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Ted Schlein is a partner at Kleiner Perkins and focuses on cybersecurity investments. He is the firm’s managing partner.
How did you get interested in technology?
As a teenager, I became an unofficial Apple product tester, thanks to my dad, who was on the Apple board. I played for hours on the Apple II, IIE, IIC, the Macintosh 128K and 512K, the Macintosh Plus, the Lisa and a LaserWriter. This early exposure to computers created an abiding enthusiasm for technology.
How did that translate into investing in venture capital?
In 1982, I met Arthur Rock, a VC pioneer. He also was on the Apple board, and I got the chance to meet him traveling with my dad to see the opening of Apple’s factory in Cork, Ireland. Rock was a legend, and though it wasn’t a long conversation, he left a lasting impression. I tucked away “venture capital” with an inkling I’d come back to it at some point in the future.
But you started more as a tech guy than an investor, right?
While my college friends rushed off to internships on Wall Street, I spent every summer working for tech companies. First, Trace Systems, a personal robotics company, and then T/Maker, a spreadsheet company run by Heidi Roizen. At school, at the University of Pennsylvania, I continued feeding my interest in technology, starting a resume company with my Mac and LaserWriter printer. I also worked on a fledgling software company that started at Wharton, and I got a credit for it from my Econ professor. After graduation, I took a job at Symantec, a new Kleiner Perkins-backed company with 50 people and no revenues. I was off to the races.
What motivates you to continue investing?
There’s nothing more exhilarating than working with a team of passionate, smart people to solve a problem and improve how something works. In my area of focus—cybersecurity—it’s to make the world a safer place. I’m so proud to see Symantec, 25 years after I worked there, still protecting businesses from cyber attacks.
How do you view the role of venture capitalists in the company creation process?
To understand why I love venture capital, you only have to look at the story of Fortify Software.
In 2002, I had an idea for a business that was timely and appeared to have no competition: a static code analysis tool that could identify security vulnerabilities in code and remove them to immunize software. After a year in the Kleiner Perkins basement, we launched the company. Seven years later, with a great product and a strong market traction, Fortify was acquired by HP. Fortify illustrates what defines being a venture capitalist: You are part entrepreneur, part investor and part business advisor.
You see many, many startup ideas. What does it take to get your attention?
I want to work with smart, dedicated entrepreneurs who have a definitive point of view on their goals, but who are open to taking advice. They also have to be creative executors. Not just idea generators, and not just good executors, but people who can do both.