Today, at the Web 2.0 Summit, Ben Horowitz, the former co-founder and CEO of Opsware and founding partner of well-known venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, took to the stage today to speak to John Heilemann of New York Magazine. Horowitz spoke to his history with his founding partner as well as what the two tech veterans look for in the companies they invest in and mentor.
Interestingly, at the end of the talk, Heilemann played a word association game with Horowitz, asking him what he thought about Facebook (among other big tech companies). Horowitz said frankly that he thought the social networking giant is the best run company in Silicon Valley — and the tech industry.
When asked whether that was a product of CEO Mark Zuckerberg or the people around him, Horowitz said, of course, that he thought it was a product of both. “I pay a lot of attention young CEOs, and I think Mark is one of the best young CEOs in the business”. The reason for this? Zuckerberg is incredibly thoughtful about product strategy, Horowitz said.
He cited the example of how, when new hires arrive at Facebook, they are often forced to take lower titles than what they’re used to. Zuckerberg established this precedent because he wants people coming to Facebook not to be focused on their title, but instead on what kind of awesome products they’re going to build. He wants to make sure they’re at Facebook for the right reasons — not because the’ve seen The Social Network, for example.
Zuck is extremely focused on the little things, Horowitz said, which is what will make him successful in the long run. And it’s this attention to detail, and staying focused on the long-term roadmap that has pushed the young CEO and the people installed around him, that has pushed them to have the same onboarding process for people at all levels of the company.
“If you’re not interested in building products, you’re not going to play at Facebook”, the investor said.
Horowitz’s words are slightly surprising in light of the heat that the young CEO has taken over the years for being an uncomfortable presence on stage, lacking in charisma, among other things. While Andreessen Horowitz hasn’t invested officially in Facebook, Marc Andreessen does sit on the board of directors. And since Horowitz admitted that he and Andreessen are “best friends” and like an “old married couple”, obviously the young company is something both investors are well familiar with.
Horowitz also shared his thoughts on some other technology industry notables like Groupon and Zynga. He called Groupon “the fastest growing company in the world”, said that Twitter is “changing the world”, and was unable to say much more about Zynga (with its IPO looming) other than “I love it”. In relation to Steve Jobs, the investor said “it’s just so spectacular what he did in the world and with his life. I like how many people he proved wrong over and over again”.