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Tom Perkins, founder of pioneering Silicon Valley VC firm, dies at 84

Among his venture capital firm's biggest hits are Google, Amazon, Genentech and Netscape.

Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Tom Perkins, founding partner of legendary venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has died at age 84.

Perkins died Tuesday at his home in Tiburon, California, of natural causes after a prolonged illness, the New York Times reported Thursday. His passing was confirmed to CNET by Kathy Daly, his personal assistant.

"As a cofounder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Tom was a pioneer in the venture capital industry," Frank Caufield and Brook Byers, the firm's co-founders, said in a statement. "He defined what we know of today as entrepreneurial venture capital by going beyond just funding to helping entrepreneurs realize their visions with operating expertise. He was there at the start of the biotech industry and the computer revolution. Tom was our partner and friend, and we will miss him."

Perkins co-founded Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 1972, when the Valley was still dotted with fruit orchards and its tech scene was still in its infancy. His firm popularized the model of investing in and mentoring small startups for a stake in the companies. Among his firm's biggest hits are Google, Amazon, Genentech and Netscape.

He was also known for stirring controversy. In 2014, in a letter to The Wall Street Journal, he compared the anger directed at the wealthiest 1 percent of people in the US to the Nazis' treatment of Jewish people at the beginning of the Holocaust. Perkins would later apologize for the comments but said he stood by the overall message of his letter.