Broad­cast your­self

Finweek English Edition - - Cover -

WHEN YOU’RE THIS closely in­volved in Web 2.0 it’s clearly dif­fi­cult to con­trol what per­sonal de­tails about you are pub­licly avail­able. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing pic­ture is of Roelof Botha and his wife on their wed­ding day from In­sider Pages. Dig a lit­tle deeper and you can find out that Botha’s “wife is pos­i­tively ad­dicted to crèpes”.

In this pic­ture from so­cial net­work­ing site Orkut, Botha sits in a Fer­rari some­where in Italy on his hon­ey­moon, but we can also learn from the Web that in 2005 he bought a black BMW X5 on eBay and that last year the cou­ple ap­par­ently moved house and had some pricey new au­dio­vi­sual equip­ment in­stalled. On YouTube you’ll find video clips of a “Baby Botha”, but whether this is in­deed Botha and Chi­nese-Sin­ga­porean wife Hoisen’s 10-month-old girl, Saskia, can­not be ver­i­fied.

From a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Botha and his Stan­ford Fi­nance pro­fes­sor pub­lished on the web, it’s clear that Botha is still miffed about un­der­writ­ers prof­it­ing un­duly from IPOs and how in­vest­ment banks forced a green-shoe op­tion on him when he took Pay­Pal pub­lic.

A Sil­i­con Val­ley gos­sip site called Val­ley­wag re­ports that fol­low­ing the death of PW Botha, “Roelof (just pro­nounce it Rolf; he doesn't mind) has been plagued by sym­pa­thetic but ill-in­formed emails from start-up founders look­ing to suck-up to the up-and-comer.” The mis­take arises from the fact that Botha is the grand­son of very much alive Pik Botha, for­mer Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs un­der PW Botha. His fa­ther is the well-known Gaut­eng econ­o­mist also called Roelof.

The non-vir­tual Botha is equally per­son­able. He says that he hasn’t been back to South Africa for a few years, but he watches Su­per14 matches via the In­ter­net thanks to Kuduclub. com. He was born a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres from Lof­tus Vers­feld and spent years in Cape Town when he ma­tric­u­lated at Jan van Riebeeck so he has a soft spot for the Bulls and the Storm­ers, but he be­lieves the Sharks are the coun­try’s best bet this year. The Web also keeps him stocked up on Ouma Rusks and Iwisa mealie meal for pap and vleis. “But I’ve had a hard time ex­plain­ing the bil­tong I make at home to the Amer­i­cans.”

Botha still works 12- to 14-hour days, but he’s slowed down from his time at Pay­Pal: “We reg­u­larly did 80-hour weeks. Ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment meet­ings were on Satur­days and most would come back on a Sun­day for an­other six hours. The drive and in­ten­sity in the work­place here is phe­nom­e­nal.”

One is­sue Botha could not be drawn on, how­ever was money. No amount of prod­ding would let him dis­close, in ven­ture cap­i­tal par­lance, his per­sonal car­ried in­ter­est. Car­ried in­ter­est is the per­cent­age of prof­its of the VC fund that an in­di­vid­ual part­ner is en­ti­tled to re­ceive. “It’s not about money, it’s about be­ing suc­cess­ful. When you want to re­tire early or only think about time off work, it’s a sign that you don’t have job sat­is­fac­tion. In this re­spect I’ve been lucky.”

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