Kawasaki's fervent style has made him a popular draw at trade shows, business schools and corporate gatherings. During a graduation speech at Palo Alto High School a decade ago, he advised students "to pursue joy" and "live off your parents as long as possible."
Between speeches, Kawasaki is busy overseeing Garage with veteran entrepreneur Bill Reichert and former Adobe Systems manager Joyce Chung, both Stanford MBAs. Garage receives 3,000 start-up pitches a year but only invests in five or so.
One recent success story: Kaboodle (www.kaboodle.com), a popular online shopping community co-founded in 2006 by former Intel manager Manish Chandra and bought last year by media giant Hearst for an undisclosed sum.
When Kaboodle's co-founders made their presentation to Kawasaki, he ripped into them, questioning their business model and market, their consumer demographic, their company name.
Chandra says that Kawasaki "challenged our core assumptions" and shaped Kaboodle's business strategies, from aiming at female consumers to increasing its website traffic.
Garage and several other venture firms invested $5 million into Kaboodle and hooked up Chandra with marketing and technology advisers. Now Kaboodle is the No. 1 U.S. social shopping site, according to ComScore.
Colleagues say Kawasaki still believes in the classic Silicon Valley saga of entrepreneurship, the two guys in a garage dreaming big dreams.
"He loves fostering the entrepreneurial spirit," says Will Mayall, co-founder of several software start-ups with Kawasaki. "If he believes in a company, he throws everything into it."
Venture capitalists concede that most start-ups fail, with even survivors taking several years to turn a profit, to sell their stock or to get acquired.
Kawasaki preaches that good entrepreneurs stumble and try again, eye the next curve and ignore naysayers. If the founders of Apple, eBay, Google and Cisco Systems had heeded critics, their firms wouldn't exist.
"Ambitious failure, magnificent failure, is a very good thing," he says.
In the world according to Kawasaki, entrepreneurs shouldn't even fear the financial crisis now.
"It doesn't matter whether the Dow is 5000 or 50,000," Kawasaki says. "If you're an entrepreneur, there is no bad time to start a company."
Entrepreneurs used to need millions of dollars to launch start-ups. Now, many get started with online tools from free software to affordable Web-hosting and blogging services.
"You can do a lot of damage with less than $100,000," Kawasaki says.
Success by a different measure
Despite his business fame, Kawasaki says he's not yet a success by Silicon Valley standards.
He hasn't scored a megahit with Garage's start-ups or his own online business, Alltop, which was slammed as "just a big pile of nothing" by the influential TechCrunch blog. Nor has he attained the wealth of Jobs and other tech moguls.
"At the end of my life, is it better to say that I empowered people to make great stuff, or that I died with a net worth of $10 billion? " Kawasaki says. "Obviously I'm picking the former, although I would not mind both."