Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kleiner's Laws

It's hard to be in my line of work and not have heard of KPCB - As far as venture capital firms go, this is the grand daddy of them all! With a portfolio that includes, amongst others, Google, Palm, Amazon, Netscape (since acquired by AOL, which it also invests in), Electronic Arts, Cypress Semiconductor, Sun Microsystems, and Genentech, KPCB is the poster child of the VC space and a firm everyone looks to while placing bets on which emerging tech is likely to hit it big!

Eugene Kleiner was one of the founding partners of this firm, and this post is about him. Kleiner, who is widely considered as the father of venture capitalism, was a colorful character to say the least... and he enjoyed a good metaphor when he saw one! But before we get into that, here's a little background. A long long time ago, when Shockley was trying to figure out how to commercialize his transistors (and much before he became the eugenics nut of his later days), his substrate of choice was 'germanium'! Luckily for us, a few of his key people disagreed, fell out with their boss, and formed Fairchild Semiconductor, gave us the 'integrated circuit' and literally put the 'silicon' in the Valley! Had it not been for Kleiner and the so-called 'traitorous eight', we would be working with thermally-problematic germanium and genetically engineering Hitler's Aryan race! Hehe.

So Kleiner, like I said, was a colorful man who loved his metaphors... weaving a ton of his beliefs around food and such... Some of his aphorisms are collectively called "Kleiner's Laws" and make for a fun read!
  • Make sure the dog wants to eat the dog food. No matter how ground-breaking a new technology, how large a potential market, make certain customers actually want it.
  • Build one business at a time. Most business plans are overly ambitious. Concentrate on being successful in one endeavor first.
  • The time to take the tarts is when they're being passed. If an environment is right for funding, go for it. (This one is often referred to as Kleiner's Law of Appetizers)
  • The problem with most companies is they don't know what business they're in.
  • Even turkeys can fly in a high wind. In times of strong economies, even bad companies can look good.
  • It's easier to get a piece of an existing market than to create a new one.
  • It's difficult to see the picture when you're inside the frame.
  • After learning some of the tricks of the trade, some people think they know the trade.
  • Venture capitalists will stop at nothing to copy success.
  • Invest in people, not just products.
  • There is a time when panic is the appropriate response.
:) Wise words indeed! I can't even begin to tell you how often I speak to this start-up or that which seems to be comprised of folks working hard at ignoring several if not all of these rules! You can't help but wonder - are these guys idiots or do they just think that I am one!! Hehe. Someday I will write a post sharing some of those stories... Until then, may the force be with the one who chooses to follow these laws! ;)

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