Randy Komisar: Advisor, Digital & Sustainability practices, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

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Randy Komisar joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2005 and focuses on the firm’s digital and sustainability practices. Earlier in his career, he was a co-founder of Claris Corp., served as CEO for LucasArts Entertainment and Crystal Dynamics, and acted as a “virtual CEO” for such companies as WebTV and GlobalGiving. Randy also served as CFO of GO Corp. and as senior counsel for Apple Computer, following a private practice in technology law. Randy is a founding director of TiVo and serves on the advisory board of Roadtrip Nation. He is a lecturer on entrepreneurship at Stanford University and the author of the best-selling book The Monk and the Riddle, as well as several articles on leadership and entrepreneurship. He is also the author of I F**king Love that Company on building love brands and co-author of Getting to Plan B, a book on managing innovation. Randy frequently speaks in the United States and abroad on such topics. Randy holds a B.A. degree in economics from Brown University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

How did you get into the industry?

I have had a host of jobs – from janitor to baker to attorney to CEO.  I have always enjoyed learning and exploring, and I actively seek out new challenges.  At midcareer I retreated from the beaten path and created a new role that emphasized my own values - the Virtual CEO. This role allowed me to partner with a portfolio of innovators and ideas while supporting their growth and success. Consequently I wrote The Monk and Riddle to share this approach and was invited to teach at Stanford. John Doerr at Kleiner Perkins then invited me to bring my Virtual CEO practice to venture capital.  Like so many things, my career only makes sense in the rearview mirror.

Any emerging industry trends?

Innovation is a worldwide phenomenon and I look forward to strong global competition for talent and ideas as capital and mentors venture outside the usual venues. Best entrepreneurial practices are quickly spreading everywhere, empowering innovators and unleashing new solutions.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Societal problems are all opportunities in disguise. The difficulty for investors and innovators is launching compelling solutions when they are ripe – neither too early nor too late. Food and agriculture for an ever-growing global population, health care and prevention in a prohibitively expensive market, education and human potential for underprivileged children and adults, social justice and equal opportunity in a factional world, climate change and environmental degradation in a ecosystem on the precipice; all are huge problems waiting for great business solution. And also glaringly important at this moment is the need for tools and institutions to enhance worldwide cooperation and dialogue – especially in light of the rising nationalism that has clouded the global landscape.  Too many of our biggest challenges require global solutions while our institutions and perspectives remain largely national and local.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

I get my ideas by talking with passionate and driven innovators.  I listen attentively as brilliant people, “lunatics” plagued with obsessive visions, pitch me on their dreams.  I have the privilege of being able to choose which madwoman or man to enlist with.  There are so many talented people out there with unique perspectives that all I really need to do is empty my head and listen.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

I am personally excited to focus more of my efforts on developing talent and creating businesses rather than chasing investments.  My next chapter will bring together everything I have learned about innovation and creatives to foster responsible leadership.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

I look for three things in a venture. A passionate, tenacious visionary who is committed enough for the journey but flexible enough to improve and learn on the job.  A big problem worth the effort in the face of the likelihood of failure. A compelling value proposition for the customer that can be converted into a strong and sustainable business model. Nest, Tivo, WebTV, RPX among many others have all shared these critical traits.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

At midcareer I lost passion for my work and purpose as a CEO.  I was confused by my unhappiness with success. After much soul searching about the conventional path I struck out on the road less traveled and created a new role – the Virtual CEO.  In the end I discovered that we have much more freedom to create our own lives and set our own goals than we think; and I learned that success is deeply personal and not a competitive sport.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Friendship, candor, compassion, empathy, mentoring and responsiveness.

How do you motivate others?

It always about others – their ideas, their success, their setbacks – not mine.  I let them know that their happiness and personal success is my most important objective. I emphasize the great potential while grounding their enthusiasm with the reality of the challenges ahead.  I demonstrate to them that they can rely on me to be frank and honest even in the worst of times.

Career advice to those in your industry?

The best venture capitalists think more like entrepreneurs than investors.  If you want to make a difference for entrepreneurs, first get experience creating something, building something, working intimately with a team in a difficult situation and experience the emotional rollercoaster of husbanding a new idea.  I often tell entrepreneurs not to take money from anyone who has not had to make payroll themselves; they just won’t understand what you are going through. If you do all of that then, maybe, you will be able to help someone else.