Brainstorming with Marc Andreessen, by Dan Primack in Fortune
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Boards
Found via Jessica Guynn: https://twitter.com/jguynn/status/586302368570019840
Dan Primack interviewing Marc Andreessen on women and minorities at a16z and on Boards...
The Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins suit [raised] gender issues. 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 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 — there’s a lot that venture capital firms can do, and tech can do, and then there’s a lot that we probably can’t do.
And let me just start by saying, I don’t think I’m an expert on this, and so I don’t propose to have all the answers. What we’ve been focusing on is two areas in particular: Pipeline, which is just to say increase the numbers, just more training, more experience, get more people coming up. And then the other is access, and what we think so much of the next step for people who get qualified is then do you know the right people? Are you able to get connected to the right opportunities at the right time?
So there’s a bunch of things that we do. In the last two years, we’ve done 32 events touching thousands of people. We focus on three segments for what we call “inclusion, women, under-replaced minorities, and veterans.” We also work particularly closely with three outside organizations that we work to support, and we donate to Code 20/40 for minority entrepreneurs and Girls Who Code.
And then Hack the Hood, which is a great organization up in Oakland, also for entrepreneurship. We’re going to do more on all these fronts. We’re going to crank up all of our efforts. And we’re actively looking for more outside organizations to work with.
If you happen to be a woman or a minority or a veteran and you’re not connected to our network and you’d like to be, please tell me. If you know incredibly high-potential people who are in those groups please let me know and we would love to plug them in. So there’s a lot more that I think we can do. But again I would go back and I would say like I certainly would not propose to have all the answers, and I think that we’re probably scratching the surface of what ultimately has to happen.
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.
She a CEO somewhere, or something else?
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 we do, for the sort of thing that we’re looking for, the background we’re looking for, the way we set our firm up — and this is true — I think this is true in other firms, and I think this is true at the CEO level as well, is when you talk to female CEOs, they get so many offers. Because there are so few and the need is so intense, they get so many offers, that they’re just drowning in opportunity, which is why we think so much of the work has to be at the pipeline and access level, which is we have to get more people developed. We have to get more people rising up the ranks. We have to get more executives.
Another program we just did that I think is going to help a lot on this is we just did something with Stanford called the Directors College. Female Directors College, Women Directors College. We did a whole training program. So Stanford runs a Directors College that kind of teaches people how to be directors of companies. And it’s sort of considered a credential for corporate directors.
We did it specifically for women in tech, who’ve reached a certain level in their career who now would have the opportunity to go on their first board. It’s actually something we came up with, and I think is fairly clever, which is we basically do two things. One is we created a credential, and so now there’s something that says, “I am qualified to be a director on a board,” that is an unambiguous thing connected to a credible institution like Stanford. And then the other thing we did is we created a network — and we announced it and we made it very public, and Diane Greene and I did a whole thing there. We put it out as a podcast, it’s traveled pretty far.
Diane’s on the boards of Google and Intuit and has amazing advice. So now we’re getting a lot more companies — both big companies and small companies — saying ‘a ha, i need more women directors on my board. i didn’t think i knew enough people, can I get connected to this network?” So I think the answer is going to lie a lot in that sort of thing.
I like that Marc quotes James Franco and Seth Rogen in The Interview.
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 considered extreme, we invested in Facebook at $35 billion. Facebook today is worth $250 billion. We invested in Twitter which was considered crazy at the time, for $4 billion. Today it’s $30 [billion].
I actually think it was untrue at the time that we were overpaying, and I think some of the investments actually bear that out. And then the other thing that happens is — and this is just facts — we routinely walk from deals over valuation, from price. We do that all the time.