SThe good times are over, the partners of Sequoia Capital are telling the entrepreneurs they fund. Quite literally: They sent a summons to a summit meeting with a picture of a gravestone with the writing "R.I.P. Good Times," rival venture capitalist Om Malik reports. There, partners including Michael Moritz and Doug Leone told CEOs of companies in their portfolio that they should steel themselves for a prolonged downturn, make their businesses self-sustainable, and cut all unnecessary costs.I would be more impressed if Sequoia hadn't pulled this act before when the last bubble burst. True, they called the movement of the market. But it's conventional wisdom today that the economy is tanking. But what does the economy have to do with the startups Sequoia funds? The whole point of venture capital is to nurture companies that need capital. Part of the art of investing in startups is knowing when to push them out of the nest. Templated cost-cutting advice, applied across Sequoia's portfolio, is hardly a value-add. And it's not clear how this was bad advice a year ago. Sequoia's portfolio should have been keeping a close eye on costs then as now. The IPO market is definitely ailing now, but it's hardly been healthy over the last few years. Large acquisitions have been scant since MySpace and YouTube got bought. The chaos on Wall Street doesn't change the bleak outlook for exiting startup investments profitably that existed beforehand. So what's really going on here? Consider two of the companies that heard Sequoia's speeches last time around: PayPal and Google. They both spent and grew aggressively in the face of a local recession. They both managed to IPO when few tech companies were going public. And they both delivered handsome profits to Sequoia. I'm just guessing at Moritz's game, but here's what I suspect is going through his head: He could have delivered a cost-cutting sermon a year ago, true. But his entrepreneurs are far more likely to listen to it now. And the rest of Silicon Valley is listening, too. He's made his bit of noise, knowing full well word would leak out, and put a scare in all his competitors. How convenient that this scare-tactics summit was held just a month after Sequoia raised $1.7 billion in new funds. While everyone else is hunkering down, Sequoia will cull the weaklings from its portfolio, double down on the winners — and profit before anyone realizes the good times are back. Well played, Michael, well played.
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