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This week’s eWeek column is about Colin Powell and Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.
KP, already an institution in Silicon Valley, has been making some very interesting moves lately as it positions itself not just as a venture capital firm but as a West Coast Institution as important as Bechtel Corp. or Walt Disney Inc. By hiring Powell it is saying that it – and by extension the firms it backs, the people those firms employ, the ideas and culture this firm both embodies and represents – wants to count in the conversation about U.S. foreign and domestic policy.
It is no different from the way long-time Washington and New York establishments like the Carlyle Group, Solomon Brothers or Goldman Sachs hire. And it represents a turning point for the firm, if not for Silicon Valley.
Think I’m exaggerating? Well, take a look at the tech guests that regularly show up on The Charlie Rose Show. Almost all of them – the most recent one was Eric Schmidt – can trace a path to KP. Schmidt, for instance, runs Google, a company funded and backed by KP. And, of course, he was at Sun for years. Another KP investment.

Now, Charlie Rose’s show is insider television at its finest. You watch for what’s said, of course, but also for who’s invited, what they say and how – and when they choose – to say it. Tech has been a big part of Rose’s inventory these past few months. You could almost call it KPCB-TV. And it’s clear to me that Tom Friedman spent a great deal of time with Kleiner’s big thinkers as he was writing his most recent book.
The Colin Powell deal – and yes, that’s what it is – is an interesting one in that it reaffirms these more subtle signals. There is no one in the world who will not return Colin Powell’s phone call. And in politics sometimes you only get one, quiet call to the right person and the right time. This sort of influence can make industries; look carefully at Lew Wasserman’s relationship with President Reagan.
It is both timely, shrewd and farsighted of Kleiner’s partners to take on Powell – and there will be others — at this time.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:45 AM | Permalink

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