Sequoia Capital Application Guide: Stand Out & Get Backed

Learn to pitch your startup to Sequoia Capital with our expert tips on what Sequoia is looking for and customizable templates for different industries.

Sequoia Capital Application Guide

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Short answer

What makes an effective Sequoia pitch deck?

An effective Sequoia pitch deck communicates your startup's unique value proposition, market opportunity, and competitive edge. It combines clear, data-backed storytelling with a compelling vision, demonstrating the potential for growth and the team's capability to execute on that vision.

Only 1% of startups succeed. Do you know how to stand out?

Stepping up to pitch to Sequoia Capital means you're in the major leagues, where only the best 1% break through. Picture this: someone else living out the success you've dreamt about because they nailed their pitch and you didn’t.

The reality is stark: without a stellar pitch, your startup might never move past the concept stage.

Stick around, and I'll teach you how to pitch like a pro and transform your presentation into a compelling story that Sequoia can’t overlook.

Let's get started!

What is Sequoia looking for in a startup?

Sequoia Capital is a big name in venture capital, known for picking winners like Google and Apple. They have a really sharp eye for what makes a startup special.

Here are 7 main things they look for when deciding to invest:

  1. The right team: Sequoia loves teams that are not just smart and creative but also passionate about what they’re doing. They value teams that have shown they can work well together and make things happen.

  2. Big markets: They’re interested in startups that are aiming for big, growing markets. If you’re tackling a niche that’s underserved or totally new, that’s even better in their books.

  3. Important problems: Sequoia gets excited about startups that are solving real, big problems. They like it when technology is used to shake up old ways of doing things or to open up brand new markets.

  4. Standing out: Having something that sets you apart from the crowd is key. This could be a new technology, a different way of doing business, or something else that gives you an edge over others.

  5. Good financials: They take a close look at your financials. Startups that have shown they can grow their revenue and have a clear path to making more money catch their eye. They also like it when you use your funds wisely.

  6. Growth potential: Sequoia is all about growth. They want to see that you have a solid plan for getting bigger and reaching more customers.

  7. A solid business model: Your plan for making money needs to be strong and sustainable. They’re looking for innovative ways you’re going to keep growing and succeeding in the long run.

How do you pitch your startup to Sequoia?

Pitching to Sequoia Capital isn't just about showcasing a brilliant idea; it's about demonstrating that your startup is ready to redefine its industry.

Sequoia has a legacy of backing companies that have become household names, and they're always on the lookout for the next big thing.

But what sets a successful pitch apart? Drawing from a wealth of resources, including Sequoia's own insights, expert advice, and real-world experiences, here's how you can craft a pitch that captures Sequoia's attention.

1) Define your company purpose clearly

Your pitch needs to kick off with a clear and compelling statement about what your company is set to achieve. Sequoia advises founders to encapsulate their company's purpose in a single, declarative sentence.

This isn't about listing features; it's about zooming out to communicate your mission. Think of Airbnb's early vision of "reinventing travel and hospitality." It's succinct, ambitious, and tells you exactly what they set out to change.

2) Identify the pain point with precision

Every great innovation starts with identifying a problem that needs solving. Sequoia wants to know the specific pain point your customer faces, how it's currently addressed, and where existing solutions fall short.

Being detailed here shows you understand your market inside and out. This is about showing the change your product brings, moving customers from a less desirable state to a more desirable one.

3) Present your solution

After laying out the problem, it's time to shine a spotlight on your solution. What's your product's unique value proposition? Why is it compelling, and how will it stand the test of time?

Sequoia is looking for solutions that not only address current market gaps but are also poised for long-term success. Your solution should reflect a deep understanding of the problem and an innovative approach to solving it.

4) Explain why now’s the right time

Sequoia and other top VCs often ask, "Why now?" This is your cue to explain the market dynamics that make this the perfect time for your solution.

Maybe it's a technological advancement, a shift in consumer behavior, or a new regulatory environment. Whatever it is, make it clear why your startup will succeed right now.

5) Show the size of your market

Sequoia is in the business of backing companies with the potential to dominate large markets. Illustrate how your startup taps into a significant market opportunity.

If you're creating a new market, even better. This is about vision and scalability. Sequoia appreciates founders who can segment markets innovatively, suggesting a path to becoming a market leader.

6) Know your competition

Acknowledging your competition shows you're realistic and have done your homework. Sequoia wants to see that you know who you're up against and have a strategy to win.

This includes direct and indirect competitors, as well as the current alternatives your potential customers might be using.

7) Show how you will thrive

A brilliant idea needs a solid business model to succeed. Sequoia looks for clarity on how your startup will make money, scale, and sustain profitability over time.

Whether it's a subscription model, a marketplace, or something entirely new, your business model should align with your overall vision and market opportunity.

8) Introduce the team

Introduce your team and highlight the journey that brought you together to solve this problem. Sequoia values the story of your founders and key team members because it's the people behind the idea that drive a company's success.

Remember, this is more about why your team is the right fit for this challenge than listing impressive resumes.

According to Stanford professor and investor, Michael Dearing:

“Sequoia tends to match well with founders who have three traits in common with the firm's partners: exceptionalism that they're the best, black and white thinking that leads to a strong sense of conviction, and a love for "wrenching change" that can turn an industry on its head.”

9) Present numbers that make sense

If you're at a stage where you have financials to share, include them. They offer a concrete way to demonstrate your business's potential for growth and profitability. Even early estimates can help paint a picture of your financial acumen and realism.

10) Paint a picture of your vision for the future

Finally, Sequoia wants to know your long-term vision. If everything goes according to plan, what will you have built in 5 years? This is your chance to dream big and show Sequoia the world-changing potential of your startup.

As Team Sequoia says:

“We love partnering with founders hell-bent on bringing an idea to life that conventional wisdom deems impossible.”

11) End with a clear next step

Concluding your pitch with a clear call to action is as vital as the pitch itself. This approach shows your eagerness to progress and commitment to building a partnership that goes beyond just securing funding.

Embedding your calendar for scheduling follow-up meetings can significantly reduce the friction in moving from interest to action.

Meanwhile, an external link can provide immediate access to more detailed information, such as technical whitepapers or comprehensive market analysis, further educating potential investors about your startup's value proposition.

Great example of a smart CTA:

Next steps slide example

If you want to learn how to structure and format your Sequoia pitch deck, check out our post containing the Sequoia pitch deck structure template.

Interactive Sequoia pitch deck templates

When presenting your startup idea to a prestigious firm like Sequoia Capital, the right tools can make all the difference.

Interactive Sequoia pitch deck templates allow you to customize content quickly to suit your startup’s unique angle.

Also, incorporating interactive elements like embedded calendars and external links makes your pitch more engaging and facilitates immediate action, setting you apart from the crowd.

Just grab one.

No templates found
Dominika Krukowska

Hi, I'm Dominika, Content Specialist at Storydoc. As a creative professional with experience in fashion, I'm here to show you how to amplify your brand message through the power of storytelling and eye-catching visuals.

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