Ruminations on the semiconductor industry from David Manners

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The Dutch TV Repairman And The VC.

By David Manners on January 16, 2008 2:53 PM | No Comments | No TrackBacks
Tom Perkins, partner in Silicon Valley venture capitalists Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, recounts a wistful tale in his book Valley Boy.

Apparently a Dutch TV repairman called Jan Sloot had come up with a revolutionary new way of storing video. He had been working on it for fifteen years.

Perkins goes to Amsterdam for a demo. Everything was transparent except the compiler software which Sloot kept on a disc and personally retained pending a deal.

Perkins is so impressed by the demo, he decides to back the idea on the spot. “We would all become rich beyond the dreams of avarice”, writes Perkins.

They call for a chocolate cake and a large bottle of champagne to celebrate the deal.

“I studied Jan Sloot”, recalls Perkins, “he was in a state of . . .well. . . .bliss.”

“I planned to get Rupert Murdoch involved”, says Perkins, buzzing with ideas. Next day Perkins rings Amsterdam to discuss them, and is told: “Jan Sloot died”.

Apparently, shortly after Perkins left the celebrations, Sloot keeled over and died.

Sloot’s family wants to go ahead with the deal. So does Perkins. The contract ties the family to the deal. It all looks like going ahead.

The only component missing to realise the technology is the compiler disc.

When they can’t find it they try to reverse engineer it.

And fail.

They rip Sloot’s house apart and dig up the garden.

No sign of the disc.

It never turns up. The technology is never used, the deal scrapped

But Perkins sees the story as having a happy ending.

“That afternoon, with a glass of champagne in his hand, he was experiencing a joy so profound, the prospect of life so incredibly rich and rewarding, just his for the taking,
that his life was entirely fulfilled.”