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Mary became an investing partner at Kleiner Perkins in 2010 and leads the firm’s three digital growth funds. She is most well-known for the annual Internet Trends Report.
How do you describe what you do?
I’m an investor - in people, ideas and businesses.
How did growing up in the Midwest shape your approach to business?
Watching my Dad, who worked in the steel business during its growth years and playing sports helped develop common sense, grounding in fair play and an appreciation for the pursuit of excellence.
How did you decide to focus on technology companies?
As an early adopter of the IBM PC, Bill Gates vision of a computer on every desk and in every home resonated. While working as a securities analyst on Wall Street, I was an early believer in the personal computing upstarts - including Microsoft, Dell, Adobe and Intuit.
At Morgan Stanley, you shifted focus to the Internet. What triggered the switch?
I read a story in The New York Times about Mosaic Communications, which built the world’s first consumer-friendly Web browser. Soon after, our team met Mosaic’s founders - Silicon Graphics founder Jim Clark and a 22-year-old named Marc Andreessen. Mosaic became Netscape and changed the direction of computing and communication. In the years after that, I was an early believer in companies like America Online, Amazon, eBay, Priceline and Google.
Why did you switch to venture capital and growth-stage investing?
Getting to know emerging tech companies, founders and products helped me develop a deep understanding of what makes businesses and entrepreneurs succeed and fail. Joining Kleiner Perkins provided the opportunity to invest directly and help companies grow. It’s been wonderful to work with KP partners to lead investments in a new generation of upstarts, including LegalZoom, Spotify, Square, JD.com, Waze, DocuSign, Ring and Peloton.
You’re known for imparting long-held views with colleagues and entrepreneurs. Can you share a few?
We work every day to help founders of industry-defining companies - those that change the way the world operates, make lives better for people and create new jobs.
The most successful entrepreneurs start with a simple mission - during a period of technology transformation - and stick with it. The most epic of our time is Google’s ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’
Keep it simple...constantly push to make products that are easy-to-use and engaging...with near zero-latency.
Finding and training your replacement is one of the most important things a leader can do.
The best investors are unusually optimistic while also being rigorously and thoughtfully pessimistic.
Be patient, take deep breaths...focus on one shot at a time.