Sequoia said to cut talent team following Moritz’s exit

Talent directors Janine O’Neill, Kimber Schlegelmilch and Brandon Sligh are no longer listed on Sequoia's operator team page after reports that it let go of seven people from its operations team.

Sequoia Capital continues to make news with changes to its staffing. The legendary venture firm has let go of seven employees from its operations team, or about one-third of its staff who support start-up talent, according to reports by Forbes and Bloomberg.

The news came days after Sequoia notified its limited partners that longtime partner and VC icon Michael Moritz had left the firm after 38 years and The Information reported that four other partners had left the firm. The staffing shake-up comes a little more than a month after the global VC firm said it would split into three separate entities.

On Monday, Forbes reported that Sumaiya Balbale, Sequoia’s chief operating officer, confirmed the departures of the seven staffers, noting that the firm had doubled its talent support staff when business was booming a couple of years ago.

“Especially during the peak years of 2021 and 2022, the talent needs of our portfolio tripled,” Balbale reportedly told Forbes. “As the market corrected, there was a pause and the number of inbound requests and hiring needs that our companies were asking of us decreased.”

An LP who was notified about Moritz’s departure said they were not notified about the reduction in staff, but that is not typically something a GP would communicate because the staffers were not key persons.

Sequoia did not disclose the names of the staffers who have departed, but Venture Capital Journal found through a review of cached pages of the firm’s website that at least four people are no longer listed on its “operator” team page: talent directors Janine O’Neill, Kimber Schlegelmilch and Brandon Sligh and director of investor operations, Yang Du.

O’Neill joined Sequoia in July 2019, while Schlegelmilch and Sligh joined in November 2021, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Du was hired by Sequoia in September 2021, his LinkedIn profile shows.

The reduction of talent staff comes just three months after talent partner Jaime Bott departed Sequoia after nearly 13 years. She joined the firm as an analyst and second talent hire in July 2010 and worked her way up to partner “leading a 24-person global team covering engineering, go-to-market and exec hiring for Sequoia-funded startups,” Bott wrote on her LinkedIn profile.

Sequoia’s operator team page now lists 32 people, down from 36 in January.

Just last week, Sequoia notified its investors about Moritz’s exit, which was effective July 19. “We are writing to inform you that Michael Moritz will leave Sequoia Capital after nearly 38 years with the partnership, effective July 19, 2023,” the firm wrote in a letter seen by Venture Capital Journal. “We are immensely grateful for all of Michael’s contributions. He helped establish Sequoia as one of the leading technology investment groups in the world, both as a leader of the firm for two decades and through his representation of the partnerships in companies like Yahoo!, PayPal, Google, Zappos, Instacart, Stripe and Klarna, to name a few.”

The same day that the news broke about Moritz, The Information reported that four other partners had left the firm: seed/early-stage investors Mike Vernal and Daniel Chen and growth investors Michelle Fradin and Kais Khimji. All of them except for Chen are still listed as team members on Sequoia’s website.

The staffing revamp followed Sequoia’s June 6 announcement that it would split into three “completely independent partnerships and become distinct firms with separate brands no later than March 31, 2024.”

The firm noted that Sequoia China will adopt the name HongShan and be led by Neil Shen; Sequoia India/SEA will become Peak XV Partners and be headed by Shailendra Singh; and the firm’s US/Europe operations will continue to be known as Sequoia Capital and led by Botha.

Sequoia wrote on Twitter the break-up was needed because: “It has become increasingly complex to run a decentralized investment business. For example, each business has evolved to meet opportunities in their markets across a wide variety of sectors… This has made using centralized back-office functions more of a hindrance than an advantage.

“Additionally, as each entity’s portfolio has expanded to include companies that are becoming global leaders, we’ve seen growing market confusion due to the shared Sequoia brand as well as portfolio conflicts across entities.”