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Why former Oracle president joined Kleiner Perkins

Ray Lane joins the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a general partner.

Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
Dawn Kawamoto
3 min read
Former Oracle president and chief operating officer Ray Lane has joined the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a general partner.

In an interview with CNET News.com, Lane said he decided to join Kleiner because the nature of the VC industry is changing, and he will be able to spend more time with his family.

"I'm trying to stay true to my goal of building balance in my life. I want to have more time with my kids," Lane said. "Although everyone at (Kleiner) works really hard, you feel they're very family oriented, and family is first."

see story: Who is heir to Ellison's throne? He added that the venture community has evolved from reading business plans and picking out winners to partnering with the companies to help them succeed.

"Three to five years ago, I wouldn't be a good fit as a venture capitalist," Lane said. "Every idea I hear is a good one. But the business is changing from throwing a dart at the board."

In July, Lane abruptly ended his eight-year tenure with Oracle as friction grew between him and CEO Larry Ellison. He remains a member of Oracle's board, but that could change.

"Right now, I don't have any conflicts with Oracle or the other boards that I sit on, but if (Kleiner) decides to invest in a company that will be a competitor, then I will step down." His term ends in October.

Kleiner was formed in 1972 and is one of Silicon Valley's best-known VC firms, having financed companies such as Sun Microsystems, Netscape Communications and @Home Network.

Lane is the second top technology executive to join Kleiner in the past few months. In May, former Excite@Home chief executive Tom Jermoluk joined the firm soon after he stepped down as chairman of the high-speed Internet access provider.

Lane will "be working on a lot of (business-to-business) deals because of his connections there," Jermoluk said today in an interview. "But he'll also help companies with organizational development, team building and managing sales channels."

He also will help review business plans and is expected to gradually begin overseeing various Kleiner investments, Jermoluk said.

Lane's decision to join the firm can be traced back to a round of golf at Pebble Beach, according to Jermoluk.

Shortly after leaving Oracle, Lane teamed with Jermoluk, fellow Kleiner Oracle's inside story partner Doug Mackenzie, former San Francisco 49ers safety Ronnie Lott, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman.

"Ray started to ask me, since I had recently made the transition from an operations guy to a venture capitalist, what it was like and what I thought about it," Jermoluk said. "As we talked about it, I could tell he was excited."

Kleiner's partners interviewed Lane in mid-July, and an offer was extended soon afterward, Jermoluk said. "It was a mutual love affair."

After leaving Oracle, Lane said he was approached by several venture firms, including Benchmark and Bessemer Venture Partners. He decided to join what he called the New York Yankees of VC firms.

"Hopefully, it's two class acts finding each other. Even their competitors acknowledge that they are the best," Lane said. "That is the one thing that drove me. They are the best franchise."