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Marc Andreessen
Entrepreneur, investor, and software engineer

Marc Andreessen  is known as the co-founder of Mosaic, Netscape, Ning, and Opsware. He is the general partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He sits on the board of directors of many large companies like Facebook, eBay, and HP.

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You just became a father. You’re also a very busy person, running a VC firm and on a lot of boards. Do you feel you’ll have to give something up or cut back somewhere. As it’s often asked to women, can you have it all?

I don’t know. The truth is that we’re in a fortunate enough situation economically where there’s trade-offs that we don’t have to make that a lot of other people have to make. On top of that, I think if I were doing what I was doing 10 years ago, when I was traveling so much, I think that would have been a big problem. Now, I’m home and our firm is very Silicon Valley concentrated, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to balance it.

In 2012 you supported Mitt Romney for president. Do you have a candidate yet this time around?

I’m really struggling between between the anti-science party and the anti-economics party. I’m highly tempted to sit this one out. I don’t know what I’m going to do.

No comment?
No comment. She’s fantastic. I won’t name her. We’re still trying to get her. We have offered to several other women and we have so far had them all turn us down. There’s a very interesting phenomenon taking place there. For the kind of thing that...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
She a CEO somewhere, or something else?
No comment.
So I’ll go back to that GP question that you said I’d come back to.
The female GP thing has been very frustrating. Our very first offer of a GP at our firm after Ben and me was a female partner, and she has turned us down I think now five times. And it’s been driving me crazy.
Does that mean — well, you have 8 GPs, so you guys are the low performers?
Yeah, well, I’m sure there are certain opinions on that — 7 actually, but yes. And then 20% black and Latino, and so we’ve had a big, big internal push on this. I’ll come back to the GP thing which I’m sure you’ll bring back up. There is — I think...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
One of the big issues here over the last month or so was obviously the lawsuit, the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins suit, and the gender issues that it raised. From your perspective, what can VCs explicitly do to kind of address these issues, both at their portfolio companies and within their own firms? As a corollary to that, when are you guys going to hire a female partner?
I’m so glad you asked. Our firm is 107 employees, 107 total staff, partners today, other levels. 52% women. Not just that, the high performers in the firm, in the performance reviews, a substantially higher percentage of women, which is…
Does the regulatory piece scare you off?
Yes. They are very daunting because they are so regulated and so heavily dominated by governments. It always takes a special founder to make one of these companies work, but it takes a particularly special founder to navigate their way through and...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
But to do that, we’ve got to create and fund new companies that do that.
To do that, we need innovation. To do that, we need technology. To do that, I think we need new companies. We need tech startups in education, healthcare. We are actually active in both. We’ve been active in education, kind of the whole time. Heal...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You’ve talked a lot about this idea that technological advancements are going to destroy labor. That we’re going to have a bunch of people sitting around being served by robots. But you hear that, and you fight back against that by insisting that technological destruction improves productivity and creates new opportunities. Two places, though, where you saw we’ve seen too little innovation – thus not enough destructive creation – is education and healthcare. But your firm doesn’t invest much in the education or healthcare. If those are the areas so ripe for innovation, why aren’t you putting money there?
Yeah, so let me restate kind of the thesis of why I said what you said I said, which is healthcare and education — everybody complains, everybody complains. “Oh, my God, robots are going to kill all the jobs and this is going to be terrible and we...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Do you think that calibration is in the right place today?
I think we’re in the zone. In 1999 it got reset almost entirely over to just sales people, and then in 2004, it got reset all the way over to just engineers. And I think the entrepreneurial community has been battling to try to figure out what is ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Okay, good. You did a sit-down with the FT earlier this year, and one of the things you talked about was how a lot of your family was involved in farming, and that it kind of taught you delayed gratification. And you said that that served you very well as an engineer early on. Is that ethos, that willingness to have delayed gratification, present today in Silicon Valley among younger entrepreneurs?
So I think there’s a schizophrenia, and I think there’s always been a schizophrenia to high-tech startups. There’s the core of what we all do, the core of it is hardcore innovation that that takes a very long time to play out. And a lot of the thi...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Let me go back — and I mean way back. You grew up in Wisconsin, correct? So actually I should ask, was Monday night hard for you?
No, I’m fine, thank you.
If rates start to rise, are you worried as a VC that these large mutual funds, etc. will bail on doing the later-stage rounds for your companies?
Just again put it in context. The big mutual funds like — my friend Will at Fidelity that does a lot of this… that’s a $120 billion fund. Right? It’s like the total amount across all of tech investment is less than that this year. And so it’s just...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Did you buy some?
No, I did not buy. I mean compared to that, if you’ve got a strong enough lock on your door and a big enough mattress, holding cash is actually a good idea. The point being that tech is just this tiny little thing on the side as compared to these ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
You’re starting to see companies announce big valuations when they announce financings. Domo did that today. In the past, as a reporter, you used to have to beg for a valuation. One of the arguments is that, particularly the enterprise sector, potential clients suddenly think you are stable if you announce that you’re a billion dollar-plus company. It’s similar to the old case for going public, that you’re taken more seriously. Do you think that that’s a valid argument for raising at high prices?
