Lamond leaves Sequoia in unfriendly split

Sequoia Capital has hardly given Pierre Lamond a warm send-off, despite his 27-year career with the firm and his notable track record.

By early last week, after Lamond confirmed he left the firm, his bio had been scrubbed from Sequoia’s website and his work email was deactivated, despite that Lamond remains on the board of three Sequoia portfolio companies, including the energy-efficient lighting startup Luxim.

More telling, when asked whether Sequoia no longer wanted Lamond making personal investments from its offices, as well as whether Lamond’s split from Sequoia was unfriendly, Sequoia’s Marketing Partner Mark Dempster emailed back simply, “No comment.”

“That’s their problem if they think it’s acrimonious,” says Lamond. “I spent 27 years there and I do have quite a bit of interest left in the funds, so it’s not to my advantage to have an uncivil relationship with Sequoia.”

Last week, Lamond, 78, the legendarily successful Sequoia partner, announced that he was leaving the firm to join Khosla Ventures, located down the street on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, Calif. (PE Week was the first to report in October that Lamond planned to leave Sequoia.)

Lamond told PE Week last week that his decision to leave was a result as much of his evolving relationship with Sequoia as with his longtime friendship with Vinod Khosla, who co-founded Sun Microsystems and was a longtime Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers general partner before launching his own firm in 2004.

“About a year ago, when Sequoia’s 12th fund was nearly invested, I knew I didn’t want to be an investor in the next fund, a commitment of another six years or so,” says Lamond. “At the same time, in April, I began making angel investments in the $100,000 range in very early stage companies.”

Doing both, he says, began to make things “difficult for Sequoia and for myself, because there’s always the chance of doing something competitive with Sequoia. So I decided to leave.”

Lamond will not become a general partner with Khosla Ventures. By design, his agreement with Khosla is less formal than typical investor-firm relationships, offering him instead “maximum flexibility.”

“I’ll do both my own investing, I’ll do some investment with and for Khosla Ventures, in some cases, going on the board, and I’ll also, in some cases, invest alongside the firm,” Lamond says.

Asked if he will be a limited partner in any of the Khosla Ventures funds, Lamond adds that, “We’re still discussing that. No decisions have been made yet.”

As for his interest in cleantech, Lamond says that he has spent a lot of time lately looking at the energy storage market, which resulted in him making an individual investment in Berkeley, Calif.-based Seeo Inc., a startup developing a lithium-ion battery. Khosla Ventures has invested about $2 million in the company, according to Thomson Reuters (publisher of PE Week).

“I’m spending a lot of time on energy conversation and water,” Lamond says. “I haven’t made investments there yet, but these are things in which I’m very interested.”

Lamond, who says he is “not working 12 hours a day, six days a week,” should see plenty of deal flow at Khosla Ventures, which is beefing up its operations. Khosla Ventures, which has been funded almost exclusively by Khosla up to now, is now raising an expansion stage fund upwards of $1 billion, and is hiring more general partners.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has already committed $200 million to the vehicle, according to documents released following the pension’s February investment committee meeting.

At Sequoia, where he specialized in semiconductor and software investments, Lamond worked with a number of companies that went on to enjoy successful public offerings, including Vitesse Semiconductor (which went public in 1991), Redback Networks (which went public in 1999) and Plumtree Software (which launched an IPO in 2002).

For a time in the late 1990s, when Plumtree was flailing, Lamond took over as interim CEO.