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As far as VCs go, Sequoia Capital is a legendary firm. The startups it has funded include Apple, EA, Yahoo, YouTube and a little company called Google.

That last company seems to be the inspiration for Sequoia's newly-redesigned website, which now sports little more than a search box on its homepage.

Typing text into the search box produces an AJAX-based auto-suggest drop-down much like the one Google uses on its homepage. The drop-down is populated with Sequoia-related results, such as the names of its portfolio companies and staff members.

Clicking on a suggested result generally brings up a sparsely populated page with key details. The page for 'Google', for instance, states "the ultimate search engine. google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin". Outside of a logo and a few additional details, there's not much else. To get details about what Sequoia actually does, how it operates and how to get in touch, you have to click on one of the links contained at the bottom of each page or on the name of the relevant country after performing a search.

Now I'm all for keeping it simple and every once in a while I'll appreciate an attempt at doing something hip but Sequoia Capital's new website strikes me as taking both these things a little too far. The problem here is one of usability. Even if we assume that everyone Sequoia cares to make happy already knows who Sequoia is and what it does, the website is a nightmare to use efficiently. If I'm looking for a list of Sequoia's portfolio companies, for instance, I either have to know to do a search for "portfolio", a sector (e.g. "healthcare") or I have to type in the name of a portfolio company I'm interested in. That's a lot of extra work considering that a 'Portfolio' link would work just fine.

Of course, one might argue that Sequoia is such a 'leet firm that if you can't figure out what is going on with its website (or are annoyed by the poor usability), you should look elsewhere for that $15m you're trying to raise. But that's a poor excuse for having a crappy website.

A good website is not designed to be hip or to show off technology and personally, I think Sequoia's new website is a perfect example of how even those who are tech-savvy can get it wrong when it comes to creating a website that is easy-to-use and effectively conveys information. Sequoia may have one of the finest track records in the world of venture capital, but when it comes to its website, it might do well to hire a professional.

Patricio Robles

Published 20 August, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Rob Mclaughlin

Rob Mclaughlin, VP, Digital Analytics at Barclays

I agree, bad idea for the corp website.

However, I think it would make a cool campaign site, almost an in-the-know quirk given the Google heritage at Sequoia.

about 7 years ago

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patrick

Dot-on Patricio, there is nothing more simpler than instead of figuring out what to say - than allowing for hipe to be created around an issue which isn't one.

Sequoia Capital - if it wanted to be truly advanced, it shouldn't have had a website to begin with.

Only point of the article I don't agree with,  it's that the web didn't go far enough.  This is not simplicity, but its giving people the round and round as if for each page view there would be sometype of revenue earning scheme. Didn't anybody advise them that their news section was the least interesting section of their website?

about 7 years ago

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Julia Shuvalova

I was thinking of Paul Arden's book on advertising, the chapter where he looked at the business card examples. Along the lines of "A. Taylor, Architect" through "A. Taylor, Architects", and "A. Taylor, Owner" to no business card at all because big guys don't carry business cards, i.e. everyone knows them. I simply wonder if Sequoia is doing a similar thing here, but from the website perspective.

about 7 years ago

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Steve Gorney

There is no question that this move is about building a "buzz" like this blog instead of usability or SEO. This is an elite move as you mentioned, because they can. We have seen obtuse marketing campaigns before and this concept is similar. Having hired investment bankers and been in front of the largest capital firms the US, I understand this world and how it works. And in reality, if you are visiting a investment capital firm's website, you probably know what you are looking for. Most people are looking for funding, so I typed in "capital funding and it showed me how to submsit my business plan. Pretty quickly.

If they had just released another high end website, it would not be news. This is one is. And now we are talking about it!

about 7 years ago

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AlexW

Actually, as a journalist covering VCs, I quite dig this. You get to the information immediately, don't get lost in obtuse layers of website, and don't click around with increasing frustration. The couple searches I did gave real results immediately.

about 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Steve,

Sequoia doesn't need "buzz". Buzz doesn't help it produce the home runs that make limited partners money. The only news that's worth anything to a VC firm is the news that one of its portfolio companies just got bought out for $1bn.

about 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

On the surface it looks like a shocking website and one that comes across as rather arrogant, though I doubt they set out with that as a desired outcome. However, do they really need a traditional website?

