Updated (with possible answer about Ying Lee)
A day after Silicon Valley top-dog venture firm Kleiner Perkins announces its new 12th fund, here are a few follow-up tidbits:
Back to boom times in VC — This comes after Kleiner raised its previous, 11th fund just two years ago. It underscores the current Silicon Valley/start-up boom. Things are moving at a blistering pace. Funds typically last for about ten years. You invest the money aggressively for the first few years (normally about three or four years) and then nurture your companies over the remainder of the fund’s life. You might raise another fund after a few years, but it is usually more than two years except for during boom times. PE Week’s Primack has more on other theories here. Remember the late 1990s? You had all these firms that raised funds in 1999 and 2000. We are not quite back to those years, but we’re getting close with this Kleiner fund.
So who is Ying Lee? — Ok, what about all those partner shifts? A person named Ying Lee has popped up on the list of partners in Kleiner’s latest fund. But a Google search pn Lee rendered nothing (ok, we didn’t search all 34,500 results), so we’ve asked Kleiner to…
tell us more. (Update: Dan Primack guesses: Former staff aide to U.S. Representative Ronald V. Dellums and Barbara Lee, consults with Bay Area nonprofits including projects that bring healthy food to elementary schools.) We’ll respond if/when we hear back for Kleiner. Meanwhile, suddenly missing on that same list is Russell Siegelman, who was a managing partner in the prior fund, and didn’t seem to be part of the group (see below) that was easing out slowly. Yet he’s still on the site as a main partner, so we’re checking on that one too.
Quartet Exit complete — Kevin Compton, William Hearst, Vinod Khosla and Doug Mackenzie, who lightened their duties when the prior fund was raised in 2004, are now missing entirely from the list of partners in the new fund. Yet they do remain affiliated with the fund as per Kleiner’s web site. We’d talked with Khosla the other day, who confirmed he has his own outfit, Khosla Ventures, but still works at Kleiner’s offices — so this seems just the sort of peaceful transition that Kleiner has been suggesting — if somewhat awkwardly at times. Check out the Khosla Ventures web site. It must be embryonic, because nothing comes up under the “KPCB Relationship” link — or at least it didn’t this morning. In fact, none of the other links worked. But as we’ve noted before, he’s investing in alternative energy and other clean-tech companies, and we’ll be mentioning more in a story next week.
Off to Bear Valley — So what are the others up to? Compton and Mackenzie, as we’ve mentioned, are investing in mainly non-tech ventures through Radar Partners. In one recent example, they’ve teamed up with long-time South Bay real estate tycoon Chuck Toeniskoetter and purchased the Bear Valley Mountain Resort (more details here). Picture at left (not ours, it’s theirs) makes this look more like Bare Valley. Anyway, as their public relations guy tells us, this place is a three-hour drive from the Bay Area, and so a tad closer than Tahoe. The area is flooded with Bay Area vacationers (a majority of the homes there are owned by Bay Area residents), he tells us. The new ownership has already pumped in $1 million to upgrade the facilities up there; they plan to build a large, high-speed ski lift from the center of town directly to the slopes, and want to develop 350 to 500 more condos, to add to the 250 homes already there.
Wandering eye? — So who else is on the short-list for getting the wandering eye and exiting from Kleiner? Compton, of course, invested in the San Jose Sharks around the time he began to step down the pace at Kleiner. Now Joe Lacob has invested in the Boston Celtics franchise, and joined its board. More travel. But then extracurricular activities have long been a thing for the Kleiner partners, John Doerr foremost among them. Doerr isn’t likely to go anywhere, even if you caught the recent piece mentioning his support of the New Schools Venture Fund (registration required) in San Francisco, which is a non-profit investing in “education entrepreneurs.” Microsoft’s Bill Gates is also an investor.
Pandemic fund risky? — Paul Kedrosky, who claims he is not a Kleinerologist, even though he posts about the firm a lot, suggests Kleiner’s fund is a bit risky. He joins Dan Primack, of PE Week in expressing skepticism. For one, it is focused on a sector that is highly regulated, so you’re going to depend on government grants and contracts. We note, however, that focused funds raised by Kleiner haven’t done too badly.
Kamen: Thumbs up or down? — And no, Dan, we won’t automatically assume Kleiner will be investing in Dean Kamen’s latest venture, even if Kleiner did invest in Kamen’s high-tech scooter, the Segway. Sure, it is quite possible they will, because Kamen’s new venture is using delivering water purification and electricity to developing countries, two things that Kleiner’s John Doerr has talked about passionately before. But Doerr had a tough time negotiating with Kamen to get a CEO for the previous company, the Segway, and it hasn’t been smooth sailing. See here and here, and here for the annual CEO shuffle. Emergence Energy, led by Iqbal Quadir, founder of Bangladesh’s Grameen Phone, is negotiating now to license rights to Kamen’s two new “S” machines, the Slingshot (for water) and the Sterling (for electricity). Emergence reportedly wants to raise $30 million in venture capital. (The electric generator is powered by an easily-obtained local fuel: cow dung. Each machine continuously outputs a kilowatt of electricity. That may not sound like much, but it is enough to light 70 energy-efficient bulbs. As Kamen puts it, “If you judiciously use a kilowatt, each villager can have a nighttime.”)
Green Initiative — Speaking of environmental projects, Doerr told us during a phone interview Wednesday that the firm has not yet invested in an ethanol technology play, but plans to do so as part of its $100 million green initiative. They are looking.