John Doerr: Venture capitalists ‘are pathetic’ on diversity

July 14, 2015, 10:39 PM UTC
Venture Capital Investor John Doerr Interview
John Doerr,
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg—Getty Images

“Nobody wins in this kind of an experience. I’m human.”

That’s how Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr kicked off his interview with Fortune‘s Dan Primack at Fortune Brainstorm Tech. The topic? The Ellen Pao gender discrimination case. The storied Silicon Valley firm won the jury’s judgment, but it emerged battered from public scrutiny.

“Internally and emotionally it brought people together because we got a sense of who we are and what we stand for,” Doerr said. “It also raised our desire to do more.”

Kleiner has undertaken four initiatives to improve diversity at the firm. Unconscious bias training (including for its portfolio companies), the issuing of a diversity report, the actual improvement of diversity in employee ranks, and the retention and advancement of existing employees—think mentors and the like—are all projects.

“It is really hard to be the only female on an engineering team,” Doerr said, “the only African-American in the board room. It’s good to be talking about this issue.”

Primack asked Doerr if the trial was good for the venture capital industry. Doerr sidestepped an answer but allowed: “We collectively are pathetic on the issue. Six percent of venture capitalists are female…that’s just dumb.” He did believe that new hires at the company, such as “Internet Trends” report author Mary Meeker, would run KPCB in a decade.

Doerr had a few other interesting things to say during his wide-ranging interview.

The highlights:

Education technology
“K through 12 education is particularly interesting,” he said. Technologists for decades fought to put tech into classrooms, and educational institutions are bureaucratic and without money. But “while no one was looking,” students “walked into classrooms with all the technology they’d need.” He motioned to his smartphone. “Bigger and better billion-dollar companies can be built there.”


Augmented reality
The AR business will be four times the size of virtual reality, or VR. That’s why Kleiner invested in Magic Leap. “I won’t try very hard in words to describe it, but it’s totally transformational,” he said, citing the applications in entertainment, education, commerce.

Tech bubble
“People compare 2015 to 2000,” Doerr said. “But they lose sight of the fact that there were no smartphones in 2000. There were no ways to [deploy applications globally at scale].” So the market is bigger, he said. “I believe that you can make really good returns any place along the spectrum, from the earliest stage to later stages.”

[fortune-brightcove videoid=4354875557001]


Two final thoughts
1.) “You don’t know how good an investor is until they invest.”

2.) “I’m still seduced by amazing entrepreneurs who want to change the world in a durable way.”

For more coverage of this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, click here.

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