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.”