[TechSparks 2020] Sequoia's Shailendra Singh says, 'Christmas came in early; pandemic led to multi-year acceleration in tech adoption'

At TechSparks 2020, Sequoia Capital MD Shailendra Singh spoke about building enduring companies in a post-pandemic world during a virtual fireside chat with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma.
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Unprecedented. Disruptive. Tragic. All kinds of words have been used to describe the ongoing pandemic and its impact on the way we live, work, communicate, etc.

However, amidst all the challenges, the pandemic-induced disruption has boosted digital adoption and the startup economy like nothing else.

"Sequoia Global says Christmas has come in early [for startups]. I'd say Christmas 2024 has come in early. It has brought about a multi-year acceleration of digital adoption, be it in SMEs, fintech, prosumer, and many other categories," Sequoia Capital MD Shailendra Singh told YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma.

"Look at remote work. It is a crazy social experiment. We may see a radical transformation in how people go back to work. It may shape how startups recruit talent. They could work anywhere in Europe or Southeast Asia and recruit from anywhere in the world," he stated, in a virtual fireside chat at TechSparks 2020, India's most influential startup-tech conference.

Sequoia Capital MD Shailendra Singh in conversation with Shradha Sharma at TechSparks 2020

'Best time to build startups'

Sequoia Capital believes that there has been no better time to build startups in India than now. In fact, not just in India, but in Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia too.

However, the focus should be on building "enduring" companies. And that isn't easy.

Shailendra said, "Success is common, but enduring success that can last for decades is rare. Most people want to build sustainable companies, they just don’t know how. Because we live in this noisy environment with companies raising hundreds of millions of dollars, turning unicorns... then you see churn, you're attacked on social media, you may run out of money, investors may be chasing you. The startup world can be the toughest place to figure out what you should do."

To combat this, Sequoia is urging all its founders to "think first principles".

"You have to have very good calibration of when to accelerate, when to slow down, and when to go to market," Shailendra explained.

Image: Recode

Showing restraint between curves

It's easy to be extravagant when you have resources. But do you really need to?

Sequoia believes that's the question founders should be asking themselves.

Shailendra shared,

"The hardest thing to do is to have restraint when you have the resources. Founders always want to spend more on marketing, growth, and talent. Sometimes they want to blitzscale so that their company and the category become synonymous, especially in consumer tech. But we urge them to not make knee-jerk changes when they have resources. Moving from one curve of acceleration to another is tough. Nobody can do that perfectly."

Why does blitzscaling happen anyway? Is it the right approach for startups?

"The prize for winning a tech category is so big that when something becomes successful, within two weeks, there are clones. And someone or the other will go and fund that. So, once you are successful, founders think of going all out and capturing the market," he explained.

However, he added that a lot of very good companies (especially in SaaS) are scaling up in stealth so that they are "not copied and cloned".

For more information on TechSparks 2020, check out our TechSparks 2020 website. Sign up here to join the event. 


TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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