John Doerr vs. World Hunger; Steve Case vs. Pilates

Today’s Washington Post has a “two data points makes a trend” piece on the supposed rise of do-goodnik venture investing. Trouble is, the article contains virtually no data to support its point — that Silicon Valley sorts are now trying to find meaning in their lives by investing in good — while mostly demonstrating that some of the heat in venture investing has rotated into life sciences. That, of course, is hardly the same thing as saying venture investors are now soft-hearted, life-affirming, end-world-hunger sorts.

About the most the WaPo’s writer could seemingly coax out of John Doerr, despite using a (1998) photo of the media’s favorite venture guy to illustrate the piece, is the following quote:

“People are looking to have more meaning in their lives,” said John Doerr, a partner at uber-venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. “It is a sign the technology community is coming of age.”

Doerr became famous for funding some of the Internet’s biggest success stories, as well as some of its most spectacular failures. These days he focuses mostly on health care and energy companies and has been applauded for helping get California’s $3 billion stem cell initiative passed and for promoting small loans for entrepreneurs in the developing world.

Really? It must have a different John Doerr that recently did Zazzle, a me-too company that produces disposable custom stamp and t-shirt tchotkes. More seriously, I’m sure Doerr means it when he says people are looking for more meaning in their lives, but I’m highly skeptical that is really driving a new wave of investing in feel-good technologies.

About the only person I can see who is investing in truly unusual “My life has changed! My life has changed!” stuff is that wacky New Age kinda guy Steve Case. He has apparently sunk some money into a Pilates-producing video guy who lives in a cabin without running water somewhere outside Boulder. You go, Steve.


  1. Pilates with Case ’80

    Steve Case ’80 is a busy guy. America Online Inc. founder Steve Case is investing $20 million in a producer and distributor of yoga and Pilates videos, part of his ongoing bet that activities once associated with a new-age lifestyle…