Venture Voice – interviews with entrepreneurs

Entertaining Entrepreneurship

VV Show #47 – Tom Perkins of Kleiner Perkins

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The name Tom Perkins is now almost synonymous with venture capital, but it’s clear that he cut his teeth as an entrepreneur. Educated at MIT and Harvard, Perkins first made his mark by managing the initial growth of Hewlett-Packard’s computer business while simultaneously inventing the first cheap and reliable laser. The company he built around the laser, University Laboratories, made him independently wealthy and allowed for the creation of Kleiner Perkins, one of the most successful venture capital firms in existence. Kleiner Perkins (now Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) has funded a wide range of well known and wildly successful companies including Google, AOL, Genentech, Sun Microsystems, Compaq, and Tandem Computers. Though Tom’s wowed the business press for much of his career, later in life he’s gained national attention for having a key role in 2006 Hewlett-Packard board controversy, briefly marrying Danielle Steel, and building the world’s largest privately owned sailing yacht. Tom has recently stepped back into the media spotlight by publishing a memoir called Valley Boy: The Education of Tom Perkins. Listen in as he discusses his journey from New York to Boston to Silicon Valley, the creation of Kleiner Perkins, and his advice for the entrepreneurs of the future.


3:00 Early ambitions: the road to MIT.
4:40 From Theoretical Physics to the Harvard Business School.
6:15 Introduced to the Hewlett- Packard company: “a great stroke of luck.”
6:52 “Dave Packard taught me everything I ever learned about entrepreneurship.”
8:42 Simultaneously running HP’s computer business and University Laboratories.
11:15 Thoughts on moonlighting and Google’s 20% time.
12:23 Why not jump ship with University Laboratories? “It was a very tough decision [but] I was so fascinated by the computer business, which was growing explosively.”
13:40 Dave Packard: the first modern VC.
14:30 The Kleiner Perkins model: A “hands on” approach to VC.
15:00 First KP fund: $8 million, largest ever at the time.
15:25 The admirable ethics of venture capital.
19:00 Early KP hits: Tandem Computers & Genentech.
20:15 “Our philosophy was that you find the idea and not the individual.”
22:39 “We’ve never financed anything that’s come to us through the mail or over the Internet.”
23:40 The “Intensive Care Unit” at KP.
26:30 Biggest mistake: “Not funding Apple Computer.”
29:02 Thoughts on the modern day venture capital industry: “There’s always been too much money in venture capital.”
31:15 Thoughts on entrepreneurship and venture capital outside of Silicon Valley: “It’s a difference of psychology.”
34:40 Valley Boy, the Tom Perkins memoir.
36:40 Working on the News Corp. board.
41:30 On his own depiction in the media: “A venture capitalist should be behind the scenes… I yield the arena of self-promotion to no one, although Paris Hilton is gaining ground there.”
43:00 Current activities: sailing and submarining.
44:30 Recent comments on the science of global warming.
44:54 Biotechnology: “I still think we’re on the ground floor.”
46:00 Advice for new entrepreneurs.

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