Special Report -- Silicon Valley -- The Next Generation
GEOFFREY YANG--Venture capitalist, Institutional Venture Partners
Geoffrey Y. Yang seemingly can do little wrong. The 38-year-old venture capitalist has racked up a series of winning investments, including bets on Internet search engine upstart Excite and three companies that have been acquired by Bay Networks, a Santa Clara-based maker of networking gear. His Menlo Park-based firm, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), is one of the premier venture capital machines in Silicon Valley, having invested some $735 million in about 200 companies since 1980. Of those, 56 have gone public. They now have more than $10 billion in combined revenues and a market capitalization of more than $20 billion. The biggest winner: Seagate Technology Inc.(SEG) -- which brought IVP a 10,000% return on a $500,000 investment.
Yang, who has been at IVP since 1987, takes these financial windfalls in stride, noting that not all startups yield such stunning results. Indeed, one-third of IVP's investments turn out to be downright duds, costing the firm most, if not all, its money. That's why Yang works hard to be everything from financier to strategic advisor to executive recruiter in a bid to help his companies grow from seedlings into mighty oaks. "It's very rare to get companies with complete ideas and teams," says Yang, who has an engineering degree from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University. "So I have to make it happen."
Some things Yang has helped make happen: Recruiting George Bell to be the CEO of Excite. Not only was Yang heavily involved in luring the former Times Mirror executive from New York, but he went so far as to go looking at homes for Bell in Silicon Valley. At MMC Networks, a hot semiconductor startup, Yang was instrumental in changing the company's business strategy as well as in helping negotiate MMC's first few contracts with customers. Says MMC founder Amos Wilnai of Yang, who serves on the company's board of directors: "He's a very smart guy and he knows everybody."
Yang's man-about-town image certainly helps him dig up promising ventures. In addition to Excite and MMC, he is knee-deep in such high-tech upstarts as GolfWeb Inc. and Skystream Corp., which is developing next-generation systems for networking digital video. And when he's not attending a meeting for one of the eight companies on whose boards he sits, Yang is out trying to track down the next Netscape Communications Corp. or Yahoo! Inc. "When a great entrepreneur with a pretty great idea comes in, we won't let him or her leave the room without committing to something," says Yang, who is president of the Western Association of Venture Capitalists and an advisor to the Stanford Engineering Venture Fund. These days, that's just how cash-starved entrepreurs feel about Yang.By Linda Himelstein in Menlo Park, Calif.