A interview with Venture Capitalist and Co-Founder of Andreessen Horowitz, Marc Andreessen. In this interview, Marc discusses how Silicon Valley works and why it is so hard to replicate. Marc also talks about what he looks for in investments and gives advice to students.
Billionaire Marc Andreessen: How Silicon Valley Works And Investing In Startups
So Sebastian warned me he was going to ask this question and I told him I would answer it in a way that was very disappointing to him personally. Hopefully hopefully exciting for the crowd. So my favorite fictional character my favorite series of novels by a great American crime novelist named Robert Crase. Write novels about these two guys Elvis Cole and Joe Pike the character Joe Pike is a former Force Recon Marine and like a really really really tough guy and he has his deltoids with two big red tattoos with arrows pointing forward and his life philosophy is only forward never backwards and so I haven’t gone so far as to get the tattoos at least as far as we know. But I that’s that’s that’s that’s the program I’m on. It’s good. Yeah I love it. Forward never backwards. Yeah I have a memory problem too. It also helps to forget. Yes I mean that helps to forget. And also alcohol. Scotch Scotch Scotch beef gets along together. Okay so back to normal questions that TBP had to tell. This is an amazing audience. These old students and graduates of the city. They trusted us. They quit and some of them got a bit Agria. And they came here to learn about us I think. Tell us how Silicon Valley works yes a Silicon Valley. So I’m a huge advocate for Silicon Valley but that’s because I’m an import which is actually a really common thing in the valley there are very few people who are very few people actually you’ll meet in the valley working in Tokyo actually grew up here.
So I’m kind of representative of the imports so I grew up in the rural Midwest. I came here after college and kind of discovered it. So I’m going I’m about to kind of brag on it and advocate for it. But it’s it’s very much something that I feel like I’ve inherited that really sort of and everything that I’ve experienced and everything that I’ve been part of builds on top of you know 50 60 70 years of effort that took place long before I got here and so there’s probably a couple big characteristic things to it I think probably the most important practical thing is that it’s a company town by which I mean like it’s you know it’s all about tech. And so people who have tech love it here and people who love tech don’t stay here that long. Most company towns are dominated by a single company. And so in the old days you would go to Rochester New York and it was all Kodak or you’d go to these different places. It would be about one company in the valley. It’s a company town but the company is the valley. And then the individual corporations form and some of them you know become very big and important but everybody kind of I think views themselves kind of as a member of whatever company they’re at but also a member of the valley and that cuts both ways for the companies because on the one hand it means that your employees are kind of always like well you know there might be something more interesting out there.
I can I can you know maybe get a job at a different startup maybe with a bigger opportunity and maybe not even have to change my parking spot. So that makes retention difficult. But at the same time it’s also the factor that means that when these companies figure out something good they can scale incredibly quickly right and they can pull it talent from all across the industry incredibly quickly right. So the kind of the talent swarms around the new opportunities and that’s that’s the thing that I think is most underestimated about the valley. There’s always kind of predictions that the valleys topping out and it’s like OK fine you know there was the microcomputer and then there was the Internet the smartphone. But like at some point there’s going to be something else. Well actually at one point it looked like the valley had lost the smartphone wars right Nokia. These other companies had kind of won that everybody said kind of the valley the Valley’s best days were behind it and then it just turned out that when Apple figured out the iPhone. Google figured out Android you know the talent just immediately materialized to support those efforts. So that’s that’s one really important thing and that goes to the kind of geographic locality which we’ll talk a little bit more about the other. I think it’s psychological which is it’s a state of mind. And it’s something that everybody who’s been here has had a chance to kind of really enjoy it’s really quite amazing which is it’s a place that really rewards.
I would say creative thinking and even radical thinking and it rewards a level of risk taking and kind of danger in creating new ideas that a lot of other places just simply won’t tolerate. And this idea that you know Steve Jobs once said he’s like you know one of the great things about the tech industry is that you know basically everything around you every tech product that you have ever used has been created by people who are no smarter than you. And so if you are if you put your mind to it and if you get the skills required to create these products you can create products that are just as good as the ones that everybody already knows and loves. And the whole valley kind of has that mentality it’s possible to build new things new products new companies. I mean I spent some time in your firm didn’t know sequinned by the whole and vibe at the meeting a head of state and something that says how can I bring Silicon Valley to my country. Why has that never worked. Yeah so it’s kind of you know we get these kind of diplomatic missions. And so they come by the way from other American cities and then they also come from other countries. And that literally is you know how do I do. And it’s it’s always silicon something right it’s like Silicon Prairie or Silicon Glen or London wants to be Silicon Roundabout or Silicon Desert. I mean there’s lots of different kinds of takes on this. And by the way they need to really know like we don’t actually make.
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