Deals

Sequoia takes root in Evernote as early investor gets big exit

In a head-scratching private-market barter, illustrious venture firm Sequoia Capital has managed to secure an even larger chunk of up-and-coming Silicon Valley startup Evernote.

Russian firm Troika Ventures, Evernote’s first institutional investor, sold its stake in the note-taking and note-sharing company at more than ten times its investment.

Troika led a $4.5 million raise in Evernote in January 2009 (the round closed later in the year at $6.5 million), and quickly piled on with new investors in Evernote’s $10 million Series B offering.

Sequoia Capital was founded in 1972 and has invested in many companies including Apple, Google, PayPal, and LinkedIn. It’s estimated that 19 percent of the NASDAQ’s value is made up of companies Sequoia has funded. The firm is also already deeply rooted in Evernote; it led both Evernote’s $20 million Series C round and its $50 million Series D round.

The cash-for-more-land-grab exchange strikes us as a bit odd. Evernote, which purports to now have more than 20 million users, has seen substantial growth since Troika’s first investment, and has gone on to raise $95.5 million in total funding. Clearly, this is a startup that industry insiders think has a shot at a sizable exit, whether that be an acquisition or an IPO (and we know CEO Phil Libin is leaning toward the latter).

And therein lies the problem. The only obvious reason Troika would divest its stake now is because Evernote appears to be in no hurry to make its debut on the public market.

A statement from the company supports this reasoning. “The exit, at over ten times our original commitment, was a difficult decision for Troika and for me personally, but we ultimately decided to provide liquidity to our investors at a multiple return on their investment rather than await the next exit opportunity,” firm head Artyom Yukhin said.

Evernote did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Photo credit: micamica/Flickr

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