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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Valley Boy

I read Valley Boy: The Education of Tom Perkins. Perkins is the founder of the ground breaking venture capital firm: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) in 1972. Sometime in the late 80s I met him when IFTF had their offices nearby on Sand Hill Road. This firm financed companies like Tandem Computers, Genentech and most famously Google. A key player in getting a number of high tech firms funding. He was part of HP's board during the bugging debacle a few years ago, and gives his version of the story. He managed HP's move into computing hardware as one of their GMs. He also tells how they developed key aspects of the venture process. Before KPCB he pioneered the commercialization of laser technology. Includes some quirky tales that reveal how rich he is. Worth a read for a history of this aspect of business from the 70s to the present. More.

He also tells the remarkable story of Jan Sloot. In 1999 Perkins was brought in to help verify Sloot's development of a revolutionary technical method for doing video and other data transmission. This would have completely changed how data is transmitted. Though still skeptical, Perkins was convinced enough to push for a very big investment. Then the unthinkable happened, the inventor Sloot died during the celebration immediately after the key demonstration! Then even more remarkably, he had apparently hidden the secret compiler that implemented the method so well that it has not been found to this day. No one ever was able to reproduce the results. This is the 'law of the failing demo' taken to an extreme! This is further discussed here, where it is positioned as impossible.

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