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.


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 ORCL), Elemental Technologies (AMZN), HotPotato (FB), ThisTech (Comcast), Cozy (CSGP), Boxee (Samsung), Highwinds (StackPath), Bustle, DECA/KinCommunity, The Honest Company, Ink Protocol (aka Listia), 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. 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 (acquired by AMZN), Nest Labs (GOOG), Dropcam (GOOG), Aggregate Knowledge (NSR), and Opower (GOOG). 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.

In my spare time, I love to take spin classes​, read and spend time with my husband and ​two​ kids.

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 and daughter, 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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Brian-Defy-Headshot-3 Brian Rothenberg
Brian Rothenberg Partner

I am an investment Partner at Defy. As a former founder, operator, and executive from startup creation through IPO, I deeply understand and appreciate all of the ups and downs along the entrepreneurial journey. I thrive at the intersection of strategy, product, growth, and analytics; with an emphasis on how we lead and empower our people to drive the best outcomes. I love working beside the incredible entrepreneurs who make this happen, defying all reasonable expectations in creating a new reality out of a unique insight and vision.

I love working beside the incredible entrepreneurs who make this happen, defying all reasonable expectations in creating a new reality out of a unique insight and vision.

Before joining Defy, I spent over 6 years scaling Eventbrite from a startup into the world’s largest event technology platform and live experiences marketplace. As Eventbrite’s first VP of Growth, CMO, and VP/GM of the company’s largest segment of revenue, I helped to scale the business more than 10x globally to $300M in revenues, and through our IPO (NYSE: EB) with a nearly $3B market cap. To stay close to the early-stage as Eventbrite outgrew its startup roots, I spent years advising and investing in dozens of startups both independently, as well as through First Round Capital’s Angel Track & Expert Network, Sequoia Capital’s Scout program, and YC’s Growth Council.

Prior to Eventbrite I co-founded SkillSlate, a VC-backed local services marketplace, building the business through our acquisition by TaskRabbit (later acquired by IKEA). I joined Yahoo! in its first ten years, where I helped to build several of Yahoo!’s early businesses as the company’s youngest Product Manager. I started my first business from my freshman dorm room – an early online ticket brokerage company called EventTicketsNow.

I attended USC where I studied entrepreneurship and marketing. I played for USC’s lacrosse team, where I was a four-year starter, two-time team captain and president, defensive MVP, and two-time recipient of the team’s “Trojan of the Year” award for positive impact on the overall program. I was also honored to play for Team USA West, representing our country in the 2004 International Games. I later resumed my academic pursuits earning my MBA in finance and general management from NYU’s Stern School of Business.

As a rare fourth generation San Franciscan, I love building our life here with my wife Kelly, our children Chase, Charlie, and Brooks, and our dog Addie. On nights and weekends you can find me coaching our kids’ sports, enjoying good food and red wine, snowboarding, playing guitar, or grinding through a CrossFit workout.

There’s one truism I’ve found to hold time and again – it’s all about the people. As such, I am truly honored to be part of this special Defy team.

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defy sages

A “sage” is someone wise through reflection and experience and we thought that perfectly encapsulates what these active operating executives bring to Defy. As talented multi-time operators, seed investors and current CEOs, Defy Sages bring their operating experience, domain knowledge, and networks to help our portfolio.

Brian_Lee Brian Lee
Brian Lee Defy Sage

Brian is one of the world’s leading experts in building consumer and commerce brands. He’s a reformed lawyer who saw the opportunity to revolutionize the legal market to help people who couldn’t afford or deal with the traditional system by creating LegalZoom from scratch. As the first CEO, he grew revenue to well over $300m and successfully sold the company multiple times.  As a serial entrepreneur, he with his wife Mira, co-founded ShoeDazzle as a revolutionary way to customize fashion. He grew the company to $100m in revenue and merged it with JustFab. Following the birth of his first child, he partnered with Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan to create The Honest Company, the leading healthy product company in the world. As CEO, he grew the company to $300m in revenue in 3 years.

Most recently Brian co-founded and partnered with Kobe Bryant on the creation Art of Sport and several other emerging companies. Brian was named one of the “25 most notable Korean-American entrepreneurs” by Forbes magazine in 2009. In 2014, he was commended as the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year by EY Entrepreneur of the Year.

Before his startup career, Lee was an attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and a former manager at Deloitte. Lee attended Servite High School in Anaheim, graduated with at B.A. in Economics/Business from UCLA and received his J.D. from UCLA School of Law. Brian has been a close friend and supporter, working with the Defy team for over a decade.


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Sujal_Patel Sujal Patel
Sujal Patel Defy Sage

Sujal is a leading technology executive with deep expertise in networking, infrastructure and security. Sujal founded Isilon Systems in 2001 with the vision that the rapid proliferation of unstructured, file-based data would necessitate a shift away from traditional storage architectures and toward a new, scale-out paradigm. In 2006, Isilon completed one of the most successful initial public offerings of the year, with a market capitalization in excess of $1 Billion.  From 2007 to 2010, Sujal, as CEO, led Isilon during a period of profound growth, improving operating margins from -37.5% to +20%. Isilon was acquired by EMC in December, 2010 for $2.5 Billion, the largest acquisition in EMC’s history. Sujal served as the President of EMC’s Isilon Storage Division from the acquisition until November, 2012, driving significant revenue growth, market expansion and organizational scale. Prior to EMC and Isilon, Sujal served in various engineering roles at RealNetworks, Inc., in part as chief architect behind the company’s second-generation core media delivery system.

Sujal holds nineteen patents in the areas of storage, networking, and media delivery, is a well-known speaker on entrepreneurship, and has received a variety of industry awards.  He graduated from the University of Maryland College Park in 1996 with a degree in Computer Science. Sujal first worked with the Defy team 10 years ago and has continued to collaborate with us over the years.

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