The recipe for success for Sequoia Capital in this deal was an exclusive partnership with WhatsApp founders Brian Eckton and Ian Koum. Usually, when venture capitalists invest in a company, they want to attract additional investors to generate more excitement and bolster their confidence in success. A different approach was taken here - Sequoia was the only investor in the $8 million A round in 2011, after which the company was valued at $80 million.
Sequoia was the only investor in the subsequent Series B round as well, investing an additional $52 million at a valuation of $1.5 billion. It paid off. By the time Facebook (banned in Russia) acquired WhatsApp for $22 billion, Sequoia had invested a total of $60 million, owning about 18% of the company. Thus, Sequoia Capital's stake was worth more than $3 billion at the time of the deal, yielding a return of 5000%.