01 Oct 2001
New Economy Notables: John Doerrby Susan YoungTopics:
The summer after his first year at HBS, armed with a master's
in electrical engineering from Rice University, John Doerr moved to
California for two reasons. "I wanted to apprentice with a venture
capital firm," says Doerr, now a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield
& Byers, one of Silicon Valley's best-known venture firms. "But
a higher priority was my girlfriend, Ann, who had just dumped me."
While his initial advances into the VC world were thwarted, the move
paid off romantically when Ann took him back, and he landed a job at
the venture-backed company where she was working as an engineer —
Intel. After marrying Ann and six successful years in various engineering,
marketing, and management positions at the chipmaker, Doerr joined Kleiner
Perkins in 1980. His impressive list of hits — Compaq, Netscape,
Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Sun Microsystems, and Amazon.com, to name
a few — is not surprising given his thoughtfulness about technology.
"The Internet," says Doerr, who is also an education activist,
"may be evolutionary in its effect on business, but it is revolutionary
in its effect on societies, democracy, and globalization."
A lemonade stand. And then Burger Chef, where you
could say I helped serve their demand chain.
Learned at HBS
If you want to help teams achieve their very best, work at understanding
others. Understand each individual's assumptions, perceptions,
and feelings — the ambitions, fears, and motivation by which we
make meaning in life.
My dad. He's my hero. I admire his enthusiasm,
his ability to work with people and to pull teams together, and his
love for and commitment to family.
Where the new economy is going
The new economy is led by businesses
with network effects and increasing returns based on innovation and
intellectual property. It's more than the Internet, more than Silicon
Valley. At the moment, we're in a full-fledged tech recession in the
United States, with scary implications for the global economy. Today's
view of the new economy is "stupid low"; a year ago, it was "stupid
high." I hope we return to normalcy in less than a year. In the long
run, innovative tech businesses will continue to be our main engine
Key elements in evaluating a business proposal
First, the backgrounds of the entrepreneurs. Are these people we'd
like to be in trouble with — because if we go into business together,
we'll surely get into trouble. Next, what is the vision, the technology,
and are we addressing a really large unserved market? Then, is the financing
plan reasonable, and finally, is there a sense of urgency?
Advice for current MBAs
Cultivate a few mentors for personal
and career development. Join a well-managed, growing organization. Keep
family and friends first. Find your own way of giving back.
Pro bono work
I have three interests — education, the environment, and health care
— but so far have only had an impact on education. In California we
have strengthened the charter public school laws, provided funding for
facilities, and lowered to 55 percent the threshold required to pass
a local school bond. The net result is that over ten years, a million
kids can graduate from new, high-performance, competitive schools, and
$20 billion of desperately needed funding will be used to improve facilities.
On the national level, I cofounded TechNet, a policy network to improve
public education, and the New Schools Venture Fund, a venture philanthropy
fund for education entrepreneurs.
Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather's Blessings,
both by Rachel Remen, Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand, and Real
World Photoshop 6, by David Blatner.
That Ann and I didn't start our family
Best business advice
A mentor said integrity is like sand held in your hands. If you spread
your fingers and let that sand flow through, you'll never get it back.
Also, choose your partners wisely.
Class of MBA 1976, Section C