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VV Show #47 - Tom Perkins of Kleiner Perkins

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Tom Perkins

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.

Posted by Greg Galant on Dec 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

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Venture Voice is back! I can't tell you how excited I am at the thought of new VV shows. Thanks for putting together such an interesting series of podcasts.

Posted by: Stephen at December 12, 2007 9:26 PM

Welcome back Greg.

Posted by: anthropocentric at December 13, 2007 2:27 AM

Fascinating podcast... very glad to see a new Venture Voice episode; it's been too long.

Posted by: Kevin Cawley at December 13, 2007 5:46 PM

Hi Greg, I am really glad to know that Venture Voice is back with a great episode. Thanks and wait for more great episodes to come :)

Posted by: Terry at December 14, 2007 10:03 AM

Great podcast. Glad your back.

Posted by: John at December 16, 2007 12:11 AM

Extremely good job with this interview. So great to have a new VV. I pray there's more to come!

Thank you very much.

Posted by: Robert at December 16, 2007 7:50 PM

Like others, I was very happy to have another VV to listen to. Great job with this one, as always. You really do a great interview.

Posted by: Andy Eggers at December 19, 2007 12:15 AM

So great to see a new VV!

Posted by: Merlin at December 20, 2007 10:23 AM

Great episode. I just wish the interviewer had not been so caught off guard with the answer to his question "So why did you cut back?" I am sure Mr. Perkins did not mind having to mention a painful moment in his life, but do you think a better response than "um" would have been "I am sorry"? It was a brief moment that proves that behind business there is life and it is very real.

Posted by: SueB at April 4, 2008 10:33 AM

A great insight provider of an episode!!!

Posted by: ro at April 8, 2008 6:32 PM