This CEO has gotten Sequoia Capital to invest in each of his last four startups. Now, he says the legendary VC firm has changed over the years - for the better.

This CEO has gotten Sequoia Capital to invest in each of his last four startups. Now, he says the legendary VC firm has changed over the years - for the better.

Clari CEO Andy Byrne

  • Andy Byrne is the founder and CEO of Clari, an AI startup that helps businesses manage sales and customer relations.
  • It is Byrne's 4th startup - and has secured funding from the legendary
  • The serial entrepreneur says the legendary Silicon Valley VC firm, which funded the likes of Apple, Google and Oracle, has changed in the way it works with entrepreneurs. "They've moved from arrogant to empathetic."
  • Byrne said Sequoia has become more of a partner to entrepreneurs, not just an investor.
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Andy Byrne is working on his fourth tech startup - and just as with all of his previous ventures, it is backed by Sequoia Capital, with whom the serial entrepreneur has had a long and deep relationship.

In fact, he can be brutally frank about the way the legendary Silicon Valley venture capital firm, which funded such tech icons as Apple, Google and Oracle in their earliest days, has evolved in the last decade.


"They've moved from arrogant to empathetic," Byrne told Business Insider. "They've moved from investor to partner, which is really nice to see."

Byrne is now the co-founder and CEO of Clari, a cloud platform that helps businesses use AI to manage sales and customer relations. The startup, which was co-founded by Venkat Rangan and which counts the likes of Lenovo, Adobe, Dropbox and Okta as its clients, has raised $70 million from investors including Sequoia, Bain Capital Ventures, and Tenaya Capital.

Dot-com boom

He's been on the founding teams of three other Sequoia-backed startups: the healthcare software design firm VitaSigns; Timestock, a web applications monitoring company; and the e-discovery firm Clearwell Systems, which he himself co-founded with Rangan and is now owned by Symantec.


Byrne first got involved with Sequoia in the late 1990s when he was brought in to help entrepreneur Jim Goetz, now a Sequoia partner, help launch VitalSigns. He's been helping build startups for Sequoia ever since.

This was during the first wave of the web revolution and the dot-com boom-turned-bust. Founded in 1972, Sequoia didn't face a lot of competition back then and was "one of a handful of great firms," Byrne said.

That bred the arrogance Byrne talked about. Sequoia's attitude, he said, was, "Hey, we're just going to give you money and we're going to show up at board meetings and comment on your direction in a relatively strong opinion."


A lot has changed in the past 10 years. Today, he said, Sequoia's approach embraces a more collaborative approach that says, "Hey, we are all about building this business together."

"The thought process is very long term," he added. "They're not in it to try and build the company and flip it. They're trying to build companies that are of enduring quality."

That transformation was due to a key factor, Byrne said: Sequoia actually has been bringing in experienced entrepreneurs into the team, including Goetz.


"The stewards of Sequoia - they all have operator backgrounds," he said. "They've become closer to entrepreneurs because they've hired a lot of entrepreneurs." And many of the entrepreneurs Sequoia works with are actually "return entrepreneurs," he said.

AI-powered sales management

Clari itself underscores heightened investor interest in AI, particularly in enterprise sales and customer relations.

Clari now claims 250 customers, including prominent tech companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Juniper Networks and Palo Alto Networks, and Byrne boasts that it routinely competes with giants like Salesforce and Marketo on major deals.


The company uses AI to turn the typically static data collected through a customer relations platform into dynamic information that a sales organizations could use to chase leads and find ways to keep current clients satisfied. Clari also uses internal communications within the organization and with customers to drill down on the sales operations of a customer.

"We're tracking who's meeting whom, how many people are they meeting with. Who are they meeting with? Are they senior level people? Are they young individual contributors?"

Clari's technology uses AI "to make sense of where we have issues, where we have upsides and predict outcomes," Byrne said.


For an enterprise with a salesforce of thousands, for example, Clari can quickly crunch data that can produce valuable insights, Byrne said.

"We look at all the deals you won, all the deals you lost, all the deals you split. We look at the human behavior of that army of people over hundreds of thousands of deals," Byrne said. "And we say, 'Here are the deals you are managing. Here's where we think you have risks. Here's the suggested moves you should make.'"

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