Bill Joy, former chief scientist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems Inc., confirmed Tuesday that he had joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a partner to help invest the venture capital firm's $400-million fund.
Joy said in an interview that he would work with entrepreneurs on Web services and software, wireless applications, supercomputing and materials to make mainstream energy devices more efficient. A UC Berkeley graduate, Joy helped develop the Java programming language.
The 50-year-old has been considering the move since leaving Sun in September 2003. He has known several Kleiner Perkins partners since 1982, when the venture firm provided start-up funding for Sun, today the world's third-largest maker of computers to run corporate networks. Joy said an increase in quality business plans he had received led him to join the Menlo Park, Calif.-based investment partnership.
"More than just money, you have to help entrepreneurs build their company," he said. "It's not easy to do when you're lone-wolfing it."
At the end of each year, Joy gets together with John Doerr, a managing partner at Kleiner Perkins, to compile a list of the 10 most important technology trends over the next year.
At Sun, Joy helped develop the software and chips that made the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm a top seller of server computers. He created a version of the Unix operating system when he was a graduate student at Berkeley in the mid-1970s.
Joy led development of Sun's UltraSparc processor and Unix-based Solaris system. In the mid-1990s, with the advent of the Internet, Joy helped write Java, which lets programs run on cellphones, personal computers and servers with few or no changes.
Joy's reputation as a technology guru grew with a 2000 essay he wrote for Wired magazine in which he said a small group of individuals might eventually use biotechnology or robotics to inflict widespread devastation. He had been working on a related book but shelved it after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"Suddenly, thousands of people were reporting a story I was trying to raise attention on: How do you manage technology in an era where it's so powerful, but it also can be abused?" Joy said.
While still at Sun, Joy teamed with Andy Bechtolsheim, another Sun founder, and Roy Sardina to form HighBAR Ventures to invest their own money in start-ups that Sun wasn't interested in backing. The firm later disbanded and Joy began bringing ideas to Kleiner Perkins last year. "At some point in their mind, Kleiner decided to make it more formal," he said.
A native of Detroit whose parents were schoolteachers, Joy studied math and computer science in college. "The computer was fun because it was instant gratification," he said.