tech

a16z

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.

Categories: tech

145 replies »

  1. Wow, congrats Chris. I’m sure you’ll continue to do the east coast well as you defect to working out west. Good luck and most of all keep it as real as you always have. Very exciting.

  2. Congratulations Chris. Is a16z hiring – perhaps for that research group? (after years of being an entrepreneur, consultant and event organizer I’m looking for a position where I can have a larger impact than I can independently)

  3. Congrats, Chris — this is great news. Looking forward to your blog posts from a different perspective :)

  4. Wow – big move, it seems like this is one of those “now that I’ve seen it, it’s glaringly obvious to me” moments for you.

    I can’t wait to see what you invest in!

  5. Congratulations Chris! This is great news for you, for a16z, and for the entrepreneurs you’ll team up with in your new role. I suspect you’ll see even more entrepreneurs put Andreesen at the top of their lists as a result.

  6. Huge huge congrats, Chris! of course, selfishly, I’m thrilled to hear you’ll be joining this new yorker out west. keep me posted! I’m at a portfolio co so I think you’re obligated :)

    st

  7. guess i’m just thinking more of the support system.

    Regardless, sounds like a cool VC approach I haven’t heard before. Maybe I should be chatting with them :)

  8. This is really awesome. Like countless others, I have been following and learnt a great deal from your inspirational writings over the years. Smart pick by a16z!

  9. Congrats to a16z on a great new team member in you @cdixon:disqus.

    Would be curious to see a blog post in the future describing NYC full service VCs. Who is offering this service today? What opportunities exist for other funds to ‘reinvent’ themselves and offer these marketing/recruiting/research services in NYC?

  10. Congrats Chris. Always admired your investing style as well as A16Z. – great for both! See you around sometime at Sand Hill.
    tc,
    Nick Dani

  11. Given my (albeit few) positive interactions with you and a16z there couldn’t be a better match. Couple that with founders’ excitement, the ecosystem, and SV are going to be well-served by your move. Congrats Chris!

  12. Love this news Chris. I have enjoyed your Twitter’n for some time and love what a16z has been doing in the startup community. Maybe it’s only the fact that because I recognize your name and their name it makes me smile. But maybe it is because I also take a bit of encouragement from the actual event itself. Your hire says that people with resources are investing in people with talent, like yourself, for the end of investing in others to create opportunities and products that will bless our collective future. Yes, that is it. You are a part of a growing thing, not a dying thing and I hope you enjoy the junk out of it.

  13. it is cool to see some of the smartest folks on the planet coming together at a place (bay area) and a time (now) when we critically need them (ahem…. capital) to solve some of the big “jobs to be done”. Best.

  14. Thanks. That’s very nice. I do think this is a bit of the establishment investing in the outsiders. And in general I think that’s good. And all the credit goes to the a16z team who seems to naturally think that way.

  15. Congratulations!! We’ve never met (although I’ve visited Hunch – awesome swag, hah) but I’m a regular blog reader of yours and of Marc’s. Super excited for you.

  16. Oh… got you. I get it now. In my blog post about your hire I chose to send people to the Mothership’s site. Now I have to go dig in that Wiki for the insight. Thanks.

  17. On more random note.. I noticed in your aboutme that you grew up in Springfield, Ohio. One of my best friends has had a farm out in German Township area of Springfield for decades. A very pragmatic people out there in Clark County.

  18. Ha…no problems, I completely understand (and it explains your chuckle when I asked the question – hindsight is always great)…just keep gawk.it in mind when you are ‘searching’ for hot new startups in NYC :-)

    oh and I also sent you a follow up on some account stuff…if you have any questions or need me to resend just let me know…thanks!

  19. Congrats Chris!

    Really interested in how the marketing team ‘consults’ to the start ups in the incubator. I do this one on one for a living, institutionalizing it interests me. Anything you can share about that?

  20. Ok Chris, I know who you are somehow. :-) So many congrats on the new step and teaming up with right gang. It would be easier for me to meet you someday, when I visit SV.

    Cheers from Pakistan!

  21. I was gong to ask this, congratulations Chris! First Obama, now A-H, it’ s definitely your year! ;) Keep blogging
    Best wishes

  22. I for one enjoyed the tip of the hat to your roots as a fellow hacker…

    But I did wonder how many of your readers would actually grep the naming convention (especially found it interesting that everyone seems to have quickly adopted/used the name in that way…I suspect many think it’s a partnership with or a division of Andreessen Horowitz and not just a shorter way to reference them)

    …that’s the best thing about your blog, even in a simple announcement you give us something cool to ponder! ;-)

  23. Hey Chris, I just wanted to extend a congrats to you. I have followed your blog for some time now and read your book, Startups and between that and your posts I have learned a ton about the startup world. You’ll be a huge assest to a16z. Best of luck

  24. Congrats Chris! Awesome to see one of the funds I respect the most ‘merge’ with one of the entrepreneurs I respect the most. Good luck!

  25. This is the Marvel Team Up of hires, on some Avengers or JLA type sh*t. I love the idea of this union and want to buy the comic book then see the movie.

    Chris, I do hope that your blogging vigilance and advocacy on behalf of the entrepreneur doesn’t subside. Nay, let it flourish. Wave the flag. Shake your fist. Remain our hero.

  26. Great news & big congratulations! I understand that you are a huge advocate of the NYC startup scene, and that with a16z you will be moving out west – for understandable reasons. a16z seem to have created a pretty tight team out there, and is I’m sure in no small part the reason for their continuing success. Does this mean that your personal and a16z investments will likely be west coast companies? Just because it’s logistically easier for you? Or will you continue to invest outside of the valley in the same way that you have been?

  27. I always said that given Chris’ height, glasses and features, he could be the Clark Kent of startup land. This hire may prove how right I am.

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