“You once said that you don’t invest in any founder under the age of 27. Is the age cut-off real?” Andrew Ross Sorkin pressed Sequoia Capital chairman Michael Moritz at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit on Wednesday.
“I deny ever saying that I only want to invest in people under 27 years old,” retorted Moritz. “But the best thing is to be educated by young people about something that you know nothing about, especially for a market that isn’t apparent and isn’t obvious.”
Moritz said he connects with millennials and now Gen Zers because they have an “underdog sensibility” that gets increasingly harder to possess as you grow older.
“Younger people can take risks and be entrepreneurial. There is so much value to being naive,” he said.
Sequoia Capital, known for its investments in PayPal (PYPL), YouTube (GOOG), Instagram (FB), and WhatsApp, is also invested in 5-year-old Zipline, which came out of stealth mode earlier this year. CEO Keller Rinaudo co-founded the company two years out of Harvard.
“At the age of 18, 19 or 21, which is often when we intersect with people who start the most interesting companies, they have no idea how difficult it will be to run a company. When you’re 35 there is a lot more at stake,” said Moritz.
Zipline delivers health care by drones and has begun dropping medical supplies in Rwanda. Moritz emphasized that he’s bullish on startups like Zipline because it’s an industry he knew nothing about but was excited to learn about.
If you can be educated about something that’s improbable and seems highly unlikely, then you’re better off and it’s worth your time thinking about it, said Moritz.
He likens Zipline to Airbnb, which Sequoia backed in 2009, when it seemed like a service that no mainstream person would be interested in, according to Moritz.
“To us, it’s both the idea and the person. If a really distinctive individual is paired with the novel, interesting idea that lights up a market that doesn’t seem to exist, then customers will follow,” he added.
Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.