied, they discussed business ideas. “It was entertaining just to riff with him even if I thought [Hsieh’s ideas] were crazy,” says Lin. “And even if he thought I was thinking too conventionally.”

Lin had always had a nerdy, mathematical streak—okay, more than a streak. “We did a lot of card games that involved a lot of math,” Lin says when asked what he did for fun as a kid.

The 48-year-old moved from Taiwan to the United States when he was just 6, in first grade. His dad had been sent out to New York to open a branch for the international bank where he worked. Lin’s mom had a career in banking too, but she stopped working and became a stay-at-home mom when they moved to the U.S., in order to focus on her children’s education. Lin has a younger brother, and the two boys switched elementary schools three times. “It wasn’t for a better apartment, it was just for a better school district,” he recalls.

Hsieh and Lin bonded over their academically intense childhoods and their nerdy proclivities. But while Lin was methodical and analytical, Hsieh was creative and, sometimes, unrealistic. They both dreamed big, though. Starting with pizza.

There was a restaurant on the ground floor of their dormitory at Harvard, called the Quincy House Grille. It served burgers and fries. Hsieh believed that what college students really wanted, especially after a late night of partying, was pizza. He put in a bid to manage the restaurant; it was up for new management every year. But he did it his way. Instead of the usual one-year deal, he asked for two. For his offer price, meanwhile, he entered, “highest bid + $1.” It worked. And so did the pizza. Hsieh invested in a couple of pizza ovens for the restaurant; word spread, and soon the place had a line out the door.

Lin wasn’t Hsieh’s business partner—yet. But he found a way to get in on the pizza venture anyway. It’s a story Hsieh used to recall often. He even told it in the book he published in 2010, Delivering Happiness, which highlighted the culture the two had created at Zappos. But Lin has a slightly different version.

The two had grown close, and Lin had become Hsieh’s best customer at the Quincy House Grille. It wasn’t because he ate a lot himself. He would buy a full pie, then resell the individual pizza slices. The way Hsieh told the story, Lin charged more money for each slice in order to turn a profit. (And that’s how Hsieh knew he wanted his friend to someday become his CFO.) But as Lin tells it, he kind of fell into the profit part. He says he had negotiated a discount for the pizzas he bought from Hsieh, because he was purchasing such large quantities. So instead of the $2 per slice that the restaurant typically charged, he was getting his pies for about $1.25 or $1.50 per slice. Then he’d run the pizzas upstairs to sell by the slice. But the price hike wasn’t about profits. “I didn’t mark it up, but quarters were a prized commodity because they were needed for washing machines,” says Lin. So instead of $1.25 or $1.50, students gave him $2 per slice.

Whatever the real story is, the pizza connection helped solidify a long-standing friendship and business partnership between the two. They respected each other’s business acumen immensely. They complemented each other. And they would end up working together for 15 years.

Lin and Hsieh eventually ventured West. Hsieh took a job at Oracle, which didn’t last long, and Lin started a Ph.D. program at Stanford University, which also didn’t last long. They both caught the startup bug. Hsieh founded LinkExchange, an online ad marketplace, in 1996. Lin came on board to be his CFO shortly after. After selling LinkExchange to Microsoft in 1998, they started a venture fund. Then they discovered Zappos, which was one of their smaller investments, and decided to take it over; it had been struggling to figure out how to grow. Hsieh came in as CEO, and Lin as CFO. They wound down their venture fund and went all in on shoes.

Zappos wasn’t just a business endeavor. It also gave the two entrepreneurs an opportunity to define and create the kind of culture they wanted to immerse themselves in. (LinkExchange, meanwhile, had given them an opportunity to discover the kind of culture they didn't necessarily want to create.) Their idea? To make both customers and employees happy. It was revolutionary. At Zappos, call center workers weren’t rewarded for getting off the phone quickly with problem customers. It was the opposite—the more time they dedicated to talking through issues with customers, the more they were recognized (the longest customer service call logged in at 10 hours, 51 minutes, and is still celebrated by the company). And the broader mission at Zappos? It included unconventional values like “Create fun and a little weirdness” and “Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.” The company became a case study for its unique culture and innovative approach to customer service. And in the process, Lin and Hsieh also built a multibillion-dollar online shoe store.

