Sequoia Capital has built a reputation for making early-stage investments in startups, many of which have gone on to become software giants (Apple, Klarna, and WhatsApp, to name a few). Now, as investors compete to engage with the most promising startups first, and the field of entrepreneurs looking to establish and launch businesses grows, the company is taking a different strategy. It is launching a new program called Arc today, which it describes as a catalyst (rather than an accelerator or incubator) that will seek out and work with cohorts of about 15 startups over the course of eight weeks, with a focus on “outlier” founders and startups from across Europe and the United States.
Sequoia will invest $1 million in each startup, provide mentorship on company design from partners and operators linked with the firm (including founders and other important executives from firms it has supported), and take them on a field trip to a renowned company to see it all in action. The first on-site visit will be to Klarna, where companies will spend time with CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski, CXO Camilla Giesecke, CMO David Sandstrom, and CPO David Fock, according to Sequoia. Those who are interested can apply until April 8th, and the program will begin on May 23. The first cohort of Arc will be based in London.
One week at Sequoia’s downtown offices, followed by five weeks of working remotely from wherever the business is ordinarily headquartered, one week on-site with another startup, and lastly one week in Sequoia’s Menlo Park headquarters. Subsequent cohorts will do the same, but will begin in Silicon Valley with the first week. Jess Lee (below, left), a Sequoia partner and chief product officer based in the Silicon Valley office, and Luciana Lixandru (right), a partner based in the firm’s London office, will co-run Arc. Its unique selling feature (apart from the opportunity to work with one of the world’s top VCs) will be its emphasis on discovering “outlier” entrepreneurs.
Sequoia will recruit applicants for Arc through an open procedure, according to Lixandru. Warm introductions aren’t taken into account, and anybody may apply to be examined, vetted, and accepted or refused on equal footing, thanks in part to the data science that Sequoia’s product team (headed by Lee) has developed internally to assess possible investments. While the tech world has some tried-and-true corridors to feed the tech and startup ecosystem — Silicon Valley, certain universities, and previously holding a key role at another successful tech company being three of the most stereotypical and relied-on of these — the growth and increasing decentralization of that ecosystem, accelerated by everyone working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years, is creating new opportunities.