The Kleiner Mafia: Meet the Silicon Valley investors who did their tours of duty at the once untouchable VC firm

Steve Jennings/Getty ImagesAileen Lee, Cowboy Ventures

Fortune’s Polina Marinova published a lenghty feature story chronicling the series of bad decisions that led Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, once Silicon Valley’s premier venture firm, to lose its edge.

One of the critical flaws, Marinova reports, was the firm’s lack of a succession plan during a time when longtime leader John Doerr planned to step back from day-to-day operations. Rather than promoting the highly skilled team of investors internally, Fortune says Doerr instead decided to tap Mamoon Hamid from Social Capital, an outside firm that Doerr had invested in.

Mary Meeker, head of Kleiner Perkins growth fund, was one of the firm’s highest profile departures in September 2018, but even before that, a series of partners exited the Sand Hill Road institution to start their own firms.

Here are some of the hottest names in venture capital that used to work at Silicon Valley’s ageing “gold standard” firm.

Mary Meeker, Bond

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Meeker was a rock star internet analyst for investment bank Morgan Stanley before Kleiner Perkins courted her to lead its new growth fund in 2010. According to Fortune, she oversaw the $US1 billion digital growth fund’s successful returns from investments in high-growth companies that Kleiner Perkins had previously passed up, like Facebook, LendingClub, DocuSign, Snapchat, and Slack.

Meeker reportedly left Kleiner Perkins in 2018 due to disagreements with Hamid. She is targeting $US1.25 billion for Bond’s first fund, her own growth investment firm.

Vinod Khosla, Khosla Ventures

Khosla joined Kleiner Perkins as a general partner in 1986 after cofounding Sun Microsystems, a company that developed computer hardware. His experience in hardware paid off through the firm’s successful investments in Cerent and Juniper Networks, according to Fortune.

Khosla left Kleiner Perkins in 2004 to start Khosla Ventures, an early-stage venture firm that focused on emerging industries like biotechnology and clean energy. Khosla’s firm has invested in genomic testing startup Colour Genomics, sustainable fashion brand Everlane, food delivery platform DoorDash, and payments platform Square, among others.

Trae Vassallo, Defy Partners


Vassallo joined Kleiner Perkins in 2002 and worked on the firm’s energy efficiency portfolio. According to Fortune, the former IDEO product engineer used her design background to help land one of Kleiner Perkins’s most successful investments in Nest, which was sold to Google for $US3.2 billion.

Vassallo left Kleiner Perkins in 2014 to start Defy Partners with Neil Sequeira. On April 10, the firm announced its second fund with $US262 million committed to invest in early-stage companies.

Steve Anderson, Baseline Ventures

Baseline VenturesSteve Anderson

According to Fortune, Anderson joined Kleiner Perkins in 1999 after graduating from Stanford Business School. He reportedly helped out on the firm’s blockbuster Google investment in June of that year.

Anderson jumped back into the corporate world at Microsoft after leaving Kleiner Perkins in 2004, but left to start his own early-stage investment firm Baseline Ventures shortly after. Baseline gained recognition for its early investment in Instagram, which was bought by Facebook for $US1 billion in 2012.

Aileen Lee, Cowboy Ventures

Lee brought her background in consumer technology to Kleiner Perkins’s portfolio and led investments in Rent the Runway, One Kings Lane, and Shopkick.

She left Kleiner Perkins in 2012 to start Cowboy Ventures for early stage investing for consumer technology companies. She also famously coined the term “unicorn” in 2013 to refer to private companies with a valuation of $US1 billion or more.

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