John Doerr Talks Diversity, Execution And The Future Of Kleiner Perkins

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Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr hopes that his firm will find itself where it has successfully brought in a diverse set of new partners — a problem that has long-troubled the venture capital industry.

Kleiner Perkins has started actively working to promote diversity internally and through its portfolio companies, Doerr said. For example, the firm is going through unconscious bias training and making it available to the companies it works with. It also publishes a diversity report. It has a fellows program and, eventually, hopes to hit that “50/50 world.”

But in an awkward highlight during a fireside chat at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015, Doerr joked that his two new partners were “so diverse I have a challenge producing their names.” Doerr was referring to the firm’s new partners Swati Mylavarapu, formerly of Square, and Muzzammil Zaveri, formerly of Tencent. He quickly followed up on Twitter by calling it “an unfortunate joke that was not funny.”

“I made it really clear even at Kleiner Perkins, where I’m deeply committed to diversity, we have done more and should do more to get to a 50/50 world where everyone can make a difference,” Doerr said on stage. “We can be better.”

But the DNA of the entrepreneurs the firm has invested in hasn’t really changed, though they tend to be younger, Doerr said. They fit the profile of founders like Larry Page and Sergey Brin, he said. “It’s pattern-matching; that’s the secret sauce.”

Part of that comes down to execution, he said. But in one example, a Kleiner Perkins investment didn’t succeed on that, Doerr said. Earlier today, Quirky, a Kleiner Perkins investment, filed for bankruptcy. While the company was running out of money for some time, Doerr said that eventually, founders need to give up and move on to the next thing. Quirky had raised $185.3 million.

“The good news is you can only lose 1x your money, and you can make multiple,” Doerr said. “I don’t mean to be flippant. I look and say these are the hopes and dreams of entrepreneurs. Our job is to be a service provider. I want to see Kleiner Perkins hanging on to the wagon as it’s almost going over the cliff — our heels are dug in. But if it’s not gonna work, the best thing to do is to move on. Don’t waste peoples’ lives and careers on something that is not gonna be worthy of their time.”

Lately, he said he’s excited about healthcare — including a stealth company he’s invested in that he hopes will impact the industry in the same way that Google did for search. He didn’t specify what the company did, but said it sought to make healthcare information “useful, valuable and available to bring change to the largest, most screwed up part of our economy.”

Doerr said he spends most of his time recruiting — and pointed to KP partner Mary Meeker, who it took 10 years to recruit, he said. The venture capital industry is “more competitive than ever,” he said, and the firm’s goal is to bring in “the next generation of leaders” as partners that will make that happen.

“In an ideal world the future [of Kleiner Perkins] reflects the founders, the entrepreneurs we’re trying to serve,” Doerr said. “[We’ll be] more diverse, more technical, and will have a point of view of what’s important, but we’ll be open for business for the best ideas.”