Lin left Zappos and joined Sequoia shortly after the Amazon acquisition, while Hsieh stayed on as CEO until August 2020, just months before his death. But Lin says the impact Hsieh had on him is lasting, and helps inform how he works with entrepreneurs to this day. “I think the reason I was good at working with Tony Hsieh, is the same reason I’m good at working with a lot of founders,” says Lin. “Because I try to parse their ideas and figure out how to make them better. I try to be a partner and a coach to them. And that started early on with Tony.”

The circumstances around Hsieh’s death are still murky—and Lin did not want to comment on the details. But articles that were published after Hsieh’s passing painted a picture of drug abuse and all sorts of erratic behavior, including a reported fascination with fire. (Hsieh’s fatal injuries were a result of smoke inhalation from the house fire in Connecticut, where he was staying at the time of his death.)

After Hsieh passed away, Lin was invited to join a memorial for friends and family, an attempt to commemorate the entrepreneur over Zoom. He says it didn’t provide him with the kind of forum he needed to grieve or get closure. That’s why, even though he’s usually very private, he published his letter to Hsieh online.

“I think what I wanted to get across for other people to read, is just the different facets of Tony that I saw,” says Lin. “I think there are certain people that saw certain pieces of Tony throughout different parts of his life. And I had the privilege of seeing him through many different phases, from a nerdy computer science person who was interested in business and wanted to create the best restaurant in a dorm building, to building a first Internet empire, to falling in love with Zappos.”

Lin had watched Hsieh take a crazy idea from concept to reality; he had watched him fundraise and deal with rejection, over and over again. And being exposed to that process, and very much a part of it, helped define him as an entrepreneur—and as an investor.

The Black Swan of 2020

The last time Sequoia’s partners all gathered in person, pre-COVID, was Monday, March 9, 2020. “I made a $20 bet that we wouldn’t be back in the office by July 1st,” says Doug Leone, a partner at Sequoia since 1988. “It was a bet I was hoping I would lose.”

Along with veteran investor Michael Moritz, Leone had been one of the lead instigators of the “R.I.P. Good Times” presentation back in 2008. Now, it was Lin and Roelof Botha, another of the firm’s younger generation of partners who would be the main drivers in Sequoia’s next message to go viral: the “Black Swan” memo. The email went out on March 5, just a few days before the firm’s last in-person gathering. Only this time, it wasn’t leaked. Sequoia published it on Medium.

“Coronavirus is the black swan of 2020,” were the ominous first words in the memo. “Some of you (and some of us) have already been personally impacted by the virus. We know the stress you are under and are here to help. With lives at risk, we hope that conditions improve as quickly as possible. In the interim, we should brace ourselves for turbulence and have a prepared mindset for the scenarios that may play out.”

The message was signed by “Team Sequoia.” But toward the bottom, just one of the firm’s partners was called out: Alfred Lin.

“I was serving as the COO/CFO of Zappos when I was summoned to Sequoia’s office for the infamous R.I.P. Good Times presentation in 2008, prior to the financial crisis,” Lin was quoted as saying in the Black Swan memo. “We didn’t know then, just like we don’t know now, how long or how sharp or shallow of a downturn we will face. What I can confirm is that the presentation made our team and our business stronger. Zappos emerged from the financial crisis ready to seize on opportunities after our competitors had been battered and bruised.”

Sequoia—and Lin—got their prognostications mostly right. But they definitely got dinged for the title (and a few other prophecies, which we’ll get into later).

“There are people who say [the pandemic] was completely foreseeable so therefore it’s not a black swan,” says Lin, adding that the fact that it caught so many people by surprise does merit the headline. Besides, says Lin, “it was catchy.”

Sequoia had no idea exactly how big or how long of a hit its portfolio companies would take as a direct result of the pandemic. But the firm thought the effect of the virus would last at least a few quarters, and that supply chains would be greatly impacted. Just as they had back in 2008, Sequoia again advised its portfolio companies to hunker down, to reevaluate headcount and other expenses.

