Inside the elite startup retreat where Satya Nadella and Condoleezza Rice just spent their weekend

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Chris Wanstrath (GitHub), Satya Nadella (Microsoft), and Jim Goetz (Sequoia).
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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Last weekend, many of the tech industry’s big shots gathered in the Santa Cruz Mountains to talk startups.

Venture-capital firm Sequoia invited more than 100 startup founders, CEOs, and alumni for what it called “Base Camp.”

During the two-day event, founders and CEOs talked business and spent their nights sleeping in tents.

Here’s what it was like inside the elite camp for startup founders:


More than 100 startup founders and business executives came to the Santa Cruz Mountains for Base Camp.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Some founders and VCs even mountain-biked to Base Camp for the weekend’s festivities.

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Andy Byrne (Clari), Jim Goetz (Sequoia), and Mark Gainey (Strava).
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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Flags flew over the camp representing what Sequoia looks for in founders: “The creative spirits. The underdogs. The resolute. The determined. The outsiders. The defiant. The independent thinkers. The fighters and the true believers.” For the two-day weekend, founders were split into groups based on each ethos.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Young startup founders mingled with established vets. Here, GitHub founder Chris Wanstrath talks to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Sequoia partner Jim Goetz.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made an appearance alongside fellow Dropbox board member Bryan Schreier and Anja Manuel of RiceHadleyGates.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Much of the camp was about sharing business lessons. Sequoia’s Doug Leone led a session on how to manage your board.

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Sequoia

Sequoia partner Roelof Botha and Affirm founder Max Levchin, who worked together at PayPal, shared stories about building the company.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Lessons could even apply to companies that are no longer technically startups but have been acquired. Brian Acton of WhatsApp joined Sequoia’s Alfred Lin and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston in a discussion.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

The speeches weren’t limited to tech luminaries, either. Polar explorer Ben Saunders gave a talk on making sure that no one else is the authority on your potential.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon shared business lessons inside one of the tents.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Some of the sessions were held outdoors, like this group led by Kim Scott, a former Apple exec who’s currently an executive coach.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Read our profile of Kim Scott here.


But there was also lots of time for founders to just talk. Eventbrite cofounders Kevin and Julia Hartz swapped advice with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Sunrun’s Lynn Jurich and Clutter’s Ari Mir chose to take in the view.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

It wasn’t all work and no play, though. The party at Base Camp went well into the night.

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Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

Dropbox founder Drew Houston capped off Base Camp with a 3 a.m. serenade around the campfire. Sounds like “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Base camp @sequoia this weekend was nextlevel. Epic 3am serenade from @schreier @drewhouston pic.twitter.com/Y8EiI1ZYgu

@sequoia@schreier@drewhoustonpic.twitter.com/Y8EiI1ZYguMay15, 2016