got in front of Tommy Davis, who put me in touch with Bill Hutchinson, which led to my first job in the business, although the venture capital business wasn’t formalized much at the time. Bill was running the international sales operation for a local firm. And he was leaving with a number of his other associates to start a new company that would be like a Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette on the West Coast. It was going to do institutional equity research on West Coast companies much like what DLJ was doing on the East Coast.
I had had the privilege of working with one of the early venture capitalists in the Bay area, and during that time DLJ put out their first research report on General Motors. I had a good sense and feel for what DLJ’s objectives were and I thought that it made a lot of sense to follow emerging-growth companies on the West Coast, just as DLJ was attempting mainly on the East Coast.
Eventually, I started with William Hutchinson. There were six partners and then me; I wasn’t a partner. I started as a research analyst, focusing on West Coast industries. At the time, Silicon Valley really didn’t exist, so one of the industries was forest products. It wasn’t what you would typically think of today as emerging growth, particularly if you think of emerging growth as having a technology bent. Within four years I had quickly moved from research to institutional sales, and I built an institutional franchise book of clients. The firm became known for a number of companies where we had made money for our clients. We were the primary research source for them and made an enormous amount of money for our institutional clients in the late 1960s.
Eventually, I became the second largest shareholder at William Hutchinson, overseeing a good part of the brokerage operation, but the company was not making money. I came to a crossroads with the founder and I eventually decided to leave.
Finding the Opportunity I hitched up with Robertson, Coleman, and Seibel, who had started their firm in 1969. At the time, they were doing some venture capital work and they were attempting to do investment banking. They were dealing with retail clients. They didn’t have any institutional activity. Together, we reformatted what became Robertson, Coleman, Seibel, and Weisel, where I orchestrated entry into the institutional brokerage business. We bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, hired analysts, traders, and sales people, and built an institutional business in the early 1970s.
By now, Silicon Valley was evolving. As a matter of fact, we raised Kleiner Perkins’ first fund, which was $9 million. Half of it came from the Hillman family. If you think of today’s billion dollar venture funds—and twenty-two of them were raised last year—nine million dollars in Kleiner Perkins’ first venture fund pales in comparison. But this was a large sum in 1971 or 1972.
In the next couple of years, we brought a number of companies public, like Applied Materials, Rohm, and Tandem. All three of these companies were venture backed, so we saw that there was a marketplace for an institutional brokerage firm to research and finance high-quality, emerging-growth companies, particularly in the technology sector.