It is almost possible to tell the history of Silicon Valley by looking only at investments made by two firms: Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins. 

Both firms were founded in 1972. Both firms went on to shape how millions of people lived and interacted with technology around the world. 

Sequoia was set up by the late Don Valentine who made his first investment in Atari, a pioneer in home gaming. In 1978 Sequoia invested $150,000 in a tiny company founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak called Apple. 

In 1983 it invested in Larry Elison, a double college dropout, who created Oracle. 

In 1999 Sequoia backed Google, the year after it was founded. 

Household names like Airbnb, Cisco, LinkedIn, Instagram, Stripe, Whatsapp and Youtube were all identified and invested in early on by Sequoia. 

Meanwhile, Kleiner Perkins, founded by Tom Perkins and Eugene Kleiner, was building its own storied history, investing not just in technology but also in life sciences. 

In the mid-1970s for example it backed Genentech, a pioneer in DNA research and commercialisation. 

In 1995, Kleiner Perkins invested in Amazon. At the time the bookseller’s sales were $500,000 and it was planning to launch a website. 

In 1999 it too backed Google, and more recently it has invested in Beyond Meat, Slack, Spotify and Uber. All are now worth billions.   

Like all venture capital firms Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins have had their failures. But their successes have been staggeringly large. 

Sequoia estimates the aggregate market capitalisation of companies that it has invested in today at being $3.3 trillion. 

Kleiner Perkins has undoubtedly also created vast value over five decades of investing.

Two weeks ago Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins teamed up to invest in a small Irish company called Evervault. Few outside Ireland’s close-knit startup scene had ever heard of it. 

Evervault has just one employee: its founder a 19 year old Dubliner, Shane Curran. 

Its product is still some way from being market ready. 

The two legendary firms however saw something in Curran. 

What was it? To understand the answer to this question you need to meet him.


Shane Curran strolls out of Dogpatch, a startup hub located in the CHQ building in Dublin’s docklands. He is six foot four inches and is wearing runners and blue jumper. Curran is two years older than when he was photographed – beaming – on page 1 of The Irish Times after he won the prestigious BT Young Scientist and Technology Competition at the fourth attempt. He flashes the same big smile as he strides over and we head around the corner to a coffee shop to talk about his more recent success in raising $3.2 million from American and Irish investors to back his new startup. Curran displays the poise of someone who has been grilled repeatedly by venture capital firms over the 12 months it took him to raise finance for his new venture. He may not be used to doing media interviews but he is more than ready for it. There is no hint of nerves. Nor cockiness. He is relaxed and open. 


Shane Curran: I went out pretty much cold (to California) and set up meetings with the Irish mafia there.” Photo: Bryan Meade

It took Shane Curran just three days to decide to drop out of studying business and law in UCD in September 2018. “I just realised that it was not for me,” he recalled. 

Curran’s aspirations had been changed from visiting California and San Francisco and Silicon Valley in particular. 

Curran first went to California over Easter in his final year of school in Terenure College, a fee-paying south Dublin school. 

The school, whose luminaries include author John Boyne, actor Donal McCann and oncologist John Crown, encouraged his scientific endeavours as well as his rugby aspirations. 

Curran however was confident enough in his academic abilities not to overly worry about the Leaving Cert. He was already thinking about after it. “I went out pretty much cold (to California) and set up meetings with the Irish mafia there,” Curran said. 

“I met Patrick Collison (the co-founder of Stripe) and Eoghan McCabe and Des Traynor (two co-founders of Intercom.)”

Curran had the crux of an idea around data privacy that he wanted to run by the founders, all of whom had built businesses worth over $1 billion. 

The week before his Leaving Cert, Curran went back again to San Francisco. This time looking to raise funds for his own startup. He landed back in Dublin just 14 hours before his first exam in English but he still managed to get top marks in it.

After school Curran went on holiday with his friends to the resort town of Magaluf on the Spanish island of Majorca with the intention of heading to UCD afterwards.

As the summer went on, he kept thinking. And thinking. He was convinced he had a good business idea and that he couldn’t afford to waste anytime.

“I felt there was too much opportunity with what I was working on with Evervault to ever skip that. I just really believed in it,” Curran said. “I felt I should just leave college and give it a shot as I had nothing to lose really. It was an iterative thing.” 

He named his new idea Evervault, secured its domain name and designed its logo himself. 

Curran decided to swap the lecture theatre for a hotdesk in Dogpatch, a startup hub, in the North docklands. 

