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Sun and Shine

Since the age of 16, when he first heard about a start-up called Intel, Vinod Khosla looked forward to starting his own technology company. Raised in an army household in India -- one with no connections to business or technology -- all he ever wanted to be was an entrepreneur. It is safe to say, then, that Khosla was always unique.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, he decided to start a soy milk company to service those in India who had no refrigerators. The venture failed. On hindsight, it was perhaps for the then 20-year-old's best. Following this disappointing start, Khosla came to the United States and got his master's in biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, followed by an MBA from Stanford in 1980.

in his words
'I find the very notion of 'hot areas' counterproductive, because hot to me means an over-invested area. In 2001, I made a brand new, very expensive, optical telecom investment when it was the worst area. In some sense, I did that because it was the worst area. And guess what? The company is doing very well.'
Photo: Vinod Khosla
Soon after graduation, he co-founded Daisy Systems -- the first significant computer aided design system for electrical engineers. Even through the company went on to rack up significant profits, Khosla, driven by the frustration of having to design hardware for Daisy software, left to start Sun Microsystems in 1982. There, he pioneered 'open systems' and RISC processors. It wasn't enough. After leaving the company in 1985 -- and helping found several companies -- Khosla Ventures was born in 2004.

Khosla was, by his own admission, driven by the need for flexibility to accommodate four teenage children, a desire to be more experimental to fund sometimes imprudent 'science experiments,' and to take on both 'for profit' and for 'social impact' ventures. His goals are to work and learn from fun and knowledgeable entrepreneurs, and build impactful companies through the leverage of innovation. He is also passionate about social entrepreneurship, with a special emphasis on microfinance as a poverty alleviation tool, and has backed many microfinance organizations in India and Africa. Most importantly, apart from his experiments with global housing, Khosla is now recognized as a pioneer of clean energy technologies.

His company continues to focus on traditional technologies like computing and mobile, while supporting breakthrough scientific work in clean technology areas like bio-refineries for energy and bio-plastics, solar, battery, and other environmentally friendly technologies.

Fortune magazine recently called him the nation's most influential ethanol advocate, and his company recently announced an investment of $3.5 million in New Zealand bio-fuel company, Lanzatech.

For a 16-year-old with dreams in his eyes, Khosla has done all he ever wanted to do. That he remains committed to making things better for those not as successful as he has been, is testament to his worth as a human being.