Let There Be a Hun­dred Val­leys

Netscape co­founder Marc An­dreessen has a record for know­ing what’s com­ing next with tech­nol­ogy. He fore­casts the fu­ture of Sil­i­con Val­ley and the big moves in tech

The Economic Times - - World View - Nick Bilton

Sil­i­con Val­ley is start­ing to feel a lit­tle less ex­u­ber­ant these days. Some big start-ups are hav­ing trou­ble rais­ing money. Oth­ers are de­lay­ing plans to go pub­lic. Hot new tech­nolo­gies like Bit­coin have been strug­gling. With all the ner­vous chat­ter out there — Where is this go­ing? What’s next? — I called on Marc An­dreessen, who has lived through a bub­ble or two (or three).

Mar­ket is Manic De­pres­sive

An­dreessen, a prom­i­nent ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist, has been at the epi­cen­tre of the US tech­nol­ogy busi­ness for two decades. In the early 1990s, he was a co-founder of one of the first ma­jor web browsers, Netscape. He went on to start Ning, an early so­cial site. Now, in ad­di­tion to be­ing vol­u­ble on Twit­ter, he sits on the board of Face­book, eBay and Hewlett-Packard.

I got 28 min­utes with him. But. An­dreessen speaks so quickly, it felt like an hour and a half.

Say­ing “bub­ble” to a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist around here is like say­ing “home­work” to a teenager. They roll their eyes and try to shoo you away. So rather than ask if we are in the mid­dle of an­other — ahem — bub­ble, I asked An­dreessen why some young com­pa­nies can’t seem to raise all the money they want.

His an­swer: con­di­tions ebb and flow. And right now, they are ebbing for some com­pa­nies. But for oth­ers, cap­i­tal is still avail­able. “We have not seen any pull­back so far on pri­vate in­vest­ment,” An­dreessen said. “Ac­tu­ally, what we’re see­ing is more of the op­po­site right now. We’re see­ing a lot more in­sti­tu­tion- al money — in par­tic­u­lar from the hedge fund world — cross­ing over” into tech in­vest­ing. But what about com­pa­nies that can’t find their way to the stock mar­ket, like Box and Square? An­dreessen pointed to 1997 and 1998, when the mar­ket for ini­tial pub­lic stock of­fer­ings was briefly de­railed by the Asian fi­nan­cial cri­sis. Be­fore long, in­vestor in­ter­est revved up again, and the Nas­daq stock mar­ket was fly­ing high. (A few years later, of course, it came crash- ing down.)

So if a startup can’t go pub­lic just now, it’s no big deal. “The na­ture of the pub­lic mar­ket is that it is manic de­pres­sive,” An­dreessen said. “It gets ex­cited, it gets de­pressed.”

Speak­ing of feel­ing down, I asked An­dreessen a ques­tion I of­ten hear from people out­side Sil­i­con Val­ley: Why can’t other places build their own val­ley-style tech hubs? People in cities rang­ing from Dublin to Berlin to New York of­ten ask what they are do­ing wrong.

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