Now all he needed to do was raise the finance to hire a team and build the business that was then only in his head. It was a big ask, but he was determined.


In July 2019 Curran went on a camping trip as part of Interact, a non-profit fellowship for young technologists which takes place periodically in California. “I was up near Napa [a region north of San Francisco] with a load of young founders and people working on cool stuff. Apart from getting sunburnt and being bitten by mosquitoes there is a lot of hanging out and talking. It is really good fun.” 

Curran had added a couple of days onto his trip to try and organise meetings on Sand Hill Road, a famed arterial road in Silicon Valley where most of the world’s greatest technology private equity firms are based. Curran had managed to wrangle a meeting with Andreeson Horowitz (also known by its numeronym ‘a16z’). The venture capital firm, co-founded by Marc Andreeson, the genius behind early web browser Netscape, had listened to Curran’s pitch with interest. But it passed on investing. Curran shrugged it off: nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

By this stage, he had interacted with hundreds of venture capital firms in North America and Europe and knew that rejection was part of startup life. 

The day after Curran met a16z, an email pinged into his inbox. “The email just said ‘I heard you’re working on something cool would you like to meet up for coffee?’ and it went from there.” Sequoia was knocking. 

Second nature

“They are really all the same no matter who you are pitching to. The meeting rooms may be slightly nicer.”

Shane Curran found himself heading back out to the 5.6 mile stretch of Sand Hill road where Sequoia and all the other big venture capital firms are based. Coffee rapidly turned into more formal meetings. “At the last meeting I walked in with my suitcase because I had to go to SFO (San Francisco International Airport) to fly home that day,” Curran recalled. 

“By the time I got home within a couple of hours the offer was there.” 

Sequoia wanted Evervault to join its portfolio of investments. “It was a tricky thing to manage because once you get Sequoia on board every other VC firm in the world is trying to pile money on you. It was very much a first world problem,” Curran recalled. 

“You have an oversubscribed round and you have to turn people away. They are tough calls. Even though they don’t sound like tough calls they really are.” 

How did Sequoia hear about Curran in the first place? “To this day I still don’t know how. Sequoia are a little bit different in that they are very consensus driven. Although you have a lead partner you have to get buy in from every member of the partnership. Otherwise they won’t make an investment.” 

Stephanie Zahn was Curran’s lead partner in Sequoia. The two immediately had a rapport but it took three or four meetings to win the entire firm over. Zahn, a former product manager with Nest, handles a portfolio of investments that also includes Ethos, a next generation insurance company, and Brud, a creator of virtual influencers. 

With Sequoia on board a connection was then made to Kleiner Perkins after Curran was introduced to the firm by Dubliner Eoghan McCabe, a cofounder of Intercom. 

In March 2018, Kleiner Perkins led a $125 million series D funding round in Intercom, that gave it a valuation of over $1 billion for the first time. 

“We are about baking privacy into the (software development) stack from day one. Evervault allows you build your privacy cage. That is sort of the investment thesis our investors have.”

Mamoon Hamid, a former non-executive director of Intercom representing Kleiner Perkins, was Curran’s way-in. The entire deal was closed by video call between Dublin and California. 

Is it intimidating pitching to big venture capital firms? “They are really all the same no matter who you are pitching to. The meeting rooms may be slightly nicer. It wasn’t that intimidating. I had pitched so often it was sort of second nature.”

Tom Lyons: Why did the venture capital firms decide to invest?

Shane Curran: I think the real thing they were investing in is it is a given that data privacy is a big problem. The sort of investment thesis that they have is that privacy is shifting away from being something that compliance teams are focused on. It is becoming a core feature of products. Right now the tool kit for integrating data privacy into your product from day one is pretty low. If you want to put it in you need to read all these academic papers and almost have a phd in cryptography to get your head around it. We are about baking privacy into the (software development) stack from day one. Evervault allows you build your privacy cage. That is sort of the investment thesis our investors have.

Tom Lyons: What do you mean by privacy cage? 

Shane Curran: To put a very simple analogy on it. It is like when you go to the zoo. You can look at a cage. You can interact with it. But the lion isn’t going to jump out and eat you. We think data should be understood the same way. We think data should be put into this cage where it is fully protected. You can transact on it. You can process it but if your infrastructure gets breached you don’t have any risk as you are not handling any of the raw or unencrypted data. In other words you are taking this cutting edge tech and cryptography and making it really easy to interface with. The concept of a privacy cage in general is a pretty new one but we think that it is going to be a core part of what people are talking about when they are building products down the line. We are going to be thinking about what database we are using what web server are we using and what privacy cage are we using. And we hope that when they think about that, the answer will be Evervault.

