Producer of tomorrow (part 7)

Original author: Tad Friend
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Mark and Laura Andrissen← Part 6

At the wedding of Andrissen in 2006, Ben Horowitz made a toast to the effect that this person has long been known to everyone as “grumpy Mark,” because “no one understood him all his life, he went through it alone.” No one understood him in his farm town, no one understood him in Silicon Valley - “Damn, I don’t understand him myself!” But now he finally became a “happy Mark” because he found “someone who is completely accepts him ”- a bride named Laura Arrillaga-Andrissen . She lectures on philanthropy at Stanford Business School.

In December, Andrissen invited me to their house in Atherton , five minutes from the a16z office, to watch TV. She and Laura live in a modern, ninety-seven-foot ( about 836 m²) art-filled) a villa built in the style that the hostess calls the Northern California Pasture . The height of the ceilings corresponds to the giant proportions of Andrissen. Everything around is simultaneously majestic, minimalist and fresh. The toilet in the restroom is so visionary, and the soft lighting around it so decorates the space that I had to spend some time looking for a way to flush the water.

Arrillaga-Andrissen brought refreshments to the living room and placed them on tables bought by the owner at Costco . The chef has prepared omelettes and Thai salads in advance. Now they are all warmed up: there are three microwave ovens in the house so that all the food is ready at the same time. Andrissen stroked her hand and beamed: "Hello, beauty!"

“Hello, my dear!” She answered. I won a brief hug, as if we had not seen each other since yesterday. Arrillaga-Andrissen is a tall, seemingly unearthly, but at the same time expressive woman. When they met in 2005 on New Year's Eve, at a party organized by a leading investor in the dating service eHarmony , and talked for six and a half hours in a row. According to Laura, Andrissen met most of the criteria in her checklist: he was a genius, he was a coder, he was fun, he was bald. She explained the last paragraph as follows: “Directly seeing what the brain is hidden under is incredibly sexy!” For his part, Andrissen felt that “she was impressive! My biggest concern was that her ideal is to fly from place to place. ” In one of the seventeen emails he sent her the next day, he was interested in: “What is your perfect evening?” To which she replied: “Stay at home, sort out the mail, make an omelet, watch TV, take a bath, go to bed” .Marc Andrissen, Laura Arrillaga-Andrissen and John ArrillagaBefore the second date, he presented to her, in her words, “a twenty-five-minute monologue about why our relationship should be permanent, with a complete thought-out decision tree , which also prudently included all of my own decision tree”. They got married nine months later. In her and her father, John , the millionaire developer from Silicon Valley, Andrissen seems to have found a family that he lacked. Laura showed me a photograph of two men standing side by side, both bald, successful, domineering: "Just like two drops of water."

After spending some time at the TV, the couple indulges in reading in bed, so she says: "I can fall asleep, hugging my lover." (She invariably prefers to call her husband “my beloved”, without using the name “Mark.”) “I ask him about things that interest me during the day, so every night I fall asleep with a Wikipedia person who can go deeper and deeper in the topic, link by link. Last week, we talked about the hardware of mobile phones, how binary code works, what to expect in regulating drone flights, and whether Putin uses Ukraine as a maneuver that distracts from the financial crisis in Russia. ” As soon as she dozes off, Andrissen returns to work in his home office. Like a charging phone, it stores energy during the night.

He pressed a button to expand the screen, then woke the Apple TV . We were about to watch two episodes concluding the first season of AMC's “Stop and Burn” drama . The series is dedicated to a fictitious company called Cardiff, which enters the personal computer war in the early eighties. The show apparently impressed Andrissen. In 1983, he said, “I was twelve, and I did not know anything about startups and venture capital, but I was familiar with all the products.” He used the RadioShack TRS-80 from the school library to put together a homework calculator. In 1992, as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , he quit his job - coding for Unix for $ 6.85 per hour - to team up with yet another programmer and create Mosaic , the first graphical browser for the World Wide Web. After graduation, he moved to Silicon Valley, where, along with the restless persistent entrepreneur Jim Clark (Jim Clark) launched Netscape to make the Internet accessible to everyone, not just scientists. John Doerr , who funded their Round A, says their browser genius was like “adding photos to the Howard Johnson menu .”Mark Andrissen on the cover of TimeNo language skills required; you can simply indicate what you need. " Arrillaga-Andrissen secretly told the background behind this story: “Netscape was based on my lover’s inability to access knowledge in a small town at a time when he was a child.”

Netscape Navigator , released in 1994, quickly gained over 94% of the browser market, and Andrissen predicted that the World Wide Web would make operating systems such as Microsoft Windows “out of date”. When the company entered the public market in 1995, its shares soared from twenty-eight dollars to seventy-five apiece, and Andrissen soon appeared on the cover of Time : barefoot on the throne. But Mark 1.0 was largely just a beta. Tied to coding, his first love, he took up the management of the encoders. At the same time, he devoured the Pepperidge Farm Nantuckets liver and honey-cereal bars, missed meetings, and suddenly flared up with anger on occasion. “When you see doubts overwhelming him, it makes you feel a combination of inspiration and fear,” recalls Jason Rosenthal , the manager Andrissen spoke positively about. Andrissen's favorite response to the embarrassment of his subordinates was: “There are no stupid questions, there are stupid people!” Jim Barksdale ), The CEO of the company, adds: “After the meetings, I told Mark:“ There is no need to tell the dumb donkey that he is a dumb donkey. ”” Andrissen answers me: “I needed to get Netscape to work, it had to work - I don’t there was a way back - so I was completely intolerant of everything that bothered me. " Bearing in mind, according to his own explanation: "people." He could never relax: “I am very paranoid. And the pain during the periods of falls was much stronger than the joy during the periods of take-offs. ”

The fall period began when Microsoft included its own browser in the operating system, turning it into a national browser in fact, if not by choice. Netscape shifted from the consumer market to the corporate market, and began selling browser and server software. He is fortunate to be bought by AOL In 1999, for ten billion dollars. Peter Currie , CFO ★ of the company, said: “We managed to be different from others, we introduced cookies and were the first among download managers from the Internet, Netscape also left a mark on business history. Perhaps it is best to consider it as a classic technological history: the company creates, invents, succeeds - and competitors bypass it. ”

In the episode of the series “Stop and Burn,” Cardiff Entrepreneurs Go to COMDEX, a great trade show, and discover that another company has stolen their idea and got around them in the market. In response, hardware engineer Gordon removes the interactive OS from the Cardiff computer — a system developed by a punk girl, a software genius named Cameron — and downloads DOS from Microsoft instead , which makes the development of IBM compatible viable, and ... dull. It was a contrived surrender, but Andrissen nodded approvingly: “This was a moment of Microsoft's triumph, and Gordon is right - they need to survive in order to accept the battle the other day. But ... ”He points to the screen where the Apple Macintosh makes its debut on the show. “Hi, I'm a Mac,” the computer said. Andrissen laughed, and continued: “They were originally doomed, because Apple is in Cupertino ", - in Silicon Valley, -" spent three years to build it. While here, I was determined to be on the other side of this driving force, because success in software development is distributed by right of the strong. This is not like Coke and Pepsi and the like. Here the winner gets everything. The second prize is a set of table knives , and the third is dismissal. ”

Cameron Howe

In the season finale, Cameron launches his own startup. Watching how she manages her programmers, Andrissen softly remarks: "The best scenes with Cameron were those where she was alone, in the basement, indulging in coding." I added that in my opinion she is the most unsatisfied character: too pliable, inconsistent, without convincing motivation. He smiled and replied: "Because she is the future." ▼

To be continued ...

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 ← | Part 7 | → Part 8

About the Author: Ted Friend has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker since 1998. The author of a variety of reports and investigations, multiple prize winner in the field of journalism.
Photo: 1. , 2. , 3. , 4.

Bonus: Howard Johnson's curious children's menu from 1968.

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