Andreessen Horowitz Rides the Wave of Silicon Valley IPOs
Venture capital firm's co-founders feel vindicated after gatecrashing investment world
The Financial Times BlockedUnblockFollowFollowing Apr 3
Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Ben Horowitz. Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images
Andreessen Horowitz联合创始人Ben Horowitz。照片：Steve Jennings / Getty Images
By Richard Waters
A decade after gatecrashing Silicon Valley's most exclusive party, Ben Horowitz is sounding vindicated.
The venture capital firm he set up with Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen has long drawn detractors --- not least over what rivals claimed was a willingness to bid up the valuations of the most promising early-stage tech start-ups to uneconomic levels.
他与网景公司联合创始人马克·安德森（Marc Andreessen）共同创办的风险投资公司长期以来一直受到批评者的反对 - 尤其是竞争对手声称是否愿意将最有前途的早期科技初创企业的估值提高到不经济的水平。
After the stock market debut of ride-hailing company Lyft at the end of last week, Mr Horowitz was ready with a response: "It doesn't look that way in retrospect, now does it." The IPO turned his firm's investment, estimated at around $100m, into a holding worth more than $1bn, even after a 12 per cent share price drop on Monday. "It's not easy to make $900m," he added.
Andreessen Horowitz has never been too concerned about antagonising others in the clubby world of venture capital. Breaking into a narrow sphere where personal networking is key and returns are disproportionately concentrated in a small number of the most successful firms was never going to be easy.
"People are always going to bark at us because we're always beating them," Mr Horowitz said. "When you get beaten by the same people over and over again, you talk smack. But that's OK, that's just the name of the game."
The public market investor doesn't get access to a lot of the growth, and that just creates wealth inequality Ben Horowitz
The firm has had big "exits" from its investments before, notably last year's sale of code sharing site GitHub to Microsoft, bringing it about $1bn worth of Microsoft stock (like all VCs, it also has had its share of disappointments, among them one-time internet stars such as coupon marketing site Groupon, gaming company Zynga and Foursquare, the location-sharing app, that never lived up to the hopes).
But in the round of big tech initial public offerings that is expected to follow Lyft, Andreessen Horowitz stands to come out as one of the main winners. It was an early investor in several, leading the second, or "B" rounds, of financing for business messaging service Slack, social media site Pinterest, and PagerDuty, a business software company in which it holds a stake worth up to $250m, based on the indicated IPO pricing. It also led the B round for accommodation-booking site Airbnb, which has also been eyeing a stock market listing, though not before next year.
The IPOs are the culmination of a campaign by Andreessen Horowitz to break into the A-list of VC firms. As a recently appointed partner at another top Silicon Valley investment firm explained, the only sure route to superior returns in VC is to be first in line when the entrepreneurs with the best new business ideas are looking to raise money. That gives established firms with the strongest brands and personal networks a big edge.
Andreessen Horowitz has been aggressive in its marketing --- something previously unheard in the VC world --- and cast itself as the champion of the entrepreneur. That came easily to the abrasive Mr Andreessen, who co-founded Netscape and whose first experience in business was an all-out fight with Microsoft at the height of its power. The quieter Mr Horowitz also worked at Netscape and the two went on to found one of the first cloud computing companies before selling it to Hewlett-Packard.
安德森·霍洛维茨（Andreessen Horowitz）在市场营销方面一直很积极 - 这在风险投资领域是闻所未闻的 - 并将自己塑造成企业家的冠军。对于研究Netscape的安德森先生而言，这很容易让人感到震惊，他在商业上的第一次经历就是与微软在权力最高的时候进行全面的斗争。更安静的Horowitz先生也曾在Netscape工作，两人在将其出售给惠普公司之前，先找到了第一家云计算公司。
According to Mr Horowitz, the firm was built on what its founders had learnt themselves as customers of the VC industry. For instance, it hired its own recruiters, marketing experts and others to support the founders it backed, replacing the informal networks of personal contacts other firms relied on. His own book
根据Horowitz先生的说法，该公司建立在其创始人自己作为风险投资行业客户的基础上。例如，它聘请了自己的招聘人员，营销专家和其他人来支持其支持的创始人，取代其他公司所依赖的非正式的个人联系网络。他自己的书 The Hard Things About Hard Things on the challenges of starting a business based on his experience is often cited by tech founders as an inspiration. "We really moved the model into the future, and we're the best at it," he said.
