The venture firm Kleiner Perkins has enjoyed many iterations over its 47-year-old history. Today, in some ways, it kicks off its newest. According to a new SEC filing, the firm has just closed its eighteenth early-stage fund with $600 million in capital commitments. It’s the first fund that Kleiner has announced since June 2016.
Investors are betting on a very different team than last time around. Specifically, they look to be placing much of their faith in Mamoon Hamid and Ilya Fushman. Hamid, who today runs Kleiner with longtime general partner Ted Schlein, was recruited into Kleiner in August 2017, after being courted by the firm for more than a year. It was hoped all along that Hamid — who’d previously cofounded Social Capital with Chamath Palihapitiya and gotten to know Kleiner during early discussions about potentially merging the two firms — would lead the next generation of investors for the old-guard firm.
Hamid wasted little time, in fact, in bringing aboard the firm’s next hire, Ilya Fushman, formerly an Index Ventures investor and an early Dropbox executive who had known Hamid through co-investments in both Slack and Intercom. Their paths also overlapped as children, living in Frankfurt, Germany. Though they did not know each other at the time, the investors, says one source, have a “definite chemistry.”
The duo, along with Schlein; longtime partner Wen Hsieh; and Bucky Moore — a principal at Costanoa Ventures for the last few years who was brought into Kleiner last year as a principal and was promoted to partner last — make up the new face of Kleiner, along with three associates.
It’s almost a full reboot, marking a new chapter in a firm that has seen a number of them, beginning with the swaggering Tom Perkins, one of the firm’s namesakes, who, with cofounder Eugene Kleiner, closed the firm’s debut fund with $8 million.
There was, of course, the very long era in which John Doerr was the most prominent investor at the firm, running it with the likes of Vinod Khosla and betting on what are now the world’s biggest companies, including Google and Amazon.
Then came what could perhaps described as the firm’s dark ages, beginning with some overly zealous fundraising, followed by a number of niche funds that didn’t pan out as planned, and punctuated by the firm’s public battle with former partner Ellen Pao, who unsuccessfully sued the firm for gender harassment but managed to give its male-heavy team a black eye in the process.
When Mary Meeker, the star analyst who’d joined the firm eight years ago, disclosed last fall that she was leaving the firm along with the rest of Kleiner’s growth-stage investors, it caused even more head scratching despite that the split was painted as amicable by both sides.
But Kleiner is now barreling forward, and it clearly has the support of plenty of institutional investors despite so many changes. Gone from Kleiner’s most recent funds is not just Meeker but another of its long-serving female partners, Beth Seidenberg, a renowned healthcare investor who peeled off early last year to cofound her own venture firm. One of Seidenberg’s colleagues, Lynne Chou-O’Keefe, who had spent more than five years investing in healthcare on behalf of Kleiner, also left last year to create her own debut fund, Define Ventures. And they follow in the path of two earlier investing partners, Aileen Lee and Trae Vassallo, who’ve have gone on to create Cowboy Ventures and Defy Partners, respectively.
Other former Kleiner Perkins investors to helm their own funds include Chi-Hua Chien, who today runs the consumer-tech focused venture firm Goodwater Capital; and Brook Porter, David Mount, Benjamin Kortlang and Daniel Oross, who’d focused on green and sustainability-related tech for Kleiner and who also left last year, closing their own $350 million fund with Kleiner’s financial support as a limited partner.
Whether the new team can restore Kleiner to its perch at the top of the venture heap remains an open question. The investors weren’t made available to us today and we don’t know as of this writing what they plan to do differently with their early-stage strategy to set themselves apart. (Note: We’ll be talking with Hamid and Fushman at a small industry event in San Francisco next week and expect to have many more details on their plans going forward then.)
We do suspect that hiring a woman into the firm’s most senior ranks remains a priority for the firm, given that its senior ranks are made up entirely of men, which is not a great look in 2019.
We also know that expectations are high, given the popularity that Hamid and Fushman enjoy among founders. Said one Kleiner investor to the WSJ as the Meeker news was breaking last fall, “We’re watching a dismantling and rebuilding of a storied firm . . . I feel for the first time in probably a decade they’re starting to have a direction.”
Some of Kleiner’s most recent bets include Toss, a three-year-old, South Korean peer-to-peer digital wallet startup (started by a former dentist, interestingly), that raised $80 million at a $1.2 billion valuation co-led by Kleiner and Ribbit Capital in December.
It also participated in another later-stage deal, a $104 million Series E round last month for Looker, a six-year-old, Santa Cruz, Ca.-based data analytics platform.
And it wrote a follow-on check in November to AEye, a five-year-old, Pleasanton, Ca.-based robotics startup that’s developing lidar technology.
Of course, in VC, much happens behind the scenes, too. For its part, Kleiner is making more seed-stage bets than outsiders might realize. Indeed, according to one source close to the firm, it has written checks to roughly 30 nascent startups in the last year-plus.
Above: Mamoon Hamid