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Marc Andreessen On The Future Of Enterprise - interview with Alexia

Marc Andreessen On The Future Of Enterprise interview with Alexia


Stashed in: Software!, History of Tech!, @alexia, @a16z

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Marc on the history of computing:

The computer industry started in 1950 and basically ran for 50 years with the same model, which was a model where all of the new computers, all the new technology, all the new software started out being sold for the highest prices to the biggest organizations.

So originally the customer was the Department of Defense. It was the first customer for the computer. In fact, one of the big first computers was called SAGE, which was a missile defense, the first missile-defense computer, which was like one of the first computers in the history of the world which got sold to the Department of Defense for, I don’t know, tens and tens of millions of dollars at the time. Maybe hundreds of millions of dollars in current dollars.

And then five years later computers became — they dropped half in price and then the big insurance companies could buy them, and that’s when Thomas Watson, who ran IBM at the time, was quoted as saying, “There’s only a market need in the world for five computers.”

The reason that wasn’t crazy when he said it is because there were only five organizations that were big enough to buy a computer. So that’s how it started. And then IBM came along and productized the mainframe, and then all of a sudden big normal companies — manufacturing companies and banks — could start to buy computers. And then DEC came along and came out with the minicomputer, and then all of a sudden smaller companies could start to buy computers. And then the PC came out and then all of a sudden individuals could start to buy computers. But the PC only ever got to hundreds of millions of people. It never got to billions of people.

Now, the smartphone has come out and it can get to billions of people.

And so it has always been this kind of trickle-down model for 50 years. We think that basically about 10 years ago the model flipped. And so we think that the model flipped to a model where, today, where the most interesting and advanced new technology now comes out for the consumer first. And then small businesses start to use it. And then medium-size businesses start to use it, and then large businesses start to use it, and then eventually the government starts to use it. But this is a complete change from the way it has always worked.


I don’t mean to make a specific prediction. I don’t know if it’s a year, two years, four years. Look, all of the products are going to keep getting better. All of the trends that we are talking about are going to keep continuing. Nothing is going to stop consumerization of the enterprise. Nothing is going to stop Bring Your Own Device. Nothing is going to stop Software-as-a-Service. Nothing is going to stop cloud. All those things are just going to keep going.

Marc on the entrepreneurs a16z likes to fund:

We really look for the entrepreneurs who don’t pay any attention to [down cycles]. We really look for the entrepreneurs who say the following, they say: “I have this really good idea and I know it’s a good idea for the following eight reasons, and I have thought about it and I have worked in the field, and I know what I am doing, and I have talked to the customers and I have figured it out, and I am going to do it. I am just going to flat-out do it. And I am going to do it whether you fund me or whether you don’t fund me or I don’t get funded. I am still going to do it.” That’s the entrepreneur we are looking for.

Sometimes that entrepreneur is in a sector that’s completely dead, and that entrepreneur is going to say, I know that everybody thinks that this sector is just dead, and in fact that’s probably why now is a good time for me to do this — is because I am not going to have very much competition.

Well, so a lot of these companies you talk about now, like Workday and GitHub and Box, got formed and funded when everybody thought enterprise was dead. Just like the consumer companies like Facebook and Twitter got funded and everybody thought the consumer stuff was dead.

So sometimes you get the entrepreneurs who are actually counter-cyclical. They are doing it precisely because nothing else is happening in that sector, and that means the big opportunities are just wide open.

On the other hand, sometimes you get the entrepreneurs who say, “I know I am doing the 36th workforce collaboration system in the consumer side; Google was the 36th search engine, and I know it’s 1999, and I know the whole sector is overfunded, but I have a better idea. I know how to do it better, I know how to do it different. I have learned from the mistakes that everybody else is making, and I am going to be the winner.”

And so we will fund either one. We fund companies in the hot sectors and we fund companies in the not-hot sectors. The only difference is the pricing, and the pricing varies basically by like 4x. But what we have just found or what we have sort of tried to learn from history is you can’t — for what we do you can’t really time the stuff. And the last thing you want to do is look at what’s happening in the public market today. And this is the thing that’s weird about how venture capital works — a lot of venture capital investments are decided based on whatever the NASDAQ is doing.

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