Eugene Kleiner’s legacy

Eugene Kleiner

When the first techs were essentially creating the myth of Silicon Valley from whole cloth, there wasn’t even established science let alone the whiff of markets. The Economist‘s obituary of Eugene Kleiner gives an idea how these guys got into this [emphasis added]:

HAD you visited the Valley of Heart’s Delight, south of San Francisco, in the 1930s, you would have found a pretty place of plum and walnut orchards. …Seventy years later, the valley contained 7,000-odd companies working in electronics, biotech and their offshoots, with 11 more springing up every week. Yet this most recent industrial revolution, like earlier ones, depended on the chance combination of three elements: the scientist with his invention, an entrepreneur to market it, and an investor willing to risk his money.
Chance and genius collided to create something so much bigger than the sum of their parts.  Because, after succeeding in creating Fairchild Semiconductor (refugees from which later formed Intel), Kleiner got into the business of creating more technology companies.  The Economist again:

By 1972, Mr Kleiner had plenty of cash. He also wanted to become a venture capitalist himself. The breed was still rare, and even rarer in the guise Mr Kleiner had in mind: a “technologist” who was involved and got his hands dirty, as well as simply writing cheques. He was never interested in enterprises that did not relish this approach. But in partnership with Thomas Perkins, and later in the firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, he gave the starting push to more than 350 companies.

Eugene Kleiner is now long gone but the company, KPCB lives on, counting twitter, google, amazon, uber, etc. in its portfolio.  But I wonder how Kliener might assess what he would see now.  Bob O’Donnell says
Many technology companies, and the tech industry as a whole, have gotten incredibly arrogant.
… Everywhere you turn, there are people in tech describing how they are completely reinventing businesses or business models or ways of doing business.
…only when tech folks have brought their particular form of magic to other industries, such as transportation and logistics, are they deemed worthy of thinking, talking, or writing about. (Uber, anyone?)
The common assumption behind these, and many other, examples seems to be that only people in tech can really figure these things out.
While tech has become arrogant, the investors have thrown away Eugene Kleiner’s probity & technical expertise, fully upending the koolaid jar into their maw.
“Somebody posted too many party fliers.” says Mark Suster,
The uninvited crowds have all turned up. The people here don’t respect your parents’ furniture, are throwing beer cans in your back yard and there’s a dude passed out face down in your sister’s bedroom. About an hour ago he thought he was invincible. That he defied the laws of gravity. He turned up for the fun but went too hard, too early.
Mark blames unicorns and the
entire bullshit culture of swashbuckling startups who define themselves by hitting some magical $1 billion valuation number and the financiers who back them irrespective of metrics that justify it.
 What he is decrying is what I myself find distasteful and quite terrifying.  I have met and have been told of many a “successful entrepreneur” whose only measure of spectacular success has been that he has raised a shitload of money from a boatload of VC investors.  The products themselves are not much more than a GUI and an “app.”
Silicon valley is now Silicon ValleySilicon_valley_title the TV series:  life become art become parody.  Everyone I know in technology from investor to inventor winces in some version of PTSD whenever the series is mentioned.  I wonder what Eugene Kleiner would make of it all.

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