Entrepreneur

Narinder S. Kapany, ‘Father of Fiber Optics,’ Dies at 94


But Dr. Kapany was growing restless in academia, and in 1960 he moved his family to California to start a new company, Optics Technology, to commercialize his research. He based it in Palo Alto, then just emerging as a tech hub, and received funding from Draper, Gaither & Anderson, one of the first venture-capital firms on the West Coast.

As president and chief of research at the company, Dr. Kapany was focused on product development; to run the business side, the board hired Thomas J. Perkins, a young business executive who would go on to become a Silicon Valley eminence as co-founder of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.

Once again, Dr. Kapany worked closely with a similarly forceful personality, and once again there were fireworks. The two men’s epic, sometimes alcohol-fueled fights were ostensibly about where to take the company, whether to move products to market quickly — Mr. Perkins’s plan — or to focus on government-funded research and development.

But there was clearly something deeper and more fundamental about their antagonism. It was “a mutual hate for each other of near biblical proportions,” Mr. Perkins later wrote. “I told anyone who would listen that I wanted engraved on my tombstone, ‘I still hate him.’”

Mr. Perkins eventually demanded that the board choose between them. They chose Dr. Kapany.

Dr. Kapany took the company public in 1967, but it was already sinking under the weight of poor sales and a strained budget. He left that same year and, in 1973, founded a new company, Kaptron, which made fiber optics equipment and which he later sold. He founded yet another company, K2 Optronics, with his son in 1999.

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Even as he filled out his career as a serial entrepreneur, Dr. Kapany never fully left academia: He taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz, from 1977 to 1983, and he later endowed chairs at several University of California schools in optics and in Sikh studies.



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