How Kleiner Perkins Almost Blew Its Best Investment Since Google

Bing GordonPartner Bing Gordon saved KP’s bacon

Photo: Joi

The investment that could be Kleiner Perkins’ greatest success since Google almost never was.At the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco last week, KP partner John Doerr said that “Zynga is the largest, most rapidly growing, most profitable company, with the most happy customers that Kleiner’s ever invested in over its life.”

That’s quite an impressive statement from a guy whose firm invested in huge Valley companies like Google, Sun Microsystems, and Amazon.

What makes Doerr’s boast even more fascinating is the story about how KPs investment in Zynga almost never happened.

The first time Zynga CEO Mark Pincus pitched the company to KP, for a series A that would close in January 2008, KP passed.

Then, during the same year, Kleiner almost passed on Zynga again. When Pincus came back to KP a second time – for a series B that would close in July 2008 – KP decided to pass.

Why?

“Silicon valley had stopped believing in games,” KP partner Bing Gordon tells us.

This didn’t sit well with Gordon, who, before he joined KP, helped build one of its portfolio companies, Electronic Arts, into a gaming giant.

Frustrated (infuriated?), Bing decided to put his money where his mouth was. He told his colleagues that if KP refused to invest, he was going to invest on his own.

“Mark and I had agreed I would be an independent advisor to him and Zynga,” he tells us.

According to Bing’s modest telling, “Marks vision and charisma turned the KP team around.”

According to lore, Bings bold move shook KP to its core and got them to invest. Bing!

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