Mitchell Kapor: The Life of a Software Developer and an Angel Investor

On November 1 in the year 1950, one of the pioneers in the development of commercial software was born in New York, USA. His name is Mitchell Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corporation and an angel investor in many start-ups through his company Kapor Capital.

Mitchell Kapor
Mitchell Kapor

Mitchell Kapor was the son Jewish Russian immigrants who were good in math. While being a high student, his father helped him do soldering for his tiny computer project. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary course from Yale University. He also enrolled at MIT for a master’s degree but did not finish it. Later, he became a member of the faculty of MIT Media Lab.

Mitchell Kapor joined VisiCorp as product manager for the world’s first spreadsheet software, the VisiCalc. In 1982, he partnered with Jonathan Sachs to write a better spreadsheet to take advantage of the capabilities of new IBM personal computer. With the backing of venture capitalist Ben Rosen, they formed Lotus Development Corporation and released Lotus 1-2-3 in 1983. It was a 3-in-1 package: 1 for spreadsheet, 2 for graphics, and 3 for database management. Considered as a “killer application”, it sold an astonishing $53 million in its first year, far higher than their $1 million forecast. It was then the most powerful spreadsheet available, easy to use and packed with features that were useful to numerical analysis. He divested his interests in Lotus in 1986. Ten years later, IBM bought Lotus for $6 billion.

In 1987, Mitchell Kapor became one of the founding investors of UUNET, a pioneer in the internet service industry. He also got involved in the formation of Progressive Networks (renamed RealNetworks), an internet streaming media service provider. Moreover, he became one of the earliest investors in Performance Systems International (renamed PSINet). In 2003, he was appointed as the founding Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, creator of the open source web browser Firefox.

In 2009, Mitchell founded Kapor Capital with headquarters in California. At present, this venture capital firm has invested in over 75 start-ups that include Uber, Asana, and Dropcam.

Mitchell Kapor has two children with his wife Freada, a Ph.D. graduate from Brandeis University.


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