While Steve Westly and I were chatting the other day, we talked a bit about his mentors. Unsurprisingly, he mentioned Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr, Ray Lane, and Brook Byers.
Westly has a very close affiliation with KPCB. When he decided to become a full-time venture investor last year, they gave him Vinod Khosla’s sunny back offices in the same building where KP resides. (Khosla had moved on to new digs.) Westly has also done quite a bit of coinvesting with the firm — including six of the 16 companies that he has backed thus far.
What Westly had to say about Doerr and Ray Lane didn’t surprise. Westly considers Doerr to be “blindingly smart,” and “able to distill very complex subjects and situations, including interpersonal situations, to the core elements, and to state them clearly so everyone knows what the key issues are that everyone needs to focus on to be successful.” He said that Lane “brings what I’d call an emotional intelligence to deals. He understands people as well as anyone I’ve seen.” (Lane is also famously a hothead, one who has literally screamed in my ear in the past for writing something that he regretted telling me on the record.)
When Westly talked about Brook Byers, though, I was reminded of the many tributes to journalist Tim Russert that we’ve been hearing since his passing last Friday: Westly said he was intuitive and that he treats everyone with the utmost respect, before calling him “the kindest, most wonderful person you’d ever meet.” Westly even mentioned that a telling reflection of Byers is his beloved son, who could easily have become a slacker given his father’s considerable wealth, but instead just graduated from Duke University with top honors and starts a Ph.D program at Stanford in the fall.
I was a little moved, honestly. I’ve never met Byers, but I’ve heard nice things about him from other corners, and it made me think about who, in the venture world, has made a similar impression on me. The first person who jumped to mind is Battery’s Roger Lee, and not just because he let me stalk him for a day for the San Jose Mercury News. (Sorry not to link to it; the Merc’s archives are so surprisingly lame that I can’t find it; so much for the Yahoo! Search engine that powers the paper’s site. )
I could say a lot of nice things about Lee, but they’d all lead to the point that he strikes me as genuine. Which leads me to wonder: who do you think is the nicest person in the industry, and why? I realize how corny the question sounds, but I’d really love to hear from readers with their ideas. Would you write and let me know? Email is firstname.lastname@example.org