Lin, who sits on more than 10 boards, including Airbnb and DoorDash, had already been through major crises with several of his entrepreneurs. Sequoia had initially invested in Airbnb in 2009, before Lin joined the firm. In 2012, the partner who had been on Airbnb’s board left Sequoia, leaving a position that needed to be filled. Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO and cofounder, asked Moritz to put Lin on his board. “I went to art school and had no operations experience,” says Chesky. “[Alfred] had operational discipline; he is highly analytical. We are a bit of yin and yang, a symbiotic relationship.”

Lin had also helped build a culture at Zappos that Airbnb’s founders admired. And he, along with Hsieh, had been through not just one but two downturns (in addition to the 2008 economic crisis, Zappos sales had taken a hit post-9/11). All of that experience and knowledge turned out to be very valuable for Chesky. Around 2013, Lin actually spent one day a week in the Airbnb office. It was a period of hypergrowth for the company, when Chesky was struggling to expand his executive leadership team at a clip to match. The CEO was also juggling regulatory lawsuits and instances of discrimination on the platform, and he didn’t have a chief operating officer to help him handle day-to-day management. Enter Lin, who, at least on a temporary basis, assisted Chesky with ramping up customer service and internal operations. “I went through a lot with him,” says Chesky. But the pandemic would test Airbnb in a whole new way.

In March 2020, the company’s business dropped by 80%.

“You learn a lot about people in a crisis,” says Chesky. “Alfred was everything I hoped he would be. He was optimistic and steady. He stood by us; he actually leaned in as a champion.”

Airbnb had to decide whether to raise debt or equity to get through the massive drop in sales. Debt was riskier but cheaper. Lin was a big proponent. He didn’t want Airbnb to take a “down round”—raising equity but lowering the company’s valuation. And he was confident in the company’s ability to rebound in the future. “It was a bit of a Rorschach test for which side you’re on,” Chesky says of the way his board, and Lin, handled the decision.

Airbnb eventually took on $2 billion in debt. It delayed its IPO, originally slated for earlier in 2020, and then finally went public at the end of the year, in December. Sequoia had invested a collective $375 million in Airbnb. Today, its stake in the vacation rental marketplace is worth a staggering $15 billion. After the IPO, Chesky asked Lin to remain on the Airbnb board. Lin agreed.

At the height of the pandemic, the two had talked multiple times a week, sometimes every single day, sometimes hours a day. “We have a very close relationship,” says Chesky. What began as a business relationship has also developed into a friendship.

“He has a poker-faced countenance,” says Chesky. “His voice doesn’t inflect very much when he talks. You don’t know how much he likes you when you first meet him. But he’s extremely passionate, and he’s actually emotional.”

It’s hard to see those characteristics in Lin, even when face-to-face, at least for those who don’t know him as well as Chesky does. But the Airbnb CEO has another proof point for Lin’s more emotive side: “Tony Hsieh would not have had a non-humanist as his partner.”

Saying no—then yes

It wasn’t just the title of the Black Swan memo that Sequoia got a little wrong. It also misjudged a financial aspect of the pandemic, predicting that private financing could “soften significantly,” as had happened in 2001 and 2008–09. In the end, while the virus wreaked havoc on many businesses and many lives, it provided a boon to others. And venture capital dollars, instead of drying up, flowed like never before. Amid the chaos, it wasn’t just Airbnb that bounced back. Another of Sequoia’s investments, and Lin’s board positions, actually ended up profiting immensely from the pandemic, resulting in the second-biggest IPO of the year: food delivery app DoorDash.

“They were really scared that restaurants wouldn’t survive,” Lin says of the takeout delivery app’s initial reaction to the virus. “It was a very uncertain time.”

But Lin never wavered. He and Tony Xu, CEO and founder of DoorDash, had already become close; Lin had been on Xu’s board since Sequoia invested in the company in 2014. Lin spent hours crunching the numbers with Xu, looking for trends and modeling financial projections. Instead of a doomsday scenario, another picture soon emerged: In the first nine months of 2020, DoorDash tripled its revenue, compared with the same time period a year before. The cause? Housebound Americans were ordering more food deliveries than ever before.

Like Airbnb, DoorDash ended up going public in December. In its first day of trading, shares of the company closed at $190, a full 86% above the IPO price of $102.

