Devin Bhushan is the Founder & CEO of Squint, an augmented reality solution for industrial workers. Devin participated in the Spring 2023 Sequoia Arc cohort. I talked with Devin about how Sequoia structures the curriculum, how they handle investment terms and future financing rounds, what advice he would give to someone applying to the program, and more.
- There are two ways to get into Sequoia Arc. You can apply directly to Arc or receive an invitation to participate in Arc after signing a pre-seed or seed term sheet from Sequoia Capital.
- The Sequoia Arc program is positioned to support founders at the earliest stage with just an idea to founders at seed who may have a working product and early traction.
- Sequoia Arc investments range from $500,000 to $1 million. Sequoia works with every team to come up with fair terms and the correct investment amount depending on their existing capital stack, valuation, and other factors.
- One of the overarching themes of Sequoia Arc is storytelling. Participants learn to leverage their unique founder story and culture to recruit early hires and bring people along with them to reach the full trajectory of the company. This is highlighted in the final presentation, the culmination event of the seven-week curriculum.
KR: Thanks, Devin, for joining me today. To kick us off, can you introduce yourself?
DB: My name is Devin Bhushan. I’m the Founder & CEO of Squint. Squint is a product that gives superpowers to industrial workers. There’s a boom happening in manufacturing that is coinciding with a lot of the industrial workforce retiring. We’re in a spot where we’re hiring more than ever into these positions, and the traditional learning methods are not effective enough to support that scale. Squint uses augmented reality to guide the user through their space and then show them exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and how to do it. So, it’s really easy to set up, taking less than a minute for any process and space. We’re trying to bring a consumer-grade experience to the enterprise, especially in industries like manufacturing.
KR: You participated in Sequoia Arc in Spring 2023. Is that correct?
DB: Correct, it feels like it’s been so much longer.
KR: Why did you want to apply to Sequoia Arc in the first place? What stood out about the program?
DB: Yeah, so there’s different ways to get in. You can apply directly or be invited after Sequoia invests in your pre-seed or seed. From their side, they are trying to work with good founders as early as they can. In our case, I had worked with Jess Lee, our Partner at Sequoia, at Yahoo several years ago. So, we knew each other. She reached out earlier this year and floated the idea of working with Sequoia for our seed. Once we started talking, I pitched a group of Partners and ultimately received a term sheet along with an invitation to participate in Arc. For me, this was a huge opportunity to not only raise our seed but also take part in this amazing program.
KR: Had you raised money before that, or was that your first financing round?
DB: We had raised a pre-seed prior from Menlo Ventures, actually working with Menlo Labs which is also an early-stage program that they have around validating ideas -- very early-stage, pre-product. We were at a stage where we now had our revenue and were getting ready to raise our seed.
KR: Thinking about your cohort, do you know how many teams went the route you did – a traditional Sequoia Capital seed investment, then an invitation to Sequoia Arc – versus applying directly to the Sequoia Arc program?
DB: A handful of companies were raising a seed or a later stage round where they had a product, had revenue, or were in the midst of it. Then, there were a handful of companies that literally started on day one of Arc. They were so early that they, at the time, had (just) an idea and the founders.
KR: You mentioned you knew Jess from Yahoo and were already working with her. You also met with (other) Sequoia Partners before you finalized your seed round and got the invitation. Can you talk about your version of the admission process for Sequoia Arc?
DB: For me, it was more of a pitch to raise our seed round. In terms of the process, it was a conversation with Jess, and she was interested. Jess is very product-oriented, so we got into how the product works, here’s what our customers are looking for, and we gave her all of that context. She set up another conversation with a group of partners, which is more of a holistic pitch of the company, long-term vision, what the product was, the team, and why we’re positioned to work in this space and pull this thing off. After that, they returned with standard due diligence and some customer stuff. Then, it was a term sheet and done.
KR: Sequoia Arc’s program covers 7 topics across 7 weeks. Can you describe what happens during the program and how they structure the curriculum?
DB: I think you nailed it. Every week is a different section. Every week, there are a few guests that host. It’s a mix of people – usually Sequoia Partners, sometimes featured Sequoia-backed founders, or someone is helping out in the program based on the specialty for that week. Basically, people will help to build this mini-lecture on the subject, and then each week, there’s also a workshop portion for the topic. The companies break up into these small groups, and you work on it in your company’s context. Maybe you’re paired with a couple of other founders doing it in the context of their companies, and you’re doing this together with the kind of foundation and scaffolding provided for that workshop. What’s worth calling out is that 3 of the weeks are in-person. The first week is the kickoff. (Then,) there’s a week in the middle that’s a field trip to this surprise destination, which is a fantastic company, and you get to spend time with them. The final week is the final presentations and wrap-up of the program.
