Don Valentine, longtime lion of Silicon Valley, dies at 87

October 25, 2019 View comment (1)
Don Valentine speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2013 (JD Lasica/TechCrunch/CC BY 2.0)

Don Valentine, a founding father of Silicon Valley's startup ecosystem whose legacy includes the Sequoia venture firm along with tech giants like Cisco Systems and Apple, died on Friday. He was 87.

His death was announced by Sequoia, the venture capital powerhouse that he led from the dawn of the computer revolution in the early 1970s through the dot-com boom of the 1990s.

"Don's life is woven into the fabric of Silicon Valley," Sequoia said in a statement.

A native of New York, Valentine arrived in Southern California in the 1950s, initially working in the region's booming aerospace industry as a sales engineer. He eventually moved north to join Fairchild Semiconductor, which spawned spinoffs including Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.
Later, while at National Semiconductor, Valentine started making personal investments in tech companies and joined a mutual-fund partnership that would go on to form Capital Management Services, the forerunner of today's Sequoia that also made an early investment in a videogame company called Atari. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs previously had worked at the company.

With a $3 million vehicle, Capital started its first venture fund in 1974. Valentine served on the boards of scores of companies, including Atari, Apple, Cisco, Oracle and Electronic Arts.

Valentine remained at the top of Sequoia until 1996, handing off to Michael Moritz and Doug Leone, a partner he helped recruit and who remains one of the senior leaders of the Menlo Park-based firm.

Into his 80s, Valentine was steadfast in embracing the archetypal Silicon Valley startup ethos of a bold—often young—innovator.

"I remain infinitely fascinated," his official bio page quotes him as saying, "with how technical twenty-somethings view the world in a highly unconventional way and want to build products their way, not someone else's."

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