- Bloomberg TV
Perkins died on Tuesday night after a prolonged illness, according to the reports.
Often called the “Father of Silicon Valley,” Perkins cofounded the VC firm in 1972 and made big bets on companies like biotech pioneer Genentech.
He’s also known for stirring up controversy. He severed ties with the firm in 2014 after he wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal that compared the war on the 1% to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany, warning of a coming “progressive Kristallnacht.”
Perkins got an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business School in the 1950s. In 1963, he was recruited by Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett to lead HP’s first R&D facility.
While at HP, he started his own laser company called University Laboratories (UL) and guided that through a merger with Spectra-Physics. He then served on the board at Spectra-Physics, which became a leading laser company. This gave him the cash to start his own venture-capital firm with partner Eugene Kleiner: Kleiner Perkins.
Perkins and Kleiner helped invent today’s tech-VC model by taking an active role in the companies they managed rather than being silent investors.
Perkins later returned to HP and served on the board twice. In 2005, he played a controversial role in the firing of HP CEO and chair Carly Fiorina. He was also embroiled in a battle with Pattie Dunn, the then chairwoman of the board, before resigning in a “cold fury” in May 2006.
Outside of his interests in tech, Perkins was known for leading a lavish lifestyle. In 1996, Perkins was convicted by a French court of involuntary manslaughter after killing a man in a boating accident. His sailing drew headlines again after Perkins created the Maltese Falcon, a $130 million super yacht. He sold the boat in 2009.
In a statement given to Recode by KPCB’s cofounders, Frank Caufield and Brook Byers lauded Perkins’ legacy on the venture-capital industry:
As a co-founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Tom was a pioneer in the venture capital industry. He defined what we know of today as entrepreneurial venture capital by going beyond just funding to helping entrepreneurs realize their visions with operating expertise. He was there at the start of the biotech industry and the computer revolution. Tom was our partner and friend, and we will miss him.