KR: What was the most valuable aspect of the program?
DB: Learning from the leading experts in the world on specific topics. For example, I got to work with Bryan Schreier. He’s a Partner at Sequoia. We were making our first go-to-market hire, and he shared stories about how Qualtrics and Dropbox thought about it for their first hires and learnings that might apply to Squint. After that, as we progressed through that process, he even reviewed the 30-60-90 day plan for Squint and helped tweak things to ensure we were thinking about things properly. (It was) invaluable.
KR: What advice did Bryan share about first hires?
DB: Yeah, I mean, different styles, right? For us, different types of products, B2B versus something else. We were targeting an interesting industry, manufacturing. It’s not necessarily something that our team had a background in, but we had a background in the technology we were bringing. So, thinking through the composition of that go-to-market team, should it be folks with a manufacturing background? Should it be folks who have done B2B SaaS? How do we set a structure up so we can be successful? I would say it’s highly custom to what problem statements you present and all the partners are there to (help you) find the right answer for your company.
KR: You mentioned during Sequoia Arc’s final week, there is a final presentation. What do startups cover in their final presentations, and who is the audience?
DB: The final presentation at Arc is not a pitch for fundraising. I didn’t mention that the overarching theme of Arc is storytelling. That final presentation is a pitch to share the storytelling you’ve developed about your company. The prompt for it is, what would you tell a candidate you were trying to hire? So, how would you convince a candidate to join the company? The audience comprises Sequoia Partners, other Sequoia founders, potential new hires, and industry experts in each field for the company that is presenting. It’s a really supportive atmosphere with no real end goal of fundraising. It’s more network and Q&A.
KR: Sequoia Arc invests between $500,000 and $1 million into companies accepted into the program. What are Sequoia Arc’s standard terms, and how do they handle future financing rounds?
DB: Every fundraise is unique to match the needs of the company. So, I think the pre-seed investments are $500,000 - $1 million. I won’t go into specifics, but we raised a seed, and the terms were totally fair. Like all early-stage investors, they will have a chance to invest in future rounds, but I think it’ll be different for every company.
KR: You mentioned working with Jess Lee, your Partner at Sequoia Capital. Do all the startups work with her during the program, or are other people on the Sequoia early-stage team assigned to different companies?
DB: Jess is excellent. She happens to be our partner, so I think we’re fortunate. Several partners are involved with Arc. Whoever on the early stage team was your partner for that investment will continue to be involved. There’s also a bunch of people part of the Arc team that are part of Arc specifically. They are also participating and joining in different workshops and sessions. They are all really amazing and super talented in their fields. Throughout the program, there are office hours and networking opportunities, and you get to work with everyone who is part of the Arc family.
KR: What advice would you give to someone applying to Sequoia Arc?
DB: I think Sequoia is really looking for what they call outlier founders. So, I recommend being confident in what makes you yourself and knowing your superpowers. That way, during your pitch you can highlight things that are unique about you and bring those superpowers so people see it when you pitch.
KR: Can you share your example? What did you share about yourself with Sequoia?
DB: I know augmented reality well. My other superpower is being really good at mapping technology to problems in a way that creates this intuitive product.
KR: What advice would you give to a founder accepted into Sequoia Arc to make the most out of the program?
DB: It’s going to be what you make out of it. I would recommend going all in and investing a lot of time and effort into meeting everyone. There will be a lot of optional opportunities that you don’t have to take, but I would recommend taking all of them. Approach all those conversations and workshops with an open mind and try to make the most of this opportunity to work with the most brilliant minds in Silicon Valley.
KR: How much time were you committing to the program? On their website, they say expect to commit 8 hours per week.
DB: It depended on the week. In terms of required time or together time, that’s probably close. We were really focused on go-to-market, so the things during those weeks – sales and marketing, etc. – that applied to us, we spent a ton more time kind of workshopping and going outside those hours. We focused on the week’s content and tried to put in as much as we could spare, but everyone has a business to run, so it’s flexible.
KR: Now that you’re finished with the program, how do you engage with the community?
DB: They have this really cool Ampersand app. It’s for all of the founders that are in the Sequoia portfolio. There are a bunch of things that are always going on there – networking, meet-ups, resources, and more. For us, they have something called a builder’s program where they connect you to experts in the space. We’ve used that pretty extensively for help on the design side, as well as over the months on pricing – different packaging things that we were thinking about – and just talking to people in the industry who have done this for years.
KR: Is there anything I didn’t ask about that is important to know if you’re considering Sequoia Arc?
DB: I would definitely recommend it, 11/10 experience. Everything Sequoia does is super thoughtful. It’s kind of like when you go to Disneyland, and you look at all the intricacies and thoughts that went behind things. It’s like a marvel. That’s what the Arc program is like. It’s very carefully designed.