Sequoia Capital, the 46-year-old venture firm, has secured $6 billion in capital commitments for an $8 billion global fund, according to a new report in the Financial Times. The report echoes a late April piece in the Wall Street Journal that reported Sequoia investors had already committed “roughly” $6 billion to the new fund. A source familiar with the matter confirms for us that both stories are accurate.
The capital commitments thus far have come from investors with no prior relationship to Sequoia. The firm intends to turn to its previous investors for the rest of the capital commitments, which the firm is securing in increments of $250 million or more.
Sequoia now makes more than 50 cents from every dollar returned to its investors from its overseas bets, according to a separate source close to the firm, with the firm’s China strategy proving particularly fruitful. Like numerous Silicon Valley firms, Sequoia decided to dip its toe into the market beginning in 2005. Unlike most Silicon Valley firms that opted not to remain in China, owing either to attrition or because of tenuous relationships with local VCs, Sequoia stayed put, empowering the founder of Sequoia Capital China, Neil Shen, to eventually build up offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai — and to assemble a portfolio that is today rife with highly valuable companies.
Among the many companies Sequoia Capital China has funded: Meituan-Dianping, the group-discount service that sells locally found products and retail services and just filed to go public in Hong Kong; Ele.me, the food ordering company that sold a controlling stake in its business to Alibaba in April for $9.5 billion; DJI, the drone company, which was reported to be raising $1 billion in new funding this spring at a $15 billion valuation; VIP.com, the commerce platform that went public in 2012 and boasts a $7.2 billion market cap; and Didi, the mobile transportation giant that’s in a race against its U.S. rival Uber to conquer the global ride-hailing market. Sequoia is also an investor in the electric car company Nio, which filed confidentially for a U.S. IPO last month.
Many of those started as earlier-stage investments, and a source familiar with the matter to says expect the same, no matter how much Sequoia raises. This person observes that the majority of the funds from Sequoia’s first two global growth funds — which were $700 billion and $2 billion, respectively — have been funneled to companies with which Sequoia was already in business, adding that its new funds will also go mostly to existing portfolio companies and new opportunities.
The race to gather up an unprecedented amount of money — by Sequoia most notably, but also numerous other firms that are raising record-breaking amounts — is directly correlated to one of the biggest disruptive trends in the venture industry in recent years: Softbank’s Vision Fund, a $100 billion fund for now, though SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, talking with the Nikkei last fall, said to expect more gargantuan fund in the not-too-distant future. “The Vision Fund was just the first step. Ten trillion yen [$88 billion] is simply not enough. We will briskly expand the scale. Vision Funds 2, 3 and 4 will be established every two to three years.”
As sources close to the Vision Fund explained its strategy to us last fall, its mission is not to produce venture-like returns. The idea is instead to return more money to investors than private equity firms like KKR, whose first 18 private equity funds wound up delivering more than two times total capital invested on a gross basis, and produced a net IRR of 18.9 percent. Said one source in particular, “If someone is investing in [Vision Fund], he’s expecting to get better returns than with KKR and Blackstone.” Indeed, added this person, 20 percent IRR over seven years — the time SoftBank estimates it will take most of Vision Fund’s bets to play out — is the “worst-case scenario.”
Shen meanwhile suggests that, SoftBank notwithstanding, the game has changed. As he tells the Financial Times of Sequoia’s massive new fundraising effort: “The magnitude is different today because the companies are different today . . . To be the lead investor in a company you can no longer just invest $100 million . . .if you want to build a company that is worth several billion. For that you need $400 million or $500 million.”
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