Producer of tomorrow (part 2)

Original author: Tad Friend
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Mixpanel Co-Founder Suhail Doshi and New York Office Director Tim Trefren
Mixpanel co-founder Suhail Doshi and director of the New York office Tim Trefren

On pitches, Andrissen is relatively restrained: he retains his passion for the subsequent discussion when the company makes the final decision on investing money. It was then that he asked those questions that compelled interlocutors to perceive the world in a new way. When discussing Lyft co-travel service : “Don't look back at the size of the taxi market. What if people stop buying cars at all? ”Question for OfferUp :“ And if all these online sales are eBay and Craigslist- will be forced to migrate to mobile devices? How much will everything change? ”The astute manager Ben Horowitz is at the head of the table next to the co-founder. Among his friends are rappers Kanye West and Nes , and he likes to quote them to set up his interlocutors in a bold manner. But he is not at all trying to tune Andrissen. “Do not try to tell Mark that he doesn’t bite someone’s head off!” Explains Horowitz. “He has a huge responsibility when he makes decisions about the fate of gigantic amounts of money, so he cuts:“ What the hell did you think about this , and about this , well, but about that ! ””

A16z is designed to proclaim the future loudly based on the founders' ability to argue and conflict. In 1996, Horowitz was a product manager at Netscape. He wrote a disapproving letter to Andrissen when he revealed to the press too soon the company's new strategy. Andrissen said that Horowitz would be to blame if the company failed: “Next time, give these damn interviews yourself. Fuck you! ”Normal relations would end there. “If he feels disrespectful, Mark will cut you out of his life like a cancerous tumor,” one of Andrissen’s close friends tells me. “But Ben and Mark fight like a cat and a dog, and then just forget about it.” Two years later, when Netscape began to sink, and forty percent of the employees left the company, Horowitz said he would stay in spite of everything. Andrissen used to not trust anyone, but now he has changed his mind. In the a16z team, they complement each other: Horowitz is a CEO focused on working with people, and Andrissen is a chairman, a theorist with large-scale vision. At the same time, Horowitz notes: “In fact, Mark is much more sensitive than me. He is often upset about the fact that I involuntarily expressbody language - “Ben, so you! I'm telling you here and I’m going to feel sick right now. ””

Although Andrissen served on the boards of Facebook, Hewlett-Packard and eBay, he rarely takes his place on the board of companies from the a16z portfolio, preferring to watch from a distance. Andrissen is the producer of the future, asking again and again about “what will happen in ten, twenty, thirty years,” while he seemed to be looking at his Google calendar. He develops the acuteness of his inner gaze, with due care for approaching observation and generalization, and often quotes William Gibson : “The future is already here, it's just distributed in an unobvious way.” ★ The flying satchel ★ has been the subject of discussion for half a century, but it never appeared on Target showcases . To smooth out such gaps in the "distribution of the future", Andrissen disseminates his assessments in every possible way: podcasts, discussions, CNN interviews - he became a media diviner. In this Andrissen is magnificent. A hundred times a day, he writes on Twitter, filling up tens of thousands of subscribers with aphorisms and statistics, causing “Twitter storms” . Andrissen states that he loves Twitter because “reporters are obsessed with them. This is such a pipe to which a loudspeaker is attached in every corner of the world. ”He believes that if you repeat something often enough and persistently, then it will be so - his glorious revenge on the world. “We have a theory of a nation of nerds. It includes forty or fifty million people around the world. They believe that they have more in common with other eccentric people than with people in their own country. So you have to choose which clan, gang or group you want to be a part of. ”Such a“ twitter nation ”draws a map of the world in its own way.

Mixpanel is a symbol of exaggerated unicorn worship in Silicon Valley. Peter Levin , a member of the board of directors of Doshi, during the consideration of the transaction, said that the company is striving to achieve a billion dollar valuation. It is this kind of self-esteem that should determine the price of a share that a16z can acquire. In general, Doshi agrees to sell ten percent for eighty million, based on the company's value of eight hundred million dollars. To this, Andrissen said: “Dogs are not in the habit of jumping through a small grid to get to food. And he still did not work with the market at all. But he has a profit! ”

Horowitz exclaims: “How old is he, twenty-four?” Fuck it, let's give him all our money! ”A16z completely closed round B, paying sixty-five million to increase the share by 7.5 percent. The cost of the entire company at the same time reached eight hundred sixty five million dollars. Doshi was a little upset that he was not worth a billion, but assured me that he was ready to wait: his business is growing rapidly, and in this “boom” everyone is raising money so quickly that “in six or twelve months we will become a unicorn” .

Having closed one round, venture funds rarely close the next one alone, fearing their own misconceptions about the real market value of the company. Therefore, Andrissen adds: “And don’t think that your shit smells like vanilla ice cream now!” None of the half dozen other funds that Doshi contacted last fall rated his company so highly. But Andrissen applied the rule of his friend and intellectual sparring partner Peter Thiel , who was a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in LinkedIn and Yelp . When a recognized fund takes on two investment rounds in a row, Andrissen explains to me, Thiel considers it to be a “howling siren calling for a purchase. And the higher the rating relative to the previous round, the more underestimated the company. ”I need time to learn Thiel’s idea: when a company grows rapidly, even investors who play upward, who recently gave a lower rating in the previous round, will always be slightly late. And the faster the growth, the more they will lag. Andrissen grins again, checking out the paradox: the more they pay for Mixpanel now, the more advantageous the deal will be for them, following Thiel's logic.

Usually a business doesn’t work like that. At least for now. ▼

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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, a multiple winner of awards in journalism.
Photo: New York Business Journal .

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