If that kind of self assurance has antagonised rivals, critics also accuse the firm of making unrealistic promises to win over entrepreneurs. Mr Andreessen, for instance, once said the firm was happy to hold on to stock in its private companies for 15 years or more --- much longer than most VC firms are set up to do.
如果这种自我保证能够对抗竞争对手，批评者也会指责该公司做出不切实际的承诺来赢得企业家。例如，安德森先生曾表示，该公司很高兴能够持有15年或更长时间的私营公司股票 - 比大多数风险投资公司设立的股票要长得多。
"In general, venture capitalists are pushing for an earlier IPO than the founders of the company," said Jay Ritter, an IPO expert at the University of Florida.
Mr Horowitz denied that Andreessen Horowitz had made exaggerated claims. "The promise wasn't that we'd hold the stock," he said. "The promise was, 'We're going to help you run your company and we're going to give you a network that makes you powerful enough to do so'."
霍洛维茨先生否认安德森·霍洛维茨曾夸大其说。 "承诺并非我们持有股票，"他说。 "我们的承诺是，'我们将帮助您经营公司，我们将为您提供一个让您足够强大的网络'。"
He also argued that the latest generation of tech companies have been staying private longer as "a direct result of a set of regulations that were put in place between 1997--2004", which made it less attractive to be public.
他还认为，最新一代的科技公司长期保持私有化是"1997 - 2004年间制定的一系列法规的直接结果"，这使得公众的吸引力降低。
For the investors who backed the handful of big winners from the latest cycle of tech start-ups, the delayed IPOs could now bring big returns.
"From a purely selfish standpoint it's great when they take a long time because they build so much value in the private markets, and that's great for us," said Mr Horowitz. But he called it a "tragedy" for the markets as a whole.
"The public market investor doesn't get access to a lot of the growth, and that just creates wealth inequality, it's terrible," he said. In trying to protect small investors from too much risk, he added, regulators "basically gave all that growth opportunity to people who are already wealthy. We have to, as a country, do something to fix that."
While Andreessen Horowitz's first fund --- a $300m investment vehicle raised in 2009 --- is reputed to have performed strongly, it is too early to judge the much larger funds that followed. Its latest investment vehicle, a $2bn fund that has yet to be officially announced, is its largest to date and takes the total raised in its lifetime to more than $9bn. It faces the hard job of maintaining a high return on the much larger sums invested. Meanwhile, money has poured into Silicon Valley and competition has escalated sharply --- not least with the arrival of SoftBank's $100bn Vision Fund.
虽然Andreessen Horowitz的第一只基金 - 在2009年筹集的3亿美元投资工具 - 据称表现强劲，但现在判断随后的更大资金还为时尚早。其最新的投资工具，即尚未正式宣布的20亿美元基金，是迄今为止规模最大的基金，其总寿命增长超过90亿美元。它面临着在更大的投资额上保持高回报的艰巨任务。与此同时，资金涌入硅谷，竞争也急剧升级 - 尤其是随着软银公司1000亿美元远景基金的到来。
In search of opportunities, the firm has created separate funds to invest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain start-ups, and in technologies that are transforming healthcare. And in its core consumer and business markets, it is betting that artificial intelligence will open a big new investment cycle.
The firm's website still bears the slogan "Software is Eating the World", a reference to an influential article Mr Andreessen wrote in 2011 in The Wall Street Journal. In it, he argued that software companies were "poised to take over large swaths of the economy". The firm he and Mr Horowitz founded is now counting on AI to bring another decade of profitable disruption.