Marc Andreessen on Big Breakthrough Ideas and Courageous Entrepreneurs (Transcript)

And so now the challenge for a lot of these companies is how to take what are actually fantastic products and fantastic technology and then integrate in top-end business thinking, top-end sales and marketing thinking, and top-end operational thinking. So I think we actually collectively have a huge opportunity to put the pieces back together. And I think that’s what the next five years are going to be about.

Interviewer: Could you see the role of MBAs in terms of helping scale through that sales and marketing function?

Marc Andreessen: So, yes, definitely and, in fact, in the abstract, there is kind of two models, that are both actually working quite well. The kind of reference model now is the Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg model. And I work with Sheryl at Facebook and I tease her all the time. She’s lost control over her own name. It’s now become a proper noun. You know every 24-year-old technical founder was like, I need a Sheryl. And I’m like, so do 400 other people. Unfortunately, human cloning is not quite at the stage yet where we can fulfill everybody’s need. But basically the model of a very high-powered business person with deep capabilities in sales, marketing, and operations, who’s able to partner as a number two, as a president or COO, with a technical founder, CEO, when you have somebody like a Mark Zuckerberg. So that’s one model that works very well.

And one of the interesting things about the last five or ten years is more and more of the top end business leaders in Silicon Valley have figured this out. And, like Sheryl, have chosen to partner not as the CEO, but as the president or COO with a great technical founder and build great companies. A recent example, Dennis Woodside, who’s a top-end Google product or business executive, just left and became number two at Dropbox to Drew Houston, who’s another one of these guys. And so that’s one model and I think that’s a very exciting model and I think it’s working well.

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The other model is what you might call sort of the Bill Campbell, Scott Cook model. Or maybe the Dick Costolo, model as sort of the other example, which is, in the case where these companies don’t have a founder who’s capable of being CEO or who wants to be CEO, to have a business person become the CEO, but with the sort of – with a much more advanced understanding of the role of founders and the role of product strategy and technology strategy than I think the professional CEOs got into in the ‘90s. So, and this is — I describe this as the Bill Campbell-Scott Cook model because that’s maybe the best example in the history of the Valley,  which is Bill Campbell, probably well known to the folks in the audience, is not himself a technologist or a product person, but is an outstanding operator of businesses, has profoundly deep respect for founders, and has profoundly deep respect for products and, and for technology. And always makes it a point in his career, he’s always made it a point to partner with the engineers as opposed to be threatened by them or feel like, they have to be — in the case of a technical founder, they have to be forced out.

And, of course, Apple over the years has been a case study of this, and, of course, Bill came up for Apple and so he saw this. And so you kind of contrast the now legendary kind of John Sculley-Steve Jobs model to the Bill Campbell-Scott Cook model and you kind of see how, kind of where that came from. And so that’s a model that can also work very well. And so as the folks here think about as you build your careers, and think about these things, I think if you’re going to be in the tech industry, the really key question — it might turn out either way, but the really key question is what’s the partnership that you’re going to have with the technical visionary in the company who will often be a technical founder? And I think if you can crack that code, I think there is just an enormous opportunity to have one plus one equals three.

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Interviewer: So at Andreessen Horowitz, the VC fund you founded, you invest in many of these founder CEOs. They all want a Sheryl? And finding a Sheryl isn’t necessarily that easy. And you’ve built up a very disruptive model within the venture capital industry where you provide a lot of value-added services, including hiring and marketing, to portfolio companies. Could you talk a little about, how you came up with that disruptive model and what opportunities you see going forward to continue shaping the VC industry?

Marc Andreessen: Yes, so my partner and I came up as entrepreneurs kind of in the phase where the assumption was that you fire or demote the technical founder and you bring in the professional CEO and you become a sales, sort of a sales-driven company. And so, and we kind of — we have a lot of experience with that model. Like I said, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But we thought, this is — we started our firm, we planned our firm in 2007-2008 and started it in ’09 and our basic take was there was an opportunity. Many of the other venture capital firms had tilted hard in the direction of sort of professional sales-driven CEO, we decided to tilt hard in the direction of technical founder CEO. And so, we basically said, how would you build a venture capital firm optimized for a technical founder who wants to become a CEO? That led us — and by the way, not religious, that’s not the only thing we do, but like, how would you center the culture of the firm around that idea? And I’ll come back to the other part.

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