Meet Roelof Botha, The South African Investor Who Funded The Launch Of YouTube In 2005
South African veteran investor Roelof Botha is probably one of the most prominent investors in the United States because of the billions he has helped create.
Roelof Botha joined venture capitalist firm Sequoia in 2003 at the age of 30 and has appeared on the Forbes Midas List 14 times. He is currently #36 on the Midas List: Top Tech Investors.
Coming from a family of prominent South Africans, Botha was set to be a global icon.
His father is an economist while his uncle was the rock musician Piet Botha.
Botha’s grandfather was Roelof Frederik “Pik” Botha, a politician who served as apartheid South Africa’s last foreign minister, and the first minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs under former President Nelson Mandela.
The venture capitalist was born in Pretoria, and at the age of six, he moved to Cape Town with his parents. He was raised in Hout Bay and attended Hoërskool Jan van Riebeeck, an Afrikaans school.
Before college, his first job was as a door-to-door salesman for Golden Products, selling the local Tupperware. “It was awful,” he admitted.
His college choice came from his desire to expand his opportunities. He said:
“I grew up in South Africa and went to an Afrikaans high school, and we didn’t speak English at home. But I pushed myself to go to an English-speaking university, and that opened up a door.”
Botha attended the University of Cape Town from 1991 to 1994, attaining a degree in Actuarial Science, Economics, and Statistics.
He became the youngest licensed actuary in South Africa’s history at 22.
From 1996 to 1998, he was a business analyst at McKinsey & Co. in Johannesburg. While in South Africa, Botha was closely monitoring developments in Silicon Valley, United States, and it tickled his fancy.
The period heralded the beginning of the internet and he knew he had to be in the mix.
Wasting no time, Botha left his good job in Johannesburg and moved to the United States, where he received an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 2000.
In 1999 before Botha’s graduation, a friend introduced him to fellow South African, Elon Musk, who wanted him at PayPal. He said no to Elon twice but then the rand crumbled, wiping out his savings.
He was left with no choice because he needed rent for April. Botha joined PayPal as the director of corporate development in March 2000.
In September 2001, he moved to vice-president of finance and was named CFO. Meg Whitman offered Botha the opportunity to stay on as CFO after PayPal went public and was bought by eBay, but he left to join Sequoia Capital in January 2003.
It was at Sequoia that Botha oversaw the firm’s investment in YouTube before its launch in 2005. The company’s website reports that he was a partner in the YouTube investment phase.
After the 2005 launch, Botha served as a Director on YouTube’s Board until the Google acquisition in 2006
Here is a list of some of the world’s biggest companies that Botha and Sequoia funded at the earliest stages of development.
- Instagram – now part of Meta, is the world’s most popular photo-sharing app.
- Xoom – now part of PayPal, is a global money transfer service.
- Tumblr – now part of Yahoo, is a short-form, mixed-media blogging platform.
- Square – is a payment service that helps more people start, run and grow their businesses.
- Landis – help renters become homeowners.
- mmhmm – is a new and better way to create clear, compelling communications via video.
Botha has sat on the boards of YouTube, Instagram, Meebo, TokBox,
Today, Botha is Sequoia Capital’s Senior Steward of its global brand and operations.