Marc Andreessen: The World Would Be Much Better If We Had 50 More Silicon Valleys

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Marc Andreessen, co-founder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, delivered a keynote speech at the she++ conference today, sharing what technology is exciting him right now, what he thinks about current startup culture, and how Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, affected his view of Silicon Valley.

Andreessen described Google Glass as “potentially transformative for the entire industry. ”

“You put it on and you’re like ‘Oh my God, I have the entire internet in my vision. Where have you been all my life?,’” he said.

“I like to tell people that I’m beta testing the new Google Contact Lenses,” he joked to moderator Ruchi Sanghvi, VP of operations at Dropbox.

He added that Facebook and Google are taking search in very different directions and opined “There’s a lot more to be done with search.”

“New Facebook Graph Search capability I think is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen…It makes me wish a little bit that I was single again,” he said to laughter.

Andreessen said he switches phones every six months (between Android and iPhone) and he’ll get Facebook Home next week.

Sanghvi turned the discussion to Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In.

“Before Sheryl’s book, for 20 years, the answer has been, ‘Be gender blind,’” Andreessen said. “’Be gender blind.’ It’s not important; in fact, it’s not to be discussed. It certainly should not be brought into the hiring criteria and certainly should not influence how people manage. And basically have a straight meritocracy and ignore gender. Sheryl has provided a very, very provocative set of arguments that 1) That’s not actually working and 2) That managers, both female and male, actually have to take gender on squarely.”

“We’ll have to completely retrain managers and executives of all kinds to be able to do this,” he continued. “[Sandberg] argues very persuasively that it’s necessary, but it’s like landmine central with the way employment law works these days.”

“I think her book has been a wake up call that the current approach to solving the problem of gender imbalance— number one it’s not working, which is fairly obvious, and number two, it requires a rethink of basic communication and basic management. I think it’s a very good thing to be talking about this and debating this. I think that it’s going to take quite a while,” he said.

“Startups as a general category are probably highly overrated,” he said, responding to Sanghvi’s question about Stanford students graduating and deciding between starting companies and finding jobs.

“Basically its an irrational act,” he said, explaining the right reason for starting a company. “This idea was so powerful and compelling that if I didn’t do it I’d hate myself for the rest of my life.”

“I think that’s the part that’s getting lost,” he continued. “I think the cult of startups, and of course Stanford’s ground zero for this…Those startups are miserable experiences.”

Andreessen argued that far too many entrepreneurs have an “incredible blind spot” to distribution, sales, and marketing in Silicon Valley right now, and shared his thoughts on immigration and innovation.

Sanghvi finished her scripted segment (before an open Q&A period) by throwing out words and getting Andreessen’s reactions to them:

“Mobile: under-hyped

Social: extremely powerful, and people underestimate how powerful it is

Enterprise: being reinvented

Silicon Valley: the world would be much better if we had 50 more Silicon Valleys but we don’t and we probably won’t for a long time

Genomics: largely a disappointment

Big Data: lots of social, cultural, political implications, not yet figured out

Aaron Swartz: tragedy. Absolute tragedy. Hopefully a future inspiration

2020: more people on the planet with smartphones than running water”