When Lin first met Xu, though, he wasn’t so sure that DoorDash would be a good investment. At the time, Xu was trying to raise a seed round of financing, and had pitched Lin on the deal. But Lin thought the food delivery space was already crowded and overly competitive, with a slew of well-established rivals like Postmates, Caviar, and Grubhub. He called Xu to tell him that he was passing on the opportunity. “I felt really bad because I didn’t realize he was at a wedding,” says Lin. It wasn’t Xu’s wedding—that came two weeks later. But he was one of the groomsmen at a friend’s ceremony when he got the call.

“It was like, ‘Okay, smile for the cameras,’” recalls Xu. “It was tough, tough to take that rejection, especially when your company doesn’t have much money.”

Though he’d passed on the investment, Lin says Xu made an impression on him: “There was something I just couldn’t get out of my head.”

Xu had been incredibly detailed in his analysis of his business, in the breakdown of how restaurant kitchens operate and how to optimize the process, from cooking lines to front-door delivery. That had impressed Lin. So had Xu’s tenacity. “Founders start companies by ignoring everybody’s advice,” says Lin. “If they listened carefully to all the feedback, they would just not start the companies.”

That certainly had been the case with Hsieh, as Lin had witnessed several times over. “With Tony [Hsieh], I don’t know how many people said no to LinkExchange before Sequoia invested,” says Lin. “I think it was probably a dozen.”

A few years after first meeting Xu, Lin happened to sit down next to the entrepreneur at a dinner put on by venture capitalist Aileen Lee. This time around, he was persuaded. Sequoia participated in DoorDash’s Series A funding round, after passing on the seed. (“God, I was at the same dinner,” says Lee. “Why didn’t I invest in DoorDash?”)

In the end, Sequoia invested a collective $415 million in DoorDash, and the firm’s stake is now worth over $8.5 billion. “I dream of being good enough at my job in order to invest with Alfred,” Lee, founder of investment firm Cowboy Ventures and a friend of Lin’s, jokes when asked about his track record.

Seize the day

Lin has made a name for himself by picking winners. But the entrepreneurs who have worked with him say there’s much more to him—that he’s more than a successful guy who knows how to crunch data.

“You know, behind the scenes, Alfred is a person who I think first and foremost genuinely cares about the entrepreneur,” says Xu. “I think he kind of has to, by the way, because there’s going to be too many tough moments if you’re just looking at the numbers when the numbers don’t exist, and when you have to believe in something with some level of conviction.”

Lin is also on the board of Houzz, a home design site run by cofounder Adi Tatarko. “From the outside he’s a tough person, he’s very analytical and supersmart,” says Tatarko. “But I believe inside he’s a soft person in a good way. He’s in it with you. He goes a very long way to support his founders and to support us the way we want him to support us.”

Jess Lee, a Sequoia partner who works closely with Lin, says his attention to people and culture is a huge part of his appeal to entrepreneurs. “Zappos literally wrote the book on how to build a great company culture,” says Lee. “And, you know, I think that was just as much Alfred as Tony [Hsieh].”

About a year after the Black Swan memo, Sequoia issued yet another message to its founders, including Tatarko, Xu, and Chesky. This one was labeled “COVID Accelerated the Future: Now Seize It.” This particular communication took a much more optimistic tone, projecting that the U.S. was poised for “stronger economic growth” in the second half of 2021 than we’ve seen in decades.

Perhaps because bad news travels faster than good news, this particular manifesto didn’t set off quite the same waves as the R.I.P. Good Times and Black Swan communications had in the past. And unlike those previous memos, there was another element to Sequoia’s advice to startup founders: a focus on the well-being of their teams.

“We’re seeing a difference between how business metrics are performing and how many people in those companies are feeling,” the memo read. “Keep an open dialogue about the challenges your employees face. Strong leadership that puts people first will continue to be critical.”

The tone made sense, not only because of the obvious toll the pandemic had taken on the mental and physical health of many. But also because, particularly for Lin, the year had been a mixed bag. Unprecedented professional highs had coexisted with unprecedented personal lows. Once again, the firm’s memo was simply signed by “Team Sequoia.” But just like Airbnb and DoorDash, and the companies he had run with his late partner, Hsieh, Lin’s touch was palpable, even if his name wasn’t front and center.

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