Tom Lyons: Will regulation help you?

Shane Curran: The thing about regulation is that regulation is just trying to force people into good habits that they should have anyway. If you look at GDPR a lot of it is common sense. If you are running a proper company and doing things right you shouldn’t have to worry about GDPR. Compliance is one angle to encourage developers to think differently. What we are doing is not about selling. Developers hate being sold things. Developers want to see things that help them build things quicker. Instead of selling fear…’if you don’t use us you’ll be fined’…it is far better to be able to say we help you build things quicker and easier. That is what gets developers to buy into new concepts.

Leading from the front

Dublin-based venture capital firm Frontline also participated in Evervault’s first funding round. 

It was the first to see Evervault’s potential. It had promised to lead a fundraising round in the business as far back as April 2019. 

With Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins on board Curran still wanted to work with Frontline’s smart team in Dublin who have previously invested in rising Irish tech firms like Pointy and Boxever as well as having a big exit with Logentries. 

“It is nice to have a firm like that in Dublin fighting your corner as well. I just think they are good guys and Finn (Murphy, an investment executive with Frontline) is great to deal with,” Curran said.

A number of smaller investors also decided to back Evervault. SV Angel, a prolific seed fund founded by super-angel Ron Conway, put in its standard investment of $50,000. Eoghan McCabe and Des Traynor, two co-founders of Intercom, also invested. PCH founder Liam Casey, from Cork, who was one of the first backers of the Collison brothers when they moved to the East coast of America, also came on board. None of the angels put in big money but for Curran their advice and connections was more important than their cash.

“He is very honest that he doesn’t have all the answers yet and he has the maturity to realise that and the ambition needed to try and solve this problem.”

Finn Murphy, Frontline

I rang Finn Murphy to ask him why Frontline liked Evervault. He said they had been watching him for a couple of years. “VCs in Ireland do keep an eye on who goes to the Young Scientist and what they plan to do next,” he said. 

“Shane is going after a space that is sufficiently large to support a billion dollar company. The problem he is trying to solve has scale like Stripe had with payments,” Murphy explained.

“He is very honest that he doesn’t have all the answers yet and he has the maturity to realise that and the ambition needed to try and solve this problem. What the company will become is still not clear but Shane is smart and ambitious so we backed him.”

Twenty-seven year old Murphy said Frontline was not worried about Curran’s youth or ability to poach engineers from the large tech giants in Dublin. 

“When you spend time with Shane you realise he is very impressive,” Curran said. “Those types of people are talent magnets.”

“We didn’t invest because of the pitch deck. We invested because Shane is going after a very big problem. We believe he will figure it out.”

Scaling up

“If you equate capital with time… time is far more valuable. Capital is a device to leverage time.”

Shane Curran is close to hiring his first two engineers to join him working for Evervault. He expects the firm to employ 10 people in the coming months. But he says: “It is a bad metric to gauge yourself off. It is about how close you are getting to what you want to be doing. We are not in a rush to hire until we find the right people. We are slowly scaling up instead of focusing on the vanity metrics of ‘We are 20 people now in a shiny office’ or wherever.” 

“We are about building a 100 billion dollar company and that is hard to do if you waste time.”

Tom Lyons: Does Evervault plan to set up a board?

Shane Curran: Eventually. Right now it is informal. I have got some really great advisors around me through my investors. The advantage of having those people on board as investors is there is basically no-one in the world you can’t speak to. If there is a specific problem I can ask them to help. Going forward as you take on more capital it becomes more important that you do have a board. But it is still very early. 

Tom Lyons: How big is the market you are targeting?

Shane Curran: We are creating a new market in many ways. The cyber security market itself is something like $106 billion a year. It is a big market. That is one thing that a lot of European founders fall into the trap of. They do a top down approach that this is a 100 billion dollar market and if we can get to 10 per cent of that we will be a 10 billion dollar company. That is just not really how it works. For us we are shifting cybersecurity away from being this kind of thing that you sell to big enterprises and making it more part of the tool kit for individual developers.

Tom Lyons: What will the money you raised allow you to do?

Shane Curran: It is enough to get us up and going. If you want to make an impact fast we will probably raise again within the next year. We are being capital efficient as we don’t need to deploy it at the moment. But we are about building a 100 billion dollar company and that is hard to do if you waste time. If you equate capital with time… time is far more valuable. Capital is a device to leverage time.

