defy gravity.

We bring more than 40 years of investing experience to help you navigate your growth.

our team

Culture matters. We built our firm with a strong emphasis on culture and a deep respect for you, the entrepreneur. We value accessibility, authenticity, and collaboration.

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Team based investing. We believe that team based investing leads to smarter investing. By combining our complementary skill sets, we can better help our portfolio companies. Neil is dedicated to helping companies grow their customer base, impact their marketing and make strategic connections. Trae understands what it takes to iterate on product, refine the strategic company narrative, and build out great teams. On the operations side, Purvi, our Chief Financial Officer, oversees all things finance and makes sure that we’re using data to drive our business decisions. Phebe, our Chief of Staff, makes sure that everything runs smoothly and she can make virtually every tough problem disappear.

Get to know us better.

Web Neil Sequeira
Neil Sequeira Co-Founder & Managing Director

I am a co-founder and managing director of Defy. I strive to build ecosystems, connecting dots that don’t exist and envisioning the possibilities. My passion is working hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs as a confidante to help them bring their visions to reality—from acquiring their first customers, to growing their team, to successful capital raises and exits and hopefully to changing the world. I have sat on more than 35 company boards, developed a broad network from industry experience, backed repeat entrepreneurs multiple times and returned significant capital to investors. I was previously a managing director at General Catalyst Partners for 11 years. Over my investing career at GC, I was the lead investor and board member for a number of companies including Vitrue (acquired by Oracle), Highwinds (StackPath), Boxee (Samsung), Elemental Technologies (Amazon/AWS), HotPotato (Facebook), ThisTech (Comcast), The Honest Company, Bustle, Cozy, DECA/KinCommunity, NatureBox, RealtyShares, Singular and many others.

My passion is working hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs as a confidante to help them bring their visions to reality.

Before joining General Catalyst, I was a managing director at TimeWarner Investments and a founding member of AOLTW Ventures where I led investments and was a board member of companies including Arroyo Video Solutions (CSCO), Entropic Communications (ENTR, then MXL), EverydayHealth (EVDY, then JCOM) and a number of others. My career began at Goldenvoice Presents in the early 1990’s, followed by Accenture, Goldman Sachs & Co and CMGI.

I earned a B.A. in Business Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School. I was born in Oakland and raised in San Jose by immigrant parents who both put themselves through night school and embraced the American dream, with my father becoming a 30-year IBM engineer and my mother a 25-year lawyer for the U.S. Government. This upbringing made me appreciate the value of hard work, learn to code at age 8 and fall in love with the Valley—it also instilled in me a lifelong passion for the A’s, 49ers, Sharks and Warriors. My wife Julie and I love spending time with our son and twin daughters, traveling with them, coaching sports, or most often acting as their chauffeur.

For me, Defy represents a dream realized. I feel incredibly lucky to have Trae as a partner and that our other founders, Purvi and Phebe, are long-time colleagues and friends. I am always eager to connect with passionate souls and kindred spirits.

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OurTeam_Trae_300 Trae Vassallo
Trae Vassallo Co-Founder & Managing Director

I am a co-founder and managing director of Defy. As an engineer, an entrepreneur, and an investor, my passion is collaborating with the world’s best entrepreneurs. In addition to Defy, I am also on the board of directors at Telstra, an international telecommunications company. I recently co-authored the study “Elephant in the Valley” to help highlight the underlying data around the experiences of women in technology. I was previously a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Over my 14-year investing career, I invested in a number of leading companies including eero, Nest Labs, Dropcam, Aggregate Knowledge, and Opower. A “design thinker” and engineer at heart, I thrive at the intersection of great products and big markets.

I thrive at the intersection of great products and big markets.

Before joining KPCB, I was a co-founder of Good Technology, a KPCB portfolio company that provides end-to-end wireless email services to the enterprise. I began my career at IDEO, where I developed ground-breaking products for companies including Palm and Dell. I hold 13 patents across a broad array of technologies and disciplines.

I earned a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in mechanical engineering with honors from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. I participated on the Trust of the Stanford Business School and as an advisor to the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stanford. In addition to working with inspiring entrepreneurs, I am committed to empowering women in technology and enjoy adventuring with my husband, Steve, and three children.

I was born and raised in rural Minnesota, accepted Stanford sight-unseen and met my husband while learning to use an oscilloscope in robotics class. As a lifelong learner, I constantly challenge myself with new activities including guitar, kite-surfing and gymnastics. The process of starting something new, failing and trying again, is what learning and growing is all about and it’s also why entrepreneurs are my favorite people.

I am thrilled to combine my love of technology, entrepreneurship and investing with the creation of Defy. A special thanks to my husband, Steve, for introducing me to Neil, the best business partner I could imagine. Neil, Purvi and Phebe have a wonderful history of partnership and I am honored to be part of this truly special team.

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OurTeam_Purvi_300 Purvi Shah
Purvi Shah Chief Financial Officer

As the CFO for Defy, I’m responsible for seeing every dollar that comes in or goes out the door. What makes my job fun is that I get to wear many hats in a dynamic environment that supports great founders and their companies.

Before joining the firm, I worked at General Catalyst for 11 years as a Fund​ Controller. Prior to that, I worked in Mutual Funds at both Investors Bank and Trust and State Street Research.

I am a Boston bred girl; from growing up in the suburbs of Burlington, studying in Waltham (Bentley University) to living it up in the city. I am new to the Bay Area and look forward to seeing what this great state has to offer! I love to take spin classes​, read and spend time with my wonderful ​​husband Paul and ​two ​amazing​ kids, Leena and Rohan.

I get to wear many hats in a dynamic environment that supports great founders and their companies.

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OurTeam_Phebe_300 Phebe Tran
Phebe Tran Chief of Staff

As Chief of Staff, my priority is to ensure that everything is running smoothly. I enjoy working closely with the talented community of entrepreneurs, friends and the Defy team.

Before joining Defy, I was at Sequoia Heritage and General Catalyst. Prior to that, I worked alongside the compliance and financing team at Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

I am a rare species of SF Bay Area natives, born and raised, as well as earning my bachelor’s degree from Santa Clara University. Along with my husband, I love to experience and taste all the cultural pockets of home and abroad.

I enjoy working closely with the talented community of entrepreneurs, friends and the Defy team.

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