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A Silicon Valley VC Pioneer Ponders a Smaller-Is-Better Future

Kleiner Perkins is in crisis with star partner Mary Meeker leaving.
Mary Meeker in 2016.

Mary Meeker in 2016.

Photographer: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Late last year the exterior of one of the most storied offices on Silicon Valley’s venture capital-studded Sand Hill Road got a makeover. But employees at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers are having a hard time putting a fresh face forward. Marred by a gender-discrimination lawsuit, bad bets on environmental technology, and perhaps most alarming, dwindling relevance, the firm has been attempting to reinvent itself as it confronts the most severe crisis in its 46-year history.

That challenge became more urgent in mid-September when Kleiner lost high-wattage partner Mary Meeker—aka the Queen of the Internet for her early calls on transformative web trends such as search and e-commerce. She and her team announced they were leaving to raise their own fund and bankroll late-stage tech companies in China and other global hot spots. The split leaves Kleiner and its heir apparent, Mamoon Hamid, to focus on the early-stage bets that made it famous but without the division that was responsible for most of its more recent hits, including Uber, Snap, Spotify, Instacart, and DocuSign.