Microsoft is testing prototypes for its own Web-connected eyewear.
Marc Andreessen: Stories About Silicon Valley “Crack Me Up”
Silicon Valley has been receiving a lot of unfavorable media attention in recent months, from Valleywag to New York magazine to the New Yorker. Last week, during a sit-down with Marc Andreessen at the Sand Hill Road offices of his firm, Andreessen Horowitz, we discussed some of that coverage, and what he makes of it. Part of our conversation, lightly edited for length, follows. For more of our chat, visit StrictlyVC.
There’s a lot of hand-wringing in the media lately over whether or not Silicon Valley takes into mind the broader economy. Do you think some of those criticisms are valid?
The stories crack me up. There’s sort of two criticisms. One is that Silicon Valley is the new elite, the new one percent, the new oligarchy, and that all the billionaires don’t give a shit about society and [welcome a] Mad Max dystopian wasteland of no jobs [as] technology takes everything over.
The other argument is that technology produces nothing of value; it’s all just Snapchat apps so 14-year-old girls can send selfies to each other. I have a hard time reconciling the two arguments.
What of the argument that the Valley is building technologies that are primarily of value to a subset of people who can afford to use them?
That I don’t agree with. I think that’s almost just Uber, or the early-delivery services.
If you’re a journalist and come to Silicon Valley and you want to find three startups [whose services] only 25-year-olds and single people with discretionary income are ever going to use, you can do that, congratulations. If you want to come to Silicon Valley and find companies that are really going to open up access to transportation or education or financial services to people who haven’t had access to those things before, you can also do that.
These stories are very well-written and they’re entertaining, but they’re typically written by someone outside the Valley who wants to reach a certain conclusion to make them and their readers – in my view – feel better. I think it’s very reassuring, especially to people in New York right now, to think the Valley is just a bunch of kids farting around. But it’s only one slice.
Another widespread criticism is that tech entrepreneurs don’t give back enough. As a philanthropist, what do you think?
With tech — and you see this with a lot of these new entrepreneurs — they’re 25, 30, 35 years old, and they’re working to the limit of their physical capability. And from the outside, these companies look like they’re huge successes. On the inside, when you’re running one of these things, it always feels like you’re on the verge of failure; it always feels like it’s so close to slipping away. And people are quitting and competitors are attacking and the press is writing all these nasty articles about you, and you’re kind of on the ragged edge all the time. So to try and figure out how to find the time to intelligently allocate philanthropic capital, like, it just does not compute. It’s a timing issue.
Many founders I know, including a lot of really young founders, fully plan to give the vast majority away. They just plan to do it when they have time to do it properly. You could make the reasonable argument that the world would be better off if they gave the money away faster; it just begs the question of how, which is a harder question to answer. Even Warren Buffett couldn’t figure out how to do it without just giving it to Bill Gates. Maybe the answer is just give all the money to Bill Gates!
Blue Rooster, a 13-year-old, Seattle-based enterprise software company focused on interactive design and development, has raised $3 million from Fujitsu subsidiary PFU Limited. The money is part of a larger investment that has yet to be completed, reports TechCrunch.
Comprimato, a young, Prague-based company behind a newer, faster video compression technology, has received 200,000 euros in seed funding from the Czech seed fund Credo Ventures and corporate venture arm of Czech tech company Y Soft. Comprimato is a spin-off of CESNET, the Prague-based research institute.
Docurated, a two-year-old, New York-based startup whose cloud-based software helps companies organize their data in a more easily searchable way, has raised $3.75 million from Rogers Venture Partners, a nearly two-year-old, $150 million venture firm in Palo Alto. The company had previously raised $1.6 million in seed funding.
Kona Medical, a four-year-old, Bellevue, Wash.-based company that develops treatments for hypertension, has raised $10 million in Series D financing from Morningside Group, an investment firm with a big presence in China. Just last year, Kona raised $30 million in Series C funding led by an unnamed “large-cap medical technology company,” which was joined in the financing by existing investors Essex Woodlands, Domain Associates, Morgenthaler Ventures and BioStar Ventures.
Soylent, a young San Francisco-based startup whose signature drink ostensibly addresses every human nutritional need, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from investors, including Lerer Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. (It’s the kind of “fringe” investment that AH will still back at the seed stage.) Other investors in the company include investors Alexis Ohanian, Harj Taggar, Garry Tan, and Jack and Sam Altman.
Sqrrl, an 18-month-old, Cambridge, Mass.-based company behind a scalable, NoSQL database that’s used by the NSA, has raised $5.2 million in Series A financing from Atlas Venture and Matrix Partners. The same two firms had provided Sqrrl with $2 million in seed funding in August 2012. TechCrunch has an interesting piece on the company here.
