The Profile: Silicon Valley’s secret dealmaker & venture capital’s fallen empire
Good morning, friends.
Writing a feature is a soul-crushing process. One second you might be at the peak of elation and the next you are lost in the depths of despair. It made me have that much more appreciation for all the profiles I include in this newsletter every week.
In December’s Profile, I wrote:
Writing a profile so good it inspires people to take action — tweet, tell their friends, call their mom — is really damn hard. But I’m a believer that reading quality journalism makes you a better writer. So pray that I end up writing something cohesive and don’t lose my mind in the process.
And now it’s finally done! I've spent the last several months working on a Fortune magazine feature about why ‘Queen of the Internet' Mary Meeker and her growth investing team decided to split off from venerable venture firm Kleiner Perkins in September.
I shamelessly made it this week’s highly recommended profile below, and I encourage you to read it and send me your honest feedback. I value it every single week.
Let’s get to it:
— The Facebook whisperer
— Donald Trump’s favorite photographer
— Silicon Valley’s secret dealmaker
— The king of fashion
— Venture capital’s fallen empire [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The site fueling a Democratic Civil War
👉 If you enjoy reading profiles of the most successful people and companies, click here to tweet so others can enjoy it too.
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The Facebook whisperer: Chris Cox joined “Thefacebook” in 2005 as the company’s 13th engineer. In 2014, he became Facebook’s chief product officer. During his tenure, he earned more than $390 million in salary, bonus, and vested stock awards. When he left suddenly this month, Cox walked away from more than $170 million more in unvested stock. This is the most in-depth profile to date of the man who has played a seminal role in molding a now feared and polemicized behemoth. It’s good.
“Mark [Zuckerberg] was the better computer scientist, but in all other respects, Chris was everything Mark wished he could be.”
Donald Trump’s favorite photographer: President Donald Trump has called Doug Mills “a genius photographer” and “the No. 1 photographer in the world,” adding, “Unfortunately, he works for the New York Times.” Mills is also the photojournalist who has captured iconic photos of the Bushes, Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. This profile delves deep into his craft, explaining the techniques Mills uses to capture the essence of the commander-in-chief.
“Image is everything. It drives social media. It drives his brand. It drives his base. It’s the empire of image.”
Silicon Valley’s secret dealmaker: In the seven years since the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs, his widow Laurene Powell Jobs has been making private investments through her secretive organization, The Emerson Collective. Since 2014, Emerson has backed more than 30 startups, but the model has drawn some criticism, for both its lack of transparency as well as the introduction of a profit motive to philanthropy. This profile explores the role of secrecy in mega-funding.
"While most other players in this space focus on philanthropy or investment, we are able to do both.”
The king of fashion: Tom Ford is a designer known for sex and excess, but he has become a loyal husband and a devoted family man. A self-described perfectionist, Ford is a hyper, hyper Virgo — “seemingly uptight, seemingly aloof.” (lol same here). This profile captures the eccentricity of Ford in a way that all control freaks will relate to.
“He’s a cross between a Rolls-Royce and the Marlboro Man.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
Venture capital’s fallen empire: Once the very embodiment of Silicon Valley venture capital, Kleiner Perkins has suffered a two-decade losing streak. The investment firm missed the era's hottest companies, took a disastrous detour into renewable energy, and failed to groom its next-generation leadership. Can it ever regain the old Kleiner magic?
“Twenty years ago, Kleiner Perkins was at the pinnacle of venture capital. These days it’s just one of many firms trying to compete.”
The site fueling a Democratic Civil War: The Intercept built its reputation by publishing stories based on top-secret NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden; it also exposed the controversial U.S. drone strike program and revealed how a British intelligence agency sought to digitally surveil every Internet user. Now, the national security site has found fresh energy as a savvy, progressive attack dog in national politics. But is it undermining its own side?
“The Intercept at its best is when it’s doing the hard work that others will not do. The Intercept at its worst is when it’s ideology with a little work.”