Georges Doriot / Eugene Kleiner

“Someone, somewhere, is making a product that will make your product obsolete.” —Georges Doriot, pioneering 1940s VC

Whenever I pass by this sign at Logan, I think back to when I first headed out to Silicon Valley with no idea about how the venture capital industry worked. So I read a book by Georges Doriot that I figured everyone knew about there. But I soon learned that everything meaningful in venture/startup needed to come from a podcast or a post on a magazine called “Medium.” It was disorienting at first, but I quickly got a hang of it.

But over time I came to admire Georges Doriot’s work even though it had waned in popularity over the years.

Another person I loved learning about is Eugene Kleiner — as a partner at Kleiner Perkins, it was fun to dig up history about him. He was one of the original Traitorous Eight — which sounds like a movie title but it is more about the history of entrepreneurship summed up in a nutshell: “A small group of us prefer to leave this company because we would prefer to be the disruptor instead of being disrupted.”

Kleiner was a wise VC whose sayings are emulated by many in the field today, unknowingly. A few quotes by him that I am sure will make you nod vigorously are:

  • “Make sure the dog wants to eat the dog food.”
  • “Build one business at a time.”
  • “The time to take the appetizers is when they’re being passed.”
  • “The problem with most companies is they don’t know what business they’re in.”
  • “Even turkeys can fly in a high wind.”
  • “There is a time when panic is the appropriate response.”
  • “It’s easier to get a piece of an existing market than to create a new one.”
  • “It’s difficult to see the picture when you’re inside the frame.”
  • “After learning some of the tricks of the trade, some people think they know the trade.”
  • “Venture capitalists will stop at nothing to copy success.”
  • “Invest in people, not just products. “
  • “What tips me off that a business will be successful is that they have a narrow focus of what they want to do, and they plan a sufficient amount of effort and money to do it. Focus is essential.”

I boldfaced my fav Kleiner-isms :-).

This is a great obit about him in The Economist. —JM