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Venture Capitalist Tom Perkins Remembered As Silicon Valley Legend Who 'Didn't Suffer Fools'

Kyle Alspach

Tom Perkins is being remembered as a central figure in the evolution of Silicon Valley, as a top executive at Hewlett-Packard during a critical period and as a co-founder of pioneering venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Perkins, who was 84, died Tuesday at his Marin County, Calif., home.

"Tom was the quintessential venture capitalist. He combined operating experience, technical prowess and curiosity, with strong business judgment. He pushed the envelope and went after big bold ideas which he was able to help succeed," said Matt Murphy, managing director at Menlo Ventures and formerly a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for 15 years, in an email to CRN. "He didn’t suffer fools and had a sharp edge at times, but it was part of what made him good at what he did. He dared all to be great and pushed with a sense of urgency that raised everyone's game."

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While most recently Perkins received publicity for a series of controversial comments, his earlier career achievements had helped lay the foundation for the modern tech industry.

After graduating from MIT and Harvard Business School, Perkins joined HP and eventually became general manager for the computing division -- a position he held during the second half of the 1960s, a crucial period when HP was responsible for developing minicomputers.

Perkins went on to co-found Kleiner Perkins in 1972, which was among the first firms to make small investments into unproven companies in exchange for equity stakes. Along with helping to popularize the modern venture capital model, the firm is known for having made early-stage investments in such companies as Sun Microsystems, AOL, Google and Amazon.

Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association, said in a statement that Perkins "will be missed but his legend lives on."

"As co-founder of one of the most storied venture firms on the planet and past Chair of NVCA, Tom was a legendary figure of our industry and will always be remembered as one of the founders of the modern day venture capital industry," Franklin said.

Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach is a Senior Editor at CRN focused on cybersecurity. His coverage spans news, analysis and deep dives on the cybersecurity industry, with a focus on fast-growing segments such as cloud security, application security and identity security.  He can be reached at kalspach@thechannelcompany.com.

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