After reading this great article in the Economist, Betting On Green, it was obvious Vinod needed a mention on Forge.
Where to start? Vinod seems to be a mix of entrepreneur and pure genius. Here's how his biography reads:
Upon graduating with a bachelor's in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Vinod failed, at age 20, to start a soy milk company to service the many people in India who did not have refrigerators. He came instead to the U.S. and got his master's in biomedical engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University. His start-up dreams attracted him to Silicon Valley, where he got an MBA at Stanford University in 1980.
Upon graduation he was one of the three founders of Daisy Systems, which was the first significant computer-aided design system for electrical engineers. The company went on to achieve significant revenue, profits, and an IPO, but Khosla, driven by the frustration of having to design the computer hardware on which the Daisy software needed to be built, started the standards-based Sun Microsystems in 1982 to build workstations for software developers. At Sun he pioneered "open systems" and RISC processors. Sun was funded by longtime friend and board member John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
In 1986 Vinod switched sides and joined Kleiner Perkins, where he was and continues to be a general partner of KPCB funds through KP X. Through the years there, with other partners, he took on Intel's monopoly with Nexgen/AMD (the only microprocessor to have significant success against Intel, sold to AMD for 28 percent of AMD), incubated the idea and business plan for Juniper to take on Cisco's dominance of the router market, formulated the very early advertising-based search strategy for Excite, and transformed the moribund telecommunications business and its archaic SONET implementations with Cerent (sold to Cisco for $7B). He helped in creating value, having fun, succeeding, failing (remember Dynabook?), and driving impact in partnership with entrepreneurs and the partners at KPCB.
However, now he has moved on and started his own firm, Khosla Ventures and his investment focus is geared to green energy. Of all the nonsense I read about the future of green energy, I think Vinod is one of the few that get it; injecting some rationality.
He invests on the assumption that 9/10 of his investments will fail but one will be a black swan-no not Natalie Portman, but rather Nassim Nicholas Taleb, which is defined as:
"The event [a black swan] is a surprise (to the observer) and has a major impact. After the fact, the event is rationalized by hindsight."
Will it work? Who knows, but Vinod's background makes him one of the few that might have the necessary foresight to help create [or rather fund] monumental change. He sticks to his guns too:
“We fool ourselves into thinking that if 5% of San Franciscans or rich Germans can afford a technology, then it’s getting market traction. But only when an electric car can compete with a Tata Nano will you achieve scale, and that requires radical innovations in battery technology,” he says, referring to the world’s cheapest production car
I love that honesty, and wish more of our politicians vis-a-vis the public would think the same.
But that won't happen unless Vinod can prove himself. Let's hope so because he is one of the investors in TerraPower highlighted in my previous blog...