Opening the TechCrunch Disrupt proceedings bright and early this morning: Andreessen Horowitz Partner Jeff Jordan. Accompanied by the sounds of birdsong (hey, this thing does take place on a converted pier), he held forth on IPOs, philanthropy, and New York’s ecommerce bloom.
The discussion opened with a discussion of the IPO market. The former OpenTable CEO presided over the company’s 2009 IPO when, at the time, according to moderator Eric Eldon, “Everyone [in Silicon Valley] was watching Mark Zuckerberg keeping his company private.”
Mr. Jordan contrasted today’s IPO fever with the atmosphere just a few years ago:
“It became fashionable for a while not to want to take your company public in Silicon Valley. So there were all kinds of companies that were clearly emerging–Facebook, LinkedIn, Zynga-and they were all talking about, ‘No, no, no, we don’t want to be public.’ There was enormous amounts of angst in the venture community, you know: ‘Is the IPO dead?’” Plus, the stock market was less than stellar, and the emergence of secondary markets made cashing out less urgent.
Then followed a little moment of story time that sounded slightly skeptical of some recent, unnamed IPOs. ”The bankers, on the lead-up to the [Open Table] IPO, showed us the charts of market, the IPO window opening and closing over time. And one of the things that happens when it opens is typically the first few companies out are really quality companies. They’ve been waiting and they’re ready to go. They’re willing to test the waters,” said Mr. Jordan, adding, “Then as the window opens, so really good companies continue to go, but then the floodgates typically open.”
The performance of that second wave of companies “has not always been fantastic,” he concluded.
So he applauded what Groupon has managed to build, calling the team “just stunning in terms of business execution,” but also suggested that, ”They were so motivated to go public they might have done it prematurely.”
Nor would he, as an investor, speak a peep regarding Facebook and its future. All he’d say on the issue was, “We see this as an unparalleled opportunity for growth of technology companies,” and that, “we believe tech stocks are trading at historic lows relative to the broad market index.”
Name names, Mr. Jordan!
There was also a slightly awkward moment over the firm’s recent commitment to donating half its VC income to charity. “I talked to some investors and they were like, that’s a PR stunt,” Mr. Eldon told him.
“It’s a damned expensive PR stunt,” Mr. Jordan quickly retorted. He proceeded to explain that everyone in the firm is “passionate about philanthropy” and they would be “ecstatic” if others followed their example and that they are “really pleased with our choice.”
He also had a few words for the New York ecommerce companies out there. “The core thesis of the firm is that we’re technology investors, and a lot of the interesting technology investment happens in Silicon Valley. It’s an amazing ecosystem. But I’ve found, I’ve been in this job and I spend much more time in New York now than I did as CEO of a public company, and the driver is there’s a lot of interesting ecommerce innovation going on. We’re in Fab, but there’s companies like Bonobos, Warby Parker, Birchbox, Chloe and Isabel,” he said. “There’s something special happening,” he concluded.