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Q&A with Chris Dixon on Joining Andreessen Horowitz: ‘I’m Going to be Very Aggressively Looking for Investments in New York’

The real estate ties that bind.
chris dixon Q&A with Chris Dixon on Joining Andreessen Horowitz: I’m Going to be Very Aggressively Looking for Investments in New York

Mr. Dixon

Earlier today, serial entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon made it official. The cofounder of SiteAdvisor (acquired by McAfee) and Hunch (acquired by eBay), who invests both personally and through Founder Collective, will be decamping our fair city for sunnier shores to join Andreessen Horowitz as the Sand Hill Road powerhouse’s seventh general partner. We spoke with Mr. Dixon by phone shortly after the announcement was made to find out what it means for the many ventures he’s involved in here (like eBay’s massive new Flatiron R&D lab, which is slated to house 200 developers and data scientists).

Don’t hold your breath for an East Coast outpost, as cofounder Marc Andreessen emphasized earlier, his is a “single office firm.” In fact, based on the tenor of our questions, Amy Grady, a representative from Andreessen Horowitz who was also on the call, wanted to assure us Mr. Dixon’s hire was about more than just geography. “We didn’t hire Chris just because of New York. It’s a huge bonus, he’s obviously really tapped in, but if we find an entrepreneur with a great idea in Idaho, we’ll invest!”

Silicon Prairie, start your pitch decks.

Is this a way for Andreessen Horowitz to keep a better eye on New York without opening up an office here?
Chris Dixon: I’m keeping my apartment in New York, I plan to be there a lot. I plan to make a lot of investments there. I think they saw it as a positive that I have been in New York and know a lot of people there. That said, I’m going to be based in California and I think it’s important with these things–VC firms need to work together as a team and, you know, that just often requires being around each other a lot. But yeah, I’m going to be very aggressively looking for investments in New York.

What about your role at Founder Collective and the fate of Founder Collective in general?
CD: There’s two people who run Founder Collective, Eric Paley and Dave Frankel. They’re the general partners. I’m not a general partner. What I’ll do is I’m going to continue to support any companies that I invested in through them. So if I can be helpful to those entrepreneurs I will be–the same for my personal angel investments. [In addition to Founder Collective, Mr. Dixon has personally invested in Skype, Gerson Lehrman Group, OMGPOP, BillShrink, Oddcast, Knewton, and many others.] But I’ll be doing all my future investing through Andreessen Horowitz.

Will you still be an advisor at eBay or Hunch?
CD: It hasn’t been finalized yet, but I will have some kind of an advisory role at eBay and my cofounder [Tom Pinckney] from Hunch is going to be taking over the New York office. He’s been my cofounder for two companies now [including SiteAdvisor] so they’re in good hands.

You mentioned Andreessen Horowitz’s so-called CAA model of offering help in various domains like recruiting and research. Will your expertise be in bringing in deals?
Amy Grady: Just to be clear, he’s the check writer, he’ll be doing investing.
CD: So the way it works is there are seven general partners and I’m one of them. Those are the people who go out and find new investments and then make the investment and join the board and do things they can do to help. Then there’s 55 other people who provide all sorts of support for the entrepreneur, once the investment’s made.

Was it a difficult decision to leave New York? In a lot of ways you’re representative of the scene from its infancy. You started in Wall Street, transitioned into startups, and then to investing. Were you worried it would be a loss for the community?
CD: To the extent that I can try to get Andreessen Horowitz to be more active in New York, I think that’s a net win for the New York City tech scene. You could look at this glass half full or half empty, but that’s how I see it. I care a lot about the New York tech community, it’s in a great place and it’s growing quickly and I want to keep supporting it.

I’m not sure if Marc Andreessen or Ben Horowitz or anyone there commented on how vocal you are on Twitter or in your blog posts in terms of critiquing trends that you see?
CD: They’ve encouraged me to continue to be vocal and blogging and tweeting and doing all that stuff–Tumblring, Foursquaring [laughs]. So, yeah I intend to do that. They’re totally supportive and they like it.
AG: Yup, we welcome it, no censorship allowed. We welcome feedback. We love a fresh perspective so he actually fits in quite well with the culture.

What are you most excited about in terms of moving out there? To be immersed in a place that has a different kind of expertise than New York’s consumer web?
I think it will be nice to have a different perspective, I think I’ll learn a lot. The people at this firm are really, really impressive and I’ll learn a lot from them. Over the last few years–seven years–that I’ve been angel investing, it’s always been sort of a hobby for me. So it’s just going to be fun to try it as a full time thing.

I imagine part of the appeal is having so many resources behind you? In your blog post, you mentioned founders choosing the investor and Andreessen Horowitz excels at that.
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve always done the angel investing stuff totally by myself. It’s trying to do something on a larger stage with more resources, it’s pretty exciting.

What will you miss the most about not being here?
Well, I’ll be there, okay? [laughs] I’ll be there a lot! I love New York and I’ll be there a lot. And I want to make a lot investments there. I’m hoping I won’t miss anything because I’ll be there a lot.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com

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