I have been researching the history of Venture Capital in Silicon Valley, and certain names come up as those of maximum significance.
General William H. Draper Jr. became the first professional West Coast venture capitalist when he founded Draper, Gaither & Anderson in 1958. Donald L. Lucas joined this firm, and led the investment in National Semiconductor, which in turn spawned a good deal of the innovation that followed in Microelectronics.
Don Lucas left DG&A, and started investing on his own in 1967. There after, he became God Father to several of tech’s top entrepreneurs and CEOs, the most notable, difficult and colorful of them being Larry Ellison. Don Lucas, incredible as it may sound, was Larry Ellison’s mentor, and the founding investor and first Chairman of the Oracle Board. Still today, Lucas maintains a Board seat at Oracle, and from what I have heard, Ellison remains ever indebted to him for that seminal career break. It is safe to say that no company has had more impact on Enterprise Software than Oracle.
Don Lucas has also mentored another charismatic CEO: Cadence’s Joe Costello, and was also the Chairman of Cadence’s Board until recently. Joe has called Lucas his “Business Father”. Again, no company has had more impact on EDA than Cadence, and while much of that impact is credited to Joe’s boundless energy and creativity, Lucas remained a strong behind-the-scenes character in that success story.
Finally, Don was an early investor in Authorware in 1988, which later merged with Macromind/Paracomp to become Macromedia in 1992. In the emergence of rich, interactive multimedia, this set of companies have had a tremendous contribution, and once again, the behind-the-scenes touch of Don Lucas, along with the other behind-the-scenes touch of John Doerr, were major factors.
John Doerr’s track-record in venture capital is well-known and much celebrated. Don Lucas, however, has maintained a much lower profile, but continues to score with smaller, but interesting plays such as PDF Solutions, a DFM services play and 51Job, a Chinese job search site, both of which have gone public over the last few years.
At 75, Don Lucas, today, still maintains several Board Seats : Oracle and Cadence amongst them.
I wonder, though, who are the torch bearers of the likes of Don Lucas and Tom Perkins – the great venture capitalists, the great mentors, the great God Fathers?