Tom Perkins, “a founding father of Silicon Valley,” has died at 84

The legend.
The legend.
Image: AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Tom Perkins, who cofounded the famed venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, died Tuesday night (June 7) at the age of 84. According to the New York Times and Recode, his longtime assistant Kathy Daly said he died of natural causes after a prolonged illness.

Often referred to as “a founding father of Silicon Valley,” the legendary tech investor created his firm in 1972 and played a major role in building up the venture capital industry.

Perkins served as the first head of Hewlett-Packard’s computing division and credits Dave Packard as his mentor, whose style and ideas he studied. In a 2007 Q&A with the Financial Times, he gave the following advice to budding entrepreneurs: ”So, my advice is to find another Packard (they are out there) and bet to work in his company, and watch closely.”

He sat on a number of boards throughout his life, including Hewlett-Packard, Applied Materials, Symantec, Genentech (his favorite investment, according to the New York Times), and News Corp.

In recent years, however, Perkins gained infamy for remarks construed as elitist. In 2014, he wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal drawing a parallel between the “war on the American one percent” to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. (Kleiner Perkins went on to distance itself from him afterward.) He’s also suggested that the rich should get more votes because they pay more in taxes (“You pay a million dollars in taxes, you should get a million votes. How’s that?”). When MIT profiled him, an alum, and his super yacht, the Maltese Falcon, in 2006, he joked that he would fly flags with the message: “Rarely does one have the privilege to witness vulgar ostentation on such a grand scale.” (“But perhaps he’s not joking,” the story went on to say.)