by Meridith Levinson

CIO 20/20 Honorees–Innovator’s Profile: John Doerr of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers

Oct 01, 20022 mins

General Partner

Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers

John Doerr invariably gets pegged as the man behind the Internet bubble, the brain responsible for putting Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers’ capital behind Netscape, the mover who picked’s business plan off the pile.

Doerr, however, does not see himself as the power others make him out to be.

“I’m uncomfortable when somebody writes a piece that says John Doerr or John and his partners were responsible for Amazon, America Online, Compaq or Netscape,” says the general partner of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm, naming those brand names of the Internet era that, in fact, the high-powered venture capital partnership identified and backed. “Sure, we’re proud of our involvement, but [Amazon’s Jeff] Bezos, Jim Barksdale [at Netscape], Michael Capellas [at Compaq]?those are the executives who are on the line.”

While he undersells his fame, Doerr, 51, doesn’t hide from the spotlight. Rather, he chooses to use the attention, and his wealth and power, to promote issues that are important to him.

For example, he and Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix, cosponsored a proposition, approved in 2000, that helps California schools pass construction bonds so that new schools can be built and old schools renovated. Now, swimming against the popular tide, he’s lobbying politicians about the importance of stock options in promoting an innovative, growing economy.

Doerr is getting more attention these days for his political activity than he is for his business picks. Indeed, in 1999 there was speculation in the press that he was being considered as a vice presidential running mate for Al Gore. But he continues to search for the next Netscape, focusing on companies with the potential to solve global problems such as transportation, energy and the environment.

“Every one of us finds our own way to give back,” he says.