“Here’s the thing about Vinod,” Mr. Kaul said. “He just doesn’t care.”
‘You Could Say He’s Principled’
Mr. Khosla was born in Pune, India, in 1955 and grew up the middle-class son of an army officer. He says his parents accepted his personality early on, though they also learned he could be a liability.
“The priests would effectively say, ‘If you donate this much money, God will bless you.’ How crooked is that? If I ran into a priest, I’d say, ‘Oh, you’re a crook,’” Mr. Khosla says, recalling being 12 years old.
After a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and an M.B.A. at Stanford Graduate School of Business, he founded the electronic design company Daisy Systems and then, in 1982, Sun Microsystems. The company sold servers and workstations and created Java, the programming language that formed the foundation for much of today’s internet. Later, Mr. Khosla nurtured the creation of Juniper Networks, which built the routers and switches upon which the internet flourished.
He became a hero of the political left last decade after investing early and heavily in clean technology, and by funding efforts in biofuel, energy storage and solar. Some of his bets succeeded; others failed spectacularly. He has continued to support and invest in eco-friendly start-ups.
His life plan now is to “reinvent societal infrastructure.” He’s recently gotten interested in the Yimby movement, a pro-real estate development cause that stands for “yes in my backyard.” Mr. Khosla wants to 3D-print houses for the homeless to be installed above parking lots. He sketches this for me on one of the perfect whiteboards.
He wants people to think bigger, he says. Meanwhile, at Martin’s Beach, he is pursuing a scorched-earth campaign around whether a gate needs a permit. In February, Mr. Khosla petitioned the Supreme Court to rule on his case, citing the First Amendment and also the Fifth (the takings clause) and 14th (his right to due process). The justices are now deciding whether to hear the case.
One recent cold summer Sunday, the rusty gate stood open. A few yards down, someone was collecting $10 from incoming cars. The cottages of Martin’s Beach have windows that are thick with salt from the air; some of the houses are small and modest, with peeling paint, and others are more fixed up. The decks were full of barbecues, wicker furniture and driftwood art.