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SUCCESS STORIES

One Cool Venturesome Dude

The co-founder of Sun Microsystems quit the company to become a legendary venture capitalist. Today, the firm manages $1 billion of investor capital as well as investments funded by Khosla himself.

Khosla Ventures is based in Menlo Park, California. 

The tale of the co-founder of the Sun Micro-systems, who quit the company to become a venture capitalist and a billionaire in the process, that is the microcosm of the Khosla story. The protagonist of this awesome tale is the 1955-born Indian-American businessman Vinod Khosla. Khosla was the founding CEO and Chairman of Sun Microsystems, the company that created the Java programming language and Network File System (NFS) after he had left the firm in the early 1980s.
He was a student of Mount St. Mary’s High School in Delhi, where his father, an Indian Army officer, was posted. A brilliant student, he went on to acquire B.Tech from IIT Delhi; master’s in biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and an MBA from Stanford.
It was a write-up that he read on the founding of Intel in Electronic Engineering Times at the young, impressionable age of 14 that really inspired him to pursue technology as a career.
In 1980, after his MBA from Stanford, Khosla worked for electronic design automation company Daisy Systems. In 1982, he co-founded Sun Microsystems (SUN is the acronym for Stanford University Network), along with Stanford classmates Scott McNealy, Andy Bechtolsheim and University of California at Berkeley student Bill Joy. He left Sun in 1984 to become a venture capitalist and joined the firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a general partner. At Kleiner, he became a recognized venture capitalist, with several successful early stage investments. He also played a key role with several of the tech industry’s most spectacular failures, including Asera, Dynabook, BroadBand Office, Excite@Home, etc. He also invested in an Indian microfinance company, SKS Microfinance, which lends small loans to poor women in rural India. Khosla is also one of the founders of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs).
Khosla was featured on Dateline NBC in May 2006, where he discussed the practicality of ethanol as a gasoline substitute. He is also said to have invested heavily in ethanol companies, in the hope that someday it would find wide acceptance. Khosla was a major proponent of the ‘Yes on 87’ campaign to pass California’s Proposition 87, the Clean Energy Initiative, which failed to pass in November 2006.
In 2006, his wife Neeru co-founded CK-12 Foundation, which aims to develop open source textbooks and lower the cost of education in America and the rest of the world. Khosla and his wife are also donors to the Wikimedia Foundation.
Vinod Khosla formed his own venture capital firm, Khosla Ventures, based in Menlo Park, California, in 2004. The firm manages approximately $1 billion of investor capital as well as investments funded by Khosla himself. In September 2009, Khosla completed fundraising for two new funds, to invest in clean tech and information technology start-ups. Khosla Ventures III secured $750 million of investor commitments to invest in traditional early stage and growth stage companies. He also raised $250 million for Khosla Seed, which will invest in higher-risk opportunities.

A family man, Khosla’s rules for life include having breakfast and dinner with his family.

In May 2010, it was announced that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was to join Khosla Ventures to provide strategic advice regarding investments in technologies focused on the environment.
Aged 61, he was among the first venture capitalist to understand that Internet technology and fibre optics could make communications very fast, cheap and easy, as well as spot the potential of companies that sell gear for high-speed optical networks.
Khosla was a finalist for the 1999 World Technology Award and served as the Honorary Chair of the DonorsChoose San Francisco Bay Area Advisory Board. In 2007, Khosla was an award recipient in the Northern California region for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In addition, he is a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley. The Center is focused on finding solutions to address the crisis of extreme poverty and disease in the developing world.
Khosla has won admiration because of his ability to build and fashion companies and technologies. He plays an active role and is not satisfied to sit back and let others work the plans while he okays the progress. Though he was successful in almost all his ventures, there has been one time that Khosla had been wrong. He backed 3DO Co, a game-maker whose shares now sell for a fraction of the initial offering price in 1993. Khosla’s current effort is funding and managing application service provider start-ups. He is chairman of two such firms, Corio and Asera.
A family man, this much respected entrepreneur lives in Woodside, California, with his wife and four daughters. Khosla’s rules for life include having breakfast and dinner with his family. He is one of three billionaires of Indian origin in Forbes magazine’s list of America’s richest 400 people.

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