If you need any more proof that venture capital firms are increasingly seeing the value of design, here it is: on Wednesday the President of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), John Maeda, announced that he’ll be joining Silicon Valley venture firm Kleiner Perkins as a design partner starting in the new year.
Maeda has been a keynote speaker at our experience design conference Roadmap for the last two years, and last month gave a talk to our audience about why “less is Moore,” explaining the effect that Moore’s Law is having on design. RISD has produced designer founders like Airbnb Joe Gebbia, who also spoke at our Roadmap conference, and Maeda has been instrumental in connecting the designers at RISD with Valley opportunities. Now he’s got his own.
Kleiner Perkins launched a Design Fellows program at the end of 2012 and in the program design students can apply for a three-month project to work in design-focused Kleiner-backed companies like Nest. We covered Kleiner’s Design Fellows Program in detail earlier this year. Maeda was already part of Kleiner’s Design Council, which mentored students in the Fellows Program.
Many other venture firms are focusing on design as well. This fall New Enterprise Associates concluded a design program that helped small design companies become more business savvy. The Designer Fund also has a designer in residence program, and Google has design partners as well.
Maeda will join Kleiner Perkins as a partner in January 2014, and will also chair the eBay Design Advisory Board. Kleiner has a long history of bringing in brand name partners to help with deal flow, show influence and open doors in new areas.