Exit This Way
Teach Me How to Startup
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.
Visitors who search for Harlem rapper Azealia Banks’s breakout hit “212,” on Rap Genius, an online platform that crowdsources explanations of hip-hop lyrics, will find nearly every verse annotated by the site’s users, who clocked more than 2 million monthly uniques in August, according to comScore. Click on the line “Now she wanna lick my plum in the evening/ And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in,” and a pop-up immediately appears explaining that Ms. Banks is employing a metaphor for cunnilingus and that “She stutters the words tongue and deep to mimic the stuttering that occurs when one receives such a gift.” That exegesis received 11 upvotes, earning the contributor jamima-j, a female “slam poetry writer,” a healthy bump in “Rap IQ” points on the site.
Readers might find her analysis either amusing or unnecessary. But the reigning kings of Sand Hill Road, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, view Rap Genius as “one of the most important things we’ve ever funded,” co-founder Ben Horowitz told Betabeat last week. The prominent VC firm, which clawed its way into the Silicon Valley firmament in just three years by aggressively plowing millions into fast-growth tech startups like Facebook, Pinterest, foursquare and Airbnb, often at towering valuations, were the sole investors behind the site’s $15 million Series A.
Rap Genius, the Brooklyn-based site that lets the hive mind take a stab at explaining hip hop lyrics, announced today that they have received $15 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz. The powerful venture capital firm is run by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and rap fanatic Ben Horowitz, notorious for starting his business-minded blog posts with a hip-hop epigraph. Read More
Ladies and gentleman, there is a shadow stalking the tech scene. First Google, then Facebook, and now a whole raft of up and comers. Yes, it is the founder-controlled company (typically achieved by the arcane means of a dual-class stock structure; don’t worry about it), and today the Wall Street Journal is on it: “There’s a power struggle underway in Silicon Valley. At stake: Power itself.” (Pause for Bezosian cackle.)
The Journal even singles out one firm in particular as the ultimate advocate of the trend:
Oh You Fancy Huh?
For as much as venture capitalists like to position themselves as disruptors–they stood with the 99 percent and not the 1 percent during Occupy Wall Street–they are, after all, barons in their own right. And now they’re following the philanthropic model of their corporate brethren and donating at the firm, rather than the individual, level. Today, Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz promised to donate at least half of their venture capital income from Andreessen Horowitz to charity.
Historically, TechCrunch notes, “major philanthropy in the industry has mostly come from individuals, like John Doerr and Michael Moritz.” Perhaps Mr. Andreessen has been influenced by some pillow talk? In December, the New York Times profiled his wife Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen’s attempts to encourage “tech titans like her husband to become as famous for giving money as they are for making it,” before they retire. She advised Mark Zuckerberg and his girlfriend Priscilla Chan, for example, on their $100 million donation to Newark public schools.
It's Hard Out There For a Pimp
The last time we checked in with social commerce startup Fancy was back in February, around the time Kanye West tweeted out his approval for “My friend Joseph’s site.” The Joseph in question is ThingD founder Joe Einhorn, the wunderkind entrepreneur trying to create “the Facebook of stuff” as Ben Popper wrote in a profile of Mr. Einhorn in The Observer in 2010. (Somewhere along the way, The Fancy opted to drop the “The.”)
Like Pinterest, Fancy is focused on discovering and collecting images of things. Unlike Pinterest, which relies on affiliate marketing links, anything on Fancy can be bought. You “fancy” a thing and Fancy lets brands and retailers sign up to sell that item on the site. That photo of the Eiffel Tower, for example, comes attached to a deal for hotel nights in Paris.
On his blog today, Ben Horowitz, the hip-hop loving half of Andreessen Horowitz, confirmed the news that Dealbook broke last week: The new VC kid on the block did indeed raise $1.5 billion for a third venture fund.
In the post, which begins with an existential epigraph from Outkast about the meaning of life, Mr. Horowitz sets about answering two questions: “Why did such a new venture capital firm raise so much money?” and “How did such a new venture capital firm raise so much money?”
See now, we woulda gone with: “Where are you going to $$$$$pend it???”
Tech Bubble Watch
With $1.2 billion under management across three funds, Andreessen Horowitz has the capital and connections to invest in, well, pretty much any damn startup it sees fit, even at later stages when a company’s valuation starts to look a little bubbilicious.
Last February, for example, Andreessen Horowitz invested more than $80 million in Twitter through stock in the secondary markets. And that was despite not being part of Twitter’s recent (at the time) $200 million round led by Kleiner Perkins. The Journal chimed in: between Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon, Andreessen Horowitz could connect all four!
More recently, between leading sought after rounds in Fab, Airbnb, Foursquare, and Pinterest, it’s hard to come up with a hot Internet startup that Andreessen Horowitz isn’t involved in.
But as Dealbook’s Evelyn Rusli reports, it’s reach might grow even bigger.
Number One Fans
In this weekend’s New York Times magazine, Talk columnist Andrew Goldman (or The Softer Side of Deborah Soloman, as we like to think of him) sits down Marc Andreessen, poster VC for the current boom, to ask if it’s really more like a bubble.
The Atlantic‘s Nicholas Jackson wrote a curious post about Ashton Kutcher yesterday in which Mr. Jackson alleges that Mr. Kutcher’s “smart decisions in the start-up space make most venture capitalists look like amateurs.” Despite that, Mr. Jackson points out:
“But he doesn’t get a lot of coverage. At least not as much, in the tech press that is, as Peter Thiel or Ron Conway or Paul Graham. And that’s probably because he still describes himself as an actor.”
Guess all that stage time about his approach to investment at TechCrunch Disrupt wasn’t enough. If you ask Mr. Jackson, “Kutcher has invested in so many–and had so much success with– startup companies, that he might be called a venture capitalist first and an actor second.”
Let’s look a little closer at this premise, shall we?