Don Valentine, founder of Silicon Valley venture firm Sequoia Capital, died in his home in Woodside, California, on Friday, the firm said. He was 87.
A Sequoia Capital spokeswoman told the New York Times that Valentine died of natural causes.
Valentine spent nearly 40 years working in Silicon Valley, and Sequoia Capital is widely credited with cementing California's Bay Area as the tech powerhouse it is today.
Valentine graduated from Fordham University before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area to work for Fairchild Semiconductor, one of the earliest technology startups that ultimately spun off computing giants Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and National Semiconductor. After seven years in sales at Fairchild, Valentine joined National Semiconductor as founding vice president of sales and marketing. While at National, Valentine began making small personal investments in a range of young technology companies.
His first venture fund was established in 1972 and paved the way for what would later become Sequoia Capital, one of the most successful and enduring venture firms in Silicon Valley. He invested in the pioneer video game company Atari in 1975. In 1978, he wrote a $150,000 check to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak for Apple Computers. He served on the boards of both tech giants.
Sequoia Capital is a prominent fixture in Silicon Valley tech history. The firm has backed some of the industry's biggest companies, including Oracle, Cisco, Microchip Technology, Linear Technology, and Network Appliance. The firm also incubated several major companies, including Electronic Arts and Sierra Semiconductor.
Valentine oversaw one of the smoothest transitions in Silicon Valley's venture capital industry when he handed over the business to Doug Leone and Michael Moritz in the mid-1990s. Valentine was still active in the firm, but according to its tribute, he rarely intervened with new leadership.
"Don's life is woven into the fabric of Silicon Valley," Leone said in a statement released Friday. "He shaped Sequoia and left his imprint not just on those of us who had the privilege to work with him or the many philanthropic institutions that invested with Sequoia, but also on the founders and leaders of some of the most significant technology companies of the later part of the twentieth century."
The firm's tribute noted some of Valentine's quirks, saying that he "favored green ink," and "never drank coffee." He was widely known in Silicon Valley for asking entrepreneurs about their business, "Who cares?"
Valentine is survived by his wife, three children, and seven grandchildren, according to the firm's tribute.