Taking traditional usability into account, the search results list is incredibly unfriendly and makes me want to turn off immediately. 

Not sure Alex how you got the info immediately - all the site does is search google. I ran a search for "apply for funding" and all I got was one poorly displayed and confusing result.

This is the kind of website that appeals to a small % of potential visitors. If that is what they want, then job done. I wonder if given what Sequoia do and their reputation, that is all they wanted to achieve - what people like myself or general browsers think then becomes irrelevant.

about 7 years ago

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Steve Gorney

Patricio:

I agree that home runs are needed by these firms. But it is still a competitive marketplace. Good plans get shopped to many VCs. If it is worthy, it gets offers from a few. So "buzz" is still important to the largest VCs. They still have a marketing budget and spend to build brand. And Internet buzz is cool because of the activity in Social Media etc.

about 7 years ago

Alec Kinnear

Alec Kinnear, Creative Director at Foliovision

Looks like you missed the contact | start | work | read | clients at the bottom of the page which lead to all the essentials, Patrick.

Anything for some controversy and some cheap page views, eh?

(Yes I am Canadian.)

about 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Alec,

I assume you meant to write "Patricio". In case you missed it, I wrote "...which now sports little more than a search box on its homepage".

And in case you actually didn't browse the Sequoia website (which appears to be the case), those links at the bottom of the page don't lead to "all the essentials". You won't, for instance, find a list of the firm's partners on any of those pages. And you won't find a list of the firm's portfolio companies either. Generally those are the things someone would be most interested in when looking at a VC firm's website. Go figure.

So let me ask you a simple question since you're a 'design guy': would you actually call Sequoia's user experience intuitive and user-friendly? I certainly hope not.

about 7 years ago

Alec Kinnear

Alec Kinnear, Creative Director at Foliovision

Hi Patricio,

I think Sequoia's search angle is a very original approach to the issue of information overload. This is a problem which is attacking our own websites now (they have so much good information that it is becoming too impressive and too much).

I think Sequoia are at the point where people know who they are: i.e. they have the credentials to pull this off.

I'd have to spend some more time on their site to really come to a conclusive opinion. But remember important change first startles when it comes. Only later is it accepted as doctrine.

PS. I did browse the Sequoia website before commenting of course. I don't quite understand the tone of hostility which seems to quietly pervade most of your articles and even more your comments. Last time I checked this is not a war zone and children are not dying here.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

about 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Alec,

I enjoy the discussions and debates that form around posts here and there's absolutely nothing wrong with voicing an opinion and engaging in healthy disagreement. That said, I don't know how one is supposed to repond to a comment that alleges an oversight that doesn't exist and remarks "Anything for some controversy and some cheap page views, eh?" If you sense any hostility here, you might want to consider what you wrote.

Moving on to a more constructive subject...as for information overload, I agree with you that this is a broader problem on the web but I personally don't see it being a problem here. Effectively organizing and presenting information about a VC firm (partners, portfolio companies, etc.) on an individual website doesn't stand out as a particularly challenging information architecture task. We're not talking about thousands upon thousands of pages here or content that is hard to categorize and classify.

There may be websites where Sequoia's approach makes sense. Unfortunately, it's not on Sequoia's website. This is originality for originality's sake. In my humble opinion, of course.

about 7 years ago

Alec Kinnear

Alec Kinnear, Creative Director at Foliovision

So what is it that you would like to know which you can't find out from the Sequoia site, Patricio?

The essentials are at the bottom and the search function works.

Sounds like how most of us use the internet every day.

When you reach the level of notoriety in your field that Sequoia has, you can challenge your visitors.

It might be a great tactic to prevent dunces from contacting them. Anyone clever enough to put together a plan in which they would like to participate can surely figure out how to use their Google-like website.

almost 7 years ago

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Rick

Hate to break it to everyone here but VC websites are useless. You can probably count on 1 hand the number of startups funded by a firm like Sequoia through a biz plan submitted by website.

almost 7 years ago

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