Frank J. Caufield, a co-founder and partner of the leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins, died Tuesday. He was 80.
The Menlo Park firm noted the passing of Caufield, who owned an estate in Montecito, in a post on Wednesday. The firm credited Caulfield with helping it “hone its approach to investing in entrepreneurs who were building innovative technology and life sciences companies.”
In 1977, Caufield and Brook Byers teamed with Eugene Kleiner and Tom Perkins to expand the venture capital firm founded in 1972 and crated Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. It is now known as Kleiner Perkins.
Some of the more notable investments by Caufield included AOL, Caremark, Quantum Corporation, and Sybase. He served on the board of these companies and others playing a key role in their success, the firm noted.
After AOL merged with Time Warner in 2000, Caulfield continued on that board for many years and in 2004, he was elected as lead independent director, a position he retained until 2010. He was a former president of the Western Association of Venture Capitalists and the National Venture Capital Association. Caufield was also an active community philanthropist, supporting and serving on the boards of the Council for Foreign Relations, Child Abuse Prevention Society of San Francisco and the San Francisco Film Festival Society. He was also a former owner of Boz Scagg’s music club in San Francisco, Slm’s, the firm wrote.
“Partnerships are mosaics of the individual partners and their diverse skill sets and personalities. Frank had a special knack for instilling great people judgment and common sense in our analytical and sometimes geeky procedures,” Mr. Byers said in a statement. “He made us better with his wisdom and wit. A lunch or dinner with Frank was both a master class in business strategy and a lesson on how much humor can bring out candor.”
Roger McNamee, co-founder of Silver Lake Partners and Elevation Partners, wrote on social media that Caufield was his mentor for 30 years.
“Frank was one of those people everybody loved,” Mr. McNamee wrote on Facebook. “You want to get the definition of a life well lived? It’s Frank.”
Former AOL CEO Steve Case told the San Francisco Chronicle that Caufield was instrumental in his company’s attempts to build credibility.
“I was just 25 at the time we first met, and found his insights into building teams and scaling companies invaluable,” Mr. Case said. “He had a great sense of humor, which he used deftly to lighten things up during difficult times, and also to reinforce key points he was making. I’ll always be grateful for the role he played in getting America Online, helping me become CEO.”
Caufield is survived by his son, Darwin Ventures founder and managing partner Frank R. Caufield, and his daughter Kristen Caufield.