Andreessen Horowitz’s Jeff Jordan: Are Companies Building On Top Of Facebook Really Growing Or Just “Spam?”

This morning at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2012, TechCrunch editor Eric Eldon sat down for a fireside chat with Jeff Jordan, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz and former CEO of OpenTable, to discuss his investment perspectives. Jordan, who took OpenTable public in 2009, shared his thoughts on the current investment landscape, including the situation with companies like Groupon, Fab, Pinterest, and others.

Although many topics were on the table for this morning’s chat (check out the video), one of the more interesting things Jordan discussed was how companies were leveraging Facebook integration today to achieve growth.

Eldon started off the chat by asking Jordan about what it was like back when he was taking OpenTable public, and Jordan reminisced about how it had become fashionable to not take your company public. Today, that’s not necessarily the case.

Getting right into the companies that Jordan likes, Eldon noted that Jordan’s bullish on Groupon. Why is that?, asked Eldon. Jordan said that Groupon’s growth is “really stunning,” having scaled up to hundreds of thousands of merchants in just a few years. He also said the pace at which they grew was “amazing.” However, he noted that Groupon might have gone public prematurely. Still, he’s very bullish on Groupon in the long term, saying despite there being no barrier to entry to Groupon’s business, they have a high merchant renewal rate, and it’s essentially come down to a two-company race between it and LivingSocial.

Another insight that jumped out from the chat — and probably the most notable one for new startups building apps in today’s ecosystem — was the current situation with building on top of Facebook. Jordan noted that Facebook integration had been helpful to startups like Pinterest and Fab, of course. But there is now a challenge in