Sequoia Capital partner and global leader Roelof Botha had one thing written in the corner of his notebook when he joined the venture capital firm – 109.
Speaking to Tim Ferris, Botha said when he joined Sequoia Capital, it was clear that if he wanted to make it as a partner, he needed to produce meaningful gains.
“I set myself a goal of producing a billion Dollars in gains for the partnership because that would mean that I made it at some level,” he said.
“So, 109, which is a billion, was my shorthand for reminding myself what I was striving for.”
He mainly used the notepad during partner meetings on Monday meetings when they reviewed the companies they were assessing.
“That was the most important day. We referred to it as the Olympic finals at Sequoia. It was important to get those decisions right.”
“That was the day when I needed to remember very acutely what I was striving for.”
Botha was always ambitious
Botha was born in Pretoria but was raised in Hout Bay and attended Hoërskool Jan van Riebeeck in Cape Town.
He is the grandson of former foreign affairs minister Pik Botha and the son of economist Dr Roelof Botha.
He was ambitious from a young age and used notes to remind him of his goals.
He put notes on his desk, on his bedroom door, and all over his room, reminding him what he was aiming for.
In high school, it was to be in the top 10 in his province in matric. In university, it was to be the top student.
“When I was tempted to get up to make a cup of tea, watch television, or take a break, I would see what I have written to myself and be reminded what I needed to do to achieve what I wanted to achieve in life,” he said.
As a student, he also wrote down the time he started to study and the time he stopped to have an accurate tally of the time he spent studying.
The method worked. He had the best matric marks in the Cape province and continued his exceptional achievements in university.
Botha graduated from the University of Cape Town with a bachelor of business science degree in actuarial science with the highest grades in that program’s history.
In 1996 he qualified as a Fellow of the Faculty of Actuaries – the youngest person in South Africa to achieve it.
He later completed an MBA at Stanford University, where he was valedictorian of his class.
He continues to use this strategy to keep track of how he spends his time and measure key things he wants to accomplish.
“I always have a running list of the key things I need to focus on for Sequoia Capital and the companies I work with.”