Superpedestrian, a four-year-old, Boston-based company that was spun of MIT, has raised $2.1 million in Series A funding from Spark Capital and Tumblr founder David Karp. The company produces a very neat wheel technology that can turn any bike into an electric hybrid. Boston Business Journal has much more here.
Telly, a four-year-old, San Francisco-based startup has raised $3.4 million, according to an SEC document spied yesterday by VentureBeat. Telly’s video platform shows users videos based on what their friends have enjoyed, and the company has previously raised $6.5 million, including from Azure Capital, Draper Fisher Juvetson, and Siemer Ventures. More here.
Unbound, a young, London-based online platform that invites authors to pitch their ideas and visitors to choose which get written, has raised $1.82 million in seed financing from DFJ Esprit, Cambridge Angels Group, and Forward Investment Partners.
United Capital Financial Partners, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based company with offices around the country, has raised $38 million in growth financing led by Sageview Capital, which was joined by Bessemer Venture Partners and Grail Partners. United Capital Financial runs a fast-growing registered investment advisory (RIA) firm that, since 2005, has grown through dozens of acquisitions of smaller RIA firms. BVP and Grail have participated in previous rounds of financing for the company.
Varonis Systems, an eight-year-old, New York-based data company that helps organizations manage and analyze their unstructured data, has filed to go public, in an offering expected to raise around $100 million. The company plans to list on Nasdaq. Among its biggest shareholders are Accel Partners, which owns 25.6 percent of the company; Evergreen Venture Partners, which owns 23.1 percent; Pitango Venture Capital, which owns 17.1 percent, and JPMorgan, which owns 9.1 percent.
Renaissance Capital observes that “with printed jet engines, cakes and even organs on the horizon, excitement for 3D printing is climbing quickly. The latest public 3D printing player” — VoxelJet, a maker of large industrial-use systems that counts numerous German VCs as principal shareholders — “had the second best debut of the year for a US IPO, jumping 121.5%” last week. More from Renaissance about that offering and others here.
FlexyCorp, a Rennes, France-based company behind an Android performance boosting app called DroidBooster, has been acquired by Google for undisclosed terms, report both TechCrunch and France’s L’Expansion.
Tellabs, a 38-year-old, Naperville Ill.-based telecom and optical networking equipment maker that went public in 1980, is being acquired by the private equity firm Marlin Equity Partners for $891 million in cash, a 4.3 percent premium over its October 18 closing price. As columnist-investor Om Malik notes, the amount is “less than [the] quarterly sales it logged during the heyday of telecom” during the go-go ’90s.
Apple‘s highly anticipated event — in which new iPads, iMacs and more are expected to be featured — is happening today in downtown San Francisco. Plan accordingly if you work in SOMA. And if you’d rather not catch every detail over Twitter, you might be interested in signing up for CNet’s live event blog.
What? In Abu Dhabi, you say? Then you might want to tune into Nokia’s Innovation Reinvented event, where half a dozen new devices are expected to be unveiled. The U.K.-based gadget site Pocket-lint is already out there and evidently sweating to death in order to provide readers up-to-the-minute details, so if you can’t make it, just check out its feed here.
Renowned tech columnist David Pogue is ditching the New York Times for Yahoo.
Lane MacDonald becomes the head of private equity investments at Harvard Management Company in December. In April, longtime PE head Peter Dolan left the position. MacDonald, who attended Harvard College, joined the unit in 2008. Reuters has much more here.
Lighter Capital, a 3.5-year-old, Seattle-based firm that loans tech startups anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 in exchange for a percentage of their future revenues, is looking for an associate who doesn’t mind being a jack of all trades. (Because the firm is small, you’d be helping on the investment side, as well as assisting with marketing, biz dev, and even software development input and testing.) Requirements include an undergraduate degree and two to three years in investment banking or private equity/venture capital.
Unaccredited investors may finally get the go-ahead to fund startups during an open meeting at the SEC tomorrow.
Most VCs do just fine, but they aren’t “insanely rich,” according to these calculations.
Can we, as a nation, take one more minute of Keith Olbermann? GQ investigates.
Fully 86 percent of college students are texting throughout their classes, reports a new study.
These powerful ads use real google searches to show the scope of sexism worldwide.
Thirty Hollywood stars who started out in horror movies! Mmmwhahaha.
Have $48 million to spend on a New York penthouse? We’ve got just the place for you.
Witness: A muscle shirt with built-in padding to make you look buff. It is not a joke. Do not, under any circumstances, buy this alarming product. If you do not heed this advice, at least do not, under any circumstances, wear it on a date with someone who might be inclined to unbutton your shirt unless you secretly hate this person.
Addendum: StrictlyVC was told by several readers that the hand-sewn penny loafers we featured yesterday were awful. One reader specifically asked that we “do a man-check on some of this stuff first.” Point taken.
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