By LAURA LOREK
Founder of Silicon Hills News
Ben Horowitz joked that he is like Kelly Rowland and Marc Andreessen is like the Beyoncé of their venture capital firm.
Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, is a much more visible and famous partner, Horowitz said.
Rowland was one of the original members of Destiny’s Child, which disbanded in 2005 and Beyoncé went on to become a break-out solo singer.
But Horowitz hasn’t done too badly for himself. He sold his company, Opsware, for $1.6 billion to Hewlett-Packard in 2007.
Mark Suster, entrepreneur and partner in Upfront Ventures, interviewed Horowitz on the opening night of Startup Grind 2014, a two-day conference focused on entrepreneurship and storytelling, Monday evening at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.
In 2009, Horowitz and Andreessen founded a VC firm to invest in companies so that technical founders could remain the CEOs, Horowitz said. In most VC models, the investors want to replace the founder with a seasoned CEO, he said. But he thought the companies that are the most successful in the long run are those that know their business and founded it.
“Founders should run their companies because they know what’s wrong with them and they can continue to innovate,” Horowitz said.
To date, Andreessen Horowitz has raised three funds worth $2.7 billion and has invested in more than 150 companies.
Suster asked Horowitz about what he thought were the pros and cons of the accelerator programs like Y-Combinator and 500 Startups in place around the country to help entrepreneurs.
Accelerators get young entrepreneurs into startups and they have created a path for success for them, Horowitz said. He’s generally in favor of them.
“From a magnitude standpoint, the pros are someone gives you a brand new Bugatti, the cons are someone left some cigarette butts in the ashtray,” Horowitz said.
A con of the accelerator programs are they promote groupthink, he said.
“You can get caught up in the culture of the accelerator and the culture of the startup world,” Horowitz said. “If you’re an innovator, thinking like everyone else is the worst possible thing you can do…..You’re not going to get a breakthrough by copying anyone else.”
Suster asked Horowitz about a blog post he wrote called “The Struggle.” A lot of people were able to fail gracefully before social media and so much public information, Suster said. He asked how can founders get support to get through the struggle today.
When Horowitz was going public BusinessWeek wrote a story on his company titled “The IPO from Hell.” Red Herring magazine wrote that he was “taking his cash and setting it on fire in his parking lot.”
“These things hurt my feelings,” Horowitz said. “It’s lonely.”
His stress didn’t come from what the press wrote about his company, but from what his employees thought of his company.
“It’s amplified if you read what’s said in the press,” Horowitz said.
The best advice is to focus on what you can do and not what’s going wrong and you can’t control, Horowitz said.
“There’s always an answer and god willing you have enough time to get to that answer,” Horowitz said.
Horowitz has written a book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” It comes out next month.
His advice on selecting partners is to find people you work well with and don’t create a “fake company” like a “fake band” to meet all the needs.
“You generally are better off being the Beatles than the Monkeys with a startup,” Horowitz said. The Beatles were a bunch of guys who knew each other and formed a band. The Monkeys, on the other hand, started off as a TV show about an imaginary band that wanted to be The Beatles, but it eventually became a real knock-off band.
For more advice on founding companies, selecting cofounders, rap music and more, watch the rest of the Suster and Horowitz interview on the Startup Grind video embedded below.