Kleiner’s Laws –

Before you read Kleiner’s Laws, there’s something you should know: Not all of them came from Eugene Kleiner. He originated many of them in the 1970s and early 80s, but then the list sort of took on a life of its own.

“Eugene always had the ability to sit quietly in a meeting and come up with these one-sentence maxims,” says Brook Byers. As the years went by, whenever someone said something pithy enough to have come from Kleiner, it was added to the list out of “admiration” for Kleiner.

It was Frank Caufield who was fond of saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.” And Byers came up with, “Revisionist history usually begins during the IPO,” after hearing a CEO “change the entire history of how a company was built during the road show.”

The laws are still used to this day. When someone is pitching a deal at a partners meeting, a veteran might say, “Oh, that violates Kleiner’s Law on risk.” A new associate, thinking he missed the memo, might ask sheepishly, “What’s that?” “Then Kevin Compton, or John Doerr or I would say, It’s obvious: Market risk is inversely proportional to technical risk,'” Byers says.


On the Need for a Board of Directors“It is difficult to see the picture when you are inside the frame.”

On Startup Fratricide“New companies dividing niche markets are like two bald men fighting over a comb.”

On Startup Fratricide“Venture capitalists will stop at nothing to copy success.”*

On Market Opportunity“After R&D is finished, the dogs must want to eat the dog food.”*

On Technology Application“Guttenberg first applied moveable type to the Bible, one of the few things that doesn’t change.”

On Company Culture“Don’t expect a catfish to swim with sharks.”

On Crisis Management“There are times when panic is the appropriate response.”*

On Customers“There are two types of early adopters: those that buy and those that want the product given to them.”

On Negotiating Balanced Deals

“The best of breed don’t grow on thinly sliced salami.”*

On Uncertainty“No good deed goes unpunished.”

On Creativity“If it’s surprising, it’s useful.”

On IPOs“Even turkeys can fly high in a strong wind.”

On Ambiguity

“After learning some tricks of the trade, some people think they know the trade.”

On Boards of Directors

“A good board will give you better advice than your mother.”*

On Risk

“Market risk is inversely proportional to technical risk.”

On CEO Ego

“Revisionist history usually begins during the IPO.”

On Financing

“The time to eat is when the appetizers are being passed around.”*

* Definitely said by Eugene Kleiner.