Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

On March 5, Sequoia Capital issued a dire warning to its portfolio company CEOs, telling them to "question every assumption" about their businesses.

Flashback: At the time, the WHO wouldn't categorize COVID-19 as a pandemic for another two weeks. The NBA was still playing games in front of fans. Congress had just committed $8 billion to fight the virus, believing it to be a sufficient amount, and non-citizen travel from Europe into the U.S. was still allowed. Kids were still in school.

Nine months later, Sequoia's letter stands as prophetic, befitting a firm long viewed as venture capital's platinum standard. And, like with Sequoia's "RIP Good Times" warning from October 2008, this one deserves credit for waking entrepreneurs — and other VCs — to the mortal danger before it was too late.

  • The goal, as Sequoia's Roelof Botha told me at the time, was to "sensitize" companies to compound risk, which is something people don't intuitively contemplate (particularly when it comes to public health).
  • Sequoia didn't tell people their businesses were on the brink. Rather, it provided a brief playbook for how to lessen the odds they'd reach that point, advising founders to recalibrate cash assumptions and reconsider spending plans in areas like marketing and new hires.
  • In short, the best way to keep the gravy train rolling was to give it a respite.

No, Sequoia didn't get everything right.

  • The firm suggested it would take "perhaps several quarters before we can be confident that the virus has been contained." Clearly an underestimation.
  • It also argued that Fed interest rate cuts "may prove a blunt tool in alleviating the economic ramifications of a global health crisis." That was true, but neglected to predict how monetary policy would help cleave the investment economy from the real economy, and how that dichotomy would keep fueling private and public equity deal-making.

The bottom line: We should all hope Sequoia never again feels compelled to pen another of these letters. But, if it does, we'd best pay attention.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Dec 11, 2020 - Technology

TikTok owner ByteDance set to become world's most valuable VC-backed company

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

ByteDance is closing in $2 billion in new funding co-led by KKR and existing backer Sequoia Capital at a $180 billion valuation, per Reuters.

Why it matters: This would cement China-based ByteDance as the world's most valuable VC-backed company, worth 3X the next-largest unicorn, and comes despite the U.S. government's efforts to force its divestiture of TikTok.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

5 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.