Sequoia Capital, one of the most successful Silicon Valley venture capital firms, has redesigned its Web site, reducing it to a simple search bar.
[Update: Sequoia apparently is using this to measure which partners and deals are getting the most interest from visitors to its site, according to a source who requested anonymity and who got in touch after this story was published.]
Type in some letters, and the site makes suggestions based on the words it thinks you’re typing (image here shows a search for “China”).
Most venture capital firms have web sites that show off a bunch of partners standing in a profile shot, with blue shirts. Sequoia’s site had always been different, because it was full of images of the successful entrepreneurs it had backed (see image at bottom for how it looked before). However, this latest move doesn’t come that much as a surprise. Sequoia has prided itself on bucking the trend. It is quiet, media shy, and somewhat Spartan: Its partners work extremely hard, are successful, yet “don’t have a celebratory culture,” as one partner put it to me once.
Also, the firm always seemed to be drawing controversy with its Web site. Sequoia backed PayPal, and there have long been rumors that PayPal chief executive Peter Thiel had a tension-filled relationship with the firm. So when images appeared of PayPal’s various co-founders on Sequoia’s site a few years ago, people wondered why Thiel and his co-founders Max Levchin and Elon Musk weren’t given equal treatment. Sequoia then rejigged the site so that there was no apparent snub. And just last week, we wrote about Sequoia’s increasing activities in China and India and remarked on how its site mainly still celebrated the entrepreneurs it had backed in Silicon Valley (though, true, the firm does have subsidiary regional funds and is giving them more editorial freedom with their sites: See Israel, India, and China sites. Aside from a search bar, those regional sites also sport images of local entrepreneurs). Finally, the firm had even slapped another firm with a lawsuit, accusing it of copying the site. That, even though Sequoia’s site has never really looked that good: The garish green and blocky interface made it seem outdated.
So perhaps it all became too much. Rather than continue to draw scrutiny, and petty misunderstandings, why not take it all down and start again — with a search bar that looks just like Google? After all, Sequoia backed Google, and that is success enough.