Tom Lyons: Is the success of Stripe an inspiration to you?

Shane Curran: Their execution was flawless. The bottom up thing is a nice model (Stripe sold to small developer led firms first before moving on to larger enterprises). You can build a short term very successful business by selling to bigger companies but the long term winner is the company that gets the buy in from the people who are actually building the products and creating the tools for the next generation. Do we want to follow them? Not really. They are in a different industry. We are dead set on solving data privacy. If you are looking at making money on the Internet you have to use a credit card and right now Stripe is the best option for that. For us we have an education problem where we are trying to get developers to think differently about how they look at personal data. It is a very different problem.

Starting a business at 11

Shane Curran is a self-taught coder. He does he admits have scientific genes from his father Kerrill, an engineer, and his mother Paula, an industrial chemist and homemaker. “My parents supported me when I realised it was interesting myself. I got access to a computer stupidly young – five or six,” Curran recalled. 

“I started playing around with games. Club Penguin [a virtual world for kids] was pretty popular at the time.” As he got older Curran started to use Internet Relay Chat, a system of chatting used by computer fans, seen today as a precursor to Slack. 

“I screwed up pricing. I charged only €9 for a lifetime membership! I didn’t understand the concept of value based pricing.”

“It was kind of stupid stuff looking back at it. But I think overtime the complexity of what I was building started to increase. I really liked solving things and writing technology to solve problems I had in my real life.” 

Curran joined various online communities where he would spend hours posting on threads and forums about coding and software development. When he was 11 Curran got his first idea to start a company when his primary school called Gael Scoil Lios na nOg in Dublin 6, spent €2,000 on a computer system to manage its school library. 

“It was a disgustingly bad product,” Curran recalled. “I thought I could do something better.” The result was called Libramatic which allowed librarians scan the unique ISBN codes at the back of every book using a smartphone allowing them update their catalogues quickly rather than typing in information every time. 

“My school didn’t use Libramatic as they didn’t trust me…but I thought, ok, I’ll push this out into the world and see if anyone else wants to use it.” It turned out they did. 

Libramatic secured 3,000 users but Curran made little money out of it.  “I screwed up pricing. I charged only €9 for a lifetime membership! I didn’t understand the concept of value based pricing. All I was thinking was €9 is like five copies of the Beano.”

Libramatic became Curran’s first entry, at the age of 12, to the BT Young Scientist exhibition. The following year he entered an enhanced version of Libramatic targeting chemical laboratories earning him a runner up prize. 

 “As a business it was a massive failure as laboratories are massively regulated so you can’t sell them homemade software,” Curran laughs. The following year, his third in Terenure College, Curran took a step back from computing to concentrate on playing junior cup rugby. He was already almost his full height so he played second row or number eight. In transition year he returned to the Young Scientist with a new idea called Velodrome. “It was an app for real time deliveries in the city,” Curran explained. He said while the app worked it required a lot of money to scale it. “It was around then that I first started to speak to VCs in Dublin. I started to learn about that scene.”

In fifth year Curran, then 16 almost 17, finally won the Young Scientist. “I was pretty relentless,” Curran laughs. “I was really determined to win it. I even had a project ready for sixth year just in case I didn’t win it.” The title of Curran’s winning entry? “qCrypt: The quantum-secure, encrypted, data storage solution with multijurisdictional quorum sharding technology.” Curran thought about turning this project into a niche cryptography business targeting enterprises. 

But then he got the idea for Evervault, and started thinking bigger.


“If you are in Ireland or in Europe anywhere outside the Bay area and you bring your company to the point where it is acquirable for 50 to 100 million then you sell.”

Next month Shane Curran will give a keynote speech at Websummit in Lisbon. He’ll be on a big stage where people like Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, Kathleen Kennedy, president of LucasFilm and Guo Ping, chairman of Huawei, will also appear.  

“I am grateful for the opportunity,” Curran says. “It is hard to say no to Paddy Cosgrave (co-founder of Web Summit). I won’t however say anything about Evervault.” 

“My keynote will be about privacy and why we think privacy cages should be part of software infrastructure. I don’t believe in direct sales. We want to solve the problem of data privacy as opposed to selling the problem of data privacy.” 

“We are totally product led. We want people to think our product is so good that they think why wouldn’t you use this? We think a great product markets itself.” Our conversation switches from Evervault to his views more generally.

Tom Lyons: Who inspires you in business?

Shane Curran: I really like Elon Musk (the founder of Tesla and Space X). I think he gets a hard time of it. I think he is an engineer who is trying to make the world a better place. There is this fallacy that there is no way his companies can work because the economics don’t make sense. But I think if you are trying to impact the way people live that is inspiring. Elon Musk is great. Des Traynor from Intercom is great especially the whole product philosophy he has.

Tom Lyons: What books do you read?

Shane Curran: I like books that are real. The ‘Hard thing about hard things’ by Ben Horowitz (cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz). There are no airs and graces in it. It is about how a company nearly died three times and came back from the dead. It gives more than insights. One thing I have noticed in Ireland is that after announcing the fundraising people kind of say ‘Congratulations you’ve made it.’ I would say it is just a tool to get working. There is such a long way to go.

Tom Lyons: A lot of Irish technology companies sell-out when they reach say the €50 million mark. Would you be happy with that?

Shane Curran: My worst nightmare is to sell the company for 50 or $100 million. As crazy as that sounds. If you are in Ireland or in Europe, anywhere outside the Bay area, and you bring your company to the point where it is acquirable for 50 to 100 million then you sell. A lot of the time the founders…they’ve lost control. They are not in a financial position to be incentivised to work for longer. If you are married with kids and you see the opportunity for a 50 million cheque you think ‘Yep I will take it.’ In venture one of the things that they say is the best thing that can happen is that you never sell.

A venture capitalists worst nightmare isn’t that the company fails but that the company sells too soon. If you can cut a company off and stop sending it resources that is fine for a VC. But if you have these living dead companies that go on and on for four or five years beyond their expiry date and then maybe sell for 50 or $100 million that is not a good outcome for a VC. 

Tom Lyons: Will you move to San Francisco?

Shane Curran: I think we can build the product from here. It is hard to argue however that the Bay area is the best place to build a massively successful company. All the top people and a lot of our customers are out there. We will build our product here but definitely over time we will establish a presence there.

Tom Lyons: You have two younger brothers. Could you see them joining you in business?

Shane Curran: They are interested. One is 16 or 17 and the other is 15. There is time yet. They are very young and copped on but they are still trying to find themselves. They have been distracted by the normal teenage things – which are not to be scoffed at. There is time yet for everything.

“I know that when people are 24, it is hard to turn your back on Google and all the cushy perks and stuff they give you.”

Tom Lyons: How soon will you raise more money? Or will you go the lean startup route and try and stretch it out as far as possible? 

Shane Curran: The lean startup methodology used to be the popular thing five years ago. It sort of makes sense but it does force you to ask other people what a better world is like. You ask ten people and you take the average of that and that is the type of company you start. But massively successful founders have a thesis about what a better world looks like. They don’t see capital as a constraint.

They see time as a constraint and they see effort as a constraint on executing their plan. They will either change the world or fail spectacularly. In Ireland because there is not as much capital there is more short term thinking. If there is not as much capital you are always worried about not surviving the next 12 months. If you know that there is financing available to you then you can focus on 10 or 20 years out. 

Tom Lyons: How will you hire engineers when they could go to a multinational instead?

Shane Curran: It is super hard to leave especially if you work for a public company with shares. The tax situation with those options (for startups) is pretty shocking and there may be no liquidity for ten years so that is a hard sell. But a lot of it is down to mindset. There are too many companies (in Ireland) who raise only 50 or €100,000. They don’t raise a seed round and then they let people go. People say I’ve done a VC backed startup and the thing failed so I am never going to do that again. But they haven’t. There is a difference between a Sequoia backed company and a €50,000 (investment type) job. I know that when people are 24, it is hard to turn your back on Google and all the cushy perks and stuff they give you.

Tom Lyons: What if Evervault fails?

Shane Curran: If this all fails I will only be about 22. I can go back to UCD, and have pints, and have the craic! (Laughs). Look, I will start another business. Back in the day going to university was the achievement to aim for. Now it is getting into the graduate programme in like big four firm X. I believe that people need to be exposed to more than that, and think bigger. 


Shane Curran says Evervault did consider basing itself in Delaware for tax purposes rather than Dublin. He says he asked his advisors, law firm Matheson, about the possibility of doing so but in the end decided to setup the business in Ireland. Evervault is investing in research he says which has tax advantages in Ireland. He thinks ultimately paying taxes is the wrong thing to worry about. “Taxes are not going to be the thing that makes or breaks a company. No company fails because of a tax scheme. They fail because they didn’t build a product that people wanted. If this is a $100 billion dollar company and we are paying 12.5pc as opposed to some other scheme it doesn’t really make a difference. We are trying to make a bigger difference than that.”