VCs are experts at analyzing industries and identifying new opportunities, which is why it’s odd that the VC industry itself has so stubbornly resisted change.
Two years ago I wrote a post where I argued that innovative new VC firms are finally starting to change this:
Top tier entrepreneurs are frequently selecting their investors, not vice versa. The VCs most sought after are mostly new firms: big firms like Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, and First Round, and micro-VCs like Floodgate (fka Maples), Betaworks, and Ron Conway.
Since then, the trend has become even more pronounced. VC is only partly about investing. It is primarily a service business whose purpose is to help entrepreneurs.
When Andreessen Horowitz (“a16z”) started out three years ago, like a lot of people I thought “OK, really interesting entrepreneurial founders, but how will they be as investors?” Then I started hearing chatter among entrepreneurs that they really wanted to raise money from them. “We’re talking to X, Y, & Z — but Andreessen is the firm we really want” became an increasingly common refrain.
Earlier this year I got to meet the a16z team and observe the operation directly. There are over 60 people at the firm. Only six people do traditional VC activities: investing, joining boards, and helping out. The rest are exclusively focused on helping entrepreneurs.
The “startup idea” behind a16z is: instead of spending the bulk of the fund fees on partner salaries, spend it on operations to help entrepreneurs. There is a marketing team (=helps you get noticed), a talent team (=helps you recruit), a market development team (=helps you get customers), and a research team (=helps you figure stuff out).
Spending time there, I had the same feeling I have whenever I meet a great startup: “This is obviously the future, why didn’t someone do it before?”
So I’m super excited to say that I’m joining a16z as their seventh General Partner. I’ll specialize in consumer internet investments but will be open to anything ambitious that involves technology. I’ll be based in California, but plan to do a lot of investing in NYC.
I’ll miss seeing my Hunch colleagues on a daily basis. Many of us have been working together for eight years, through two startups. I’d also like to thank everyone at eBay for being so welcoming and supportive.