Sybase was an enterprise software and services company started in 1984 in the Berkeley home of Bob Epstein with co-founder Mark Hoffman. Hoffman, a former IBMer who had been at West Point, reached out to Kleiner Perkins partner and fellow Army cadet Frank Caufield to explore a potential investment.
At the time, Sybase (initially called System Ware) was a tiny company—there wasn’t much to analyze to inform an investment decision. But Sybase was pursuing an interesting idea: the need for large companies to share information across their organizations to complete accounting reports, calculate sales estimates and invoice customers, among other things. At the time, these tasks were largely manual—Sybase’s relational database management system promised to automate the sharing, updating and tracking of information across organizations.
We had a strong gut instinct about the potential for the business, and Caufield was also confident in Hoffman’s leadership abilities. In 1985, we invested in Sybase.
Caufield was Kleiner’s point man on the Sybase investment, playing an active role until shortly after the company’s 1991 IPO. SAP acquired Sybase in 2010 for $5.8 billion.