Andreessen Horowitz' a16z Tech Summit
Last Tuesday, Andreessen Horowitz - one of the largest VC firms in Silicon Valley - held a one-day tech summit in Sausalito, 10 miles north of the city of San Francisco. Attendance was reserved for Chief Information Officers and Chief Marketing Officers from US Global 2000 companies. From banks to media to telecoms, the executives of large corporations gathered to catch a glimpse of the new trends in Silicon Valley’s tech startup scene.
# Venture Capital as Business Development
Andreessen Horowitz is the VC fund behind Facebook, Twitter, Lyft, and a number of other high-profile startup success stories. They have currently more than $4B in asset management. But a16z, as they refer to themselves, is not a traditional VC firm. More than providing funding to a startup, Andreessen Horowitz will get involved by providing high-profile support.
The Andreessen Horowitz team is full of business developers (“Accelerating time to market and matching corporate partners with emerging technology leaders”), recruiters (“Creating the definitive network of technical superstars, and developing the right program to support your people”), and marketers (“Building awareness, and offering guidance through all the brand building events an entrepreneur faces”) that work with portfolio startups to help them scale.
The Andreessen Horowitz summit is indeed not a surprise. Helping startups connect with potential partners, clients, or M&A opportunities isn’t new for the fund. In 2012, they built a new Executive Briefing Center in their headquarters to host meetings between Global 2000 companies and startups from their portfolio. The goal: help their startups scale and succeed.
# Unicorns and Rising Stars
While the summit’s demonstrated function as a showcase for the success of the a16z model may not be surprising, it was heartening as a barometer for CXO mentality. 250 executives attended an event to see which companies Andreessen Horowitz thinks will be the next unicorns.
Around tables at the summit, discussions were oriented by themes that grouped the startups by the problems their products solved. The event was structured intelligently to reach every audience: Cybersecurity (“Brand and Security”), Data, (Own your Data, Don’t be owned by it”), Mobile (“Mobile ate the world”), Digital branding (“Creating 21st Century Brands”), On-demand (“What old is new again: New Business models”), etc. On each topic, Andreessen Horowitz had startups to put forward. And not little ones: Slack ($2.8B valutation), Pinterest ($11B valuation), Airbnb ($25B valuation), Lyft ($2.5B valuation) were among the unicorns that demoed.
Rising stars were also represented. Orion Hindawi of Tanium, which offers a simple but radical vision of cybersecurity, started by saying that all cybersecurity solutions companies are using are 25 years old. Marc Barach from Jumio explained how easy their product makes the user experience for the incredibly complex technological processes of payment and user signup. Steve Patrizi, cofounder of Imgur, explained how Ebay, a “dinosaur” among these startups, is using their platform to reach Millennials with surprising success.
# Bringing disrupter and disrupted together
Across a wide range of stages, these startups had one thing in common: they need more traction to go one step further into their development. And large corporations are their way to reach it.
But the bargaining power is no longer reserved to large corporations. Both ecosystems need each other. Large corporations need to stay in touch with younger communities, new digital usages, and new distribution channels. Startups need legitimacy, money and scalability. Disrupter and disrupted can work together and Andreessen Horowitz, a VC firm that is funding “barbarians,” understands this perfectly.