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Sequoia Capital Warned of a ‘Black Swan.’ Instead, 2020 Is One of Its Best Years Ever

At a moment of economic bleakness, the venture firm is posting 11-fold returns, according to data reviewed by Bloomberg.

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Photographer: Nicole Pereira/New York Stock Exchange

About a week before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, one of the world’s leading venture capital firms issued a dire prophecy. Sequoia Capital advised its companies to rein in spending, cut jobs and adapt to a new economic reality. Containing the virus, the investors wrote in a widely circulated memo known as “The Black Swan,” could take several quarters. “It will take even longer for the global economy to recover its footing.”

Barely three months later, they realized that while the virus was killing thousands, leaving countless others jobless and decimating small businesses, it might actually help certain types of companies. The stock market roared back, and businesses lined up to go public, including several of Sequoia’s own. Two of the most valuable companies in the firm’s portfolio, Airbnb Inc. and DoorDash Inc., will hold initial public offerings this week. They’ll cap what will be among the best years in the nearly half-century since Sequoia laid roots.