Dec 10, 2019

Deaths of investment pioneers leave gap in institutional knowledge

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Venture capital and private equity are integral parts of America's economy, but neither has really been around for very long. It's something I've been reminded of over the past month, as several of the industries' founding fathers have passed.

Driving the news: Bill Macaulay in 1983 co-founded First Reserve, which would become the first global private equity firm focused exclusively on energy. Until 2017 he'd lead First Reserve, which has raised over $35 billion for its funds. Macaulay died last week at the age of 74, leaving behind wife Linda and daughters Elizabeth and Anne.

Frank Caufield and Brook Byers in 1977 teamed up with Eugene Kleiner and Tom Perkins to expand Kleiner Perkins into the legendary VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. His deals would include AOL and Caremark, and he'd serve as president of the National Venture Capital Association.

  • Caufield passed away shortly before Thanksgiving at the age of 80. He's survived by son Frank (founder of Darwin Ventures) and daughter Kirsten.

Pete Musser in 1953 founded what would become Safeguard Scientifics, an investment group that evolved its focus from industrials to Internet tech. It's one of those firms that would be much-better known if it wasn't based in the Philly suburbs, but its history included selling Ralph Roberts the first of the cable TV systems that would become Comcast, backing Novell, and seeding Internet Capital Group to dotcom-era prominence. It also was one of the original startup "incubators."

  • Mussser died in late November at the age of 90.

Don Valentine, the founder of Sequoia Capital and an early investor in companies like Apple and Cisco, passed away in late October.

Plenty of veteran firm founders remain not only alive, but very much healthy and in charge. But the truth is that we're rapidly losing institutional, foundational knowledge. History passing before our eyes.

Go deeper: Former Fed chairman Paul Volcker dies at 92

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The venture capital party is not over

SoftBank chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son. Photo: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

"The venture capital party is over" was the gist of countless mainstream and social media predictions in October, following WeWork's IPO collapse and SoftBank's difficulties in raising over $100 billion for its second Vision Fund.

Why it matters: They were wrong.

Go deeperArrowDec 17, 2019

Attention Capital is acquiring Girlboss

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Girlboss Rally NYC 2018

Attention Capital, the new media and technology investment firm, announced Tuesday morning that it's acquiring Girlboss, a media company geared towards female millennials that was founded by female fashion entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso.

The big picture: It's the latest example of a venture group consolidating smaller media startups or struggling legacy media brands.

Go deeperArrowDec 17, 2019

What Jerome Powell learned from Paul Volcker

Paul Volcker. Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Former Fed chair Paul Volcker died Sunday at 92 years old, it was announced yesterday. It reminded me of comments current Fed chair Jerome Powell made about him at the National Association for Business Economics conference in October.

Powell said of Volcker: "I don’t think there has been a greater public servant in our lifetimes."

Go deeperArrowDec 10, 2019