I don’t know. So, for sure this was always a reason to go public. And by the way, it still is a reason to go public, which is big companies would prefer to buy strategic technology from other public companies. That gives them a lot of assurance. ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Do you do that more now than you used to?
No, I think — well, it really started picking up — people forget that we started in March of 2009. So we started the firm, completely coincidentally, at the low point of the NASDAQ after the financial crisis. So people were miserable, and there wa...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
A couple of years ago, when Andreessen Horowitz was really starting to grow, there was a lot of blame thrown on you. There were a lot of “Andreessen Horowitz is driving up prices” complaints. Both on the companies you were bidding on, and then on peers. So let me ask: Are you to blame? Are current valuation your fault?
I can only quote the great thinkers, James Franco and Seth Rogen in The Interview: I believe they were simply peanut butter and jealous. So — in all seriousness, I actually think we weren’t overpaying. Deals that we did at the time that were consi...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
There’s this argument, the Bill Gurley argument, that private companies should go public as soon as they possibly can. Do you feel the other way — stay private as long as possible because once you go public, you have all those issues you just talked about which can retard growth?
If you go public in this environment under the single-class share structure and a board that gets reelected every 12 months, God help you. You’re chum in the water. And, in particular — God help you if you’re a young company and you’re not actuall...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Then why aren’t they? What’s the big impediment?
So I don’t think this applies to Facebook or Google as much because Larry and Mark can kind of do whatever they want because of how the companies are set up. But, generally speaking, we’re in this environment of just extremely intense risk aversio...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
There was a report yesterday or this morning that Google had taken a look at Twitter and that Twitter had hired Goldman Sachs to advise it. There also have been rumors of Facebook, where you are a director, having interest. In a year from now, do you think Twitter is an independent company?
So, I don’t want to comment specifically on Twitter. I will say, I have been shocked in the last five years how little M&A there’s been as compared to what I think that there both should have been and will be. And I think there are a lot of big co...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
I wanted to start with two things that are in the news today. The first one is Mark Pincus returning to the CEO chair at Zynga. Can he turn the company around?
Both Don Mattrick and Mark are friends of mine, and I respect them both enormously. That said, I always do get a little bit excited when the founder comes back. It kind of warms my heart. There’s new book coming out on Steve Jobs at Apple — the b...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
As software eats the world, what happens to the older, incumbent businesses being attacked by newer startups? Will they simply decay and die and go away, or will they adapt?
If somebody wants to go into a full defensive crouch, some people do choose to do that. But I think more and more big companies are thinking OK, there are big opportunities here, there are new ways to reach out to customers, to ensure our custome...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Which type is Snapchat?
The bull case on Snapchat is that there's a company in China called Tencent that's worth $100 billion. And Tencent is worth $100 billion because it takes its messaging services on a smartphone and then wraps them in a wide range of services—thing...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
How do you get behind startups with no business model? With Pinterest, how do you get from zero revenue to a $3.8 billion valuation?
There are two categories of companies like this. You can guess which one I think Pinterest is in. There are the ones where everybody thinks they don't know how they're going to make money but they actually know. There's this kind of Kabuki dance...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
With a lot of companies getting funding across the board, inevitably, many will fail. Is failure a good thing or a bad thing in Silicon Valley?
I'm really schizophrenic on this. I can argue both sides of it. The Midwestern Protestant in me is very strongly on the side of failure is terrible and horrible and awful and the goal of every entrepreneur should be to not fail. This whole thing w...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
But is there enough demand out there for two or three or more players in these categories that are getting a lot of venture money?
Generally in tech, the markets are winner take all. Google still competes with people in search and so forth, but over time, Google is gaining share against Microsoft and against Yahoo. I think it's a question of: What are the categories versus i...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
How is this different than the dot-com bubble?
The costs of building an Internet company today are far lower than they were in the late '90s. In the '90s if you wanted to build an Internet company, you needed to buy Sun servers, Cisco networking gear, Oracle databases, and EMC storage systems...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
There's a flood of capital going into a range of software companies. Is this sustainable?
In my opinion, there's nothing broad-based that's happening. There's no bubble, per se. Bubbles are a very specific phenomenon where you've got mass psychology and you've got every mom and pop investor and every cabdriver and every shoe-shine boy ...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
Does that further the power of those who control the platforms— Apple and Google?
On current trends, yes. Apple and Google are both in extraordinarily powerful positions because they are the two dominant platforms owners in this new world. And there's no question they are both gaining strength right now. The big question for Ap...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free
What's driving the current speed of technological progress?
It's only really in the last two years that the smartphone has now become a mass-market phenomenon. Heading into 2014, I think the number is like two billion smartphones in the world, and that number is growing really fast. Within three years, I...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free