The world's most famous venture capitalist is turning green.
There is a little private indicator I use to predict where the next emerging entrepreneurial society will be in the world. About 10 years ago, for one of the very first issues of Fast Company magazine, I interviewed John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Buyers Venture Capital. In those days, Doerr was the hottest young VC around -- and also one of the busiest. So Fast Company was thrilled to snag an interview with him.
The Q&A dealt with what criteria Doerr used when deciding in which new startup companies his firm should invest Though it was well-known here in Silicon Valley, few people outside the area appreciated that VCs basically came in three flavors: those who invested in the product, those who invested in the market and those who invested in the team.
Doerr was one of the few VCs who looked to the last, though not until he had identified a hot new market of potential. And our conversation dealt in-depth with just how John spotted a good team, what characteristics he looked for in the team members, etc. There were a few novel notions in Doerr's remarks -- join a team whose members you think you can work with through good times and bad, don't sweat the business plan, every great startup has a technical genius, good leaders are good communicators, etc. Most of this is now general knowledge.
I wrote up the interview, got my check and didn't think any more about. Nor, I suspect, did Doerr. FC published the interview as "John Doerr's Start-up Manual" -- and, truth be told, I'm not sure I ever saw it in print. By then, I had moved on to become a contributing editor of Forbes ASAP. The Doerr interview should have just gone into the box with a thousand other bylined pieces.
But then the strangest thing happened. In the years that followed, regularly every month or two, I would get an e-mail from some MBA student or young business professional asking about the Doerr interview. Some asked advice on business plans, others wanted to get in touch with John and were hoping for an introduction, and still others wanted to know if I thought anything had changed in the lessons of the original article.
What was interesting about these e-mails was that their point of origin seemed to change by the year. The first e-mails came from the U.S. Then from Europe. After that, China. And recently, Southeast Asia. But consistently, year after year, the most inquiries came from India. Long before the news accounts of the last few years describing the entrepreneurial explosion occurring in places like Bangalore, my e-mails told me something spectacular was going on.
Thus, there was a kind of symmetry when, a month ago, Doerr called to ask if I would be willing to do another interview with him, this time on stage. It seemed that he had been asked to give a keynote address at the annual convention of The Indus Entrepreneurs, the global association of (mostly) Indian entrepreneurs, and instead Doerr wanted to present an informal conversation on stage.
I reminded him of our last such conversation and asked if he still remembered the article that resulted from it. "Are you kidding?" he replied. "I can't seem to escape that thing. Whenever I Google myself, that damn article still comes up first most of the time."