November 20, 2013

An interview with Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz is the co-founder of Opsware and a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz - a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm with $2.7 billion under management. This interview is from 2012. 

Lessons learned
  • Unlike Elon Musk, Ben Horowitz got a job at Netscape. It was there he met Marc Andreessen who had created the first widely used Web browser and then co-founded Netscape.
  • Being nice an not telling you employees what's wrong with them is dangerous. This is also true if you hear negative thoughts about your company. In a good company, the bad news travels through the company and everyone is aware of the potential problem. People should be happy to tell others about negative feedback.   
  • "What do you believe in that nobody else does?"
  • He told a story about a founder in US who grew up in Romania and had swum across a river in 1989 to escape communism. Ben Horowitz invested in the company because he was impressed by the swimmer. A similar story can be found in the book Good to Great where an executive said he often hired people with no industry or business experience. In one case, he hired a manager who'd been captured twice during the Second World War and escaped both times. "I thought that anyone who could do that shouldn't have trouble with business."
  • Courage is more important than intelligence if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur. The difference between someone who has courage and someone who is a coward isn't what they feel - they feel the exact same thing - it is what they do.
  • It's easier to see from the outside what you are not doing or if you can combine new ideas.
  • Investors have to say no to companies because they don't have the time - not because they don't like the idea. 

More articles in the same series: Lessons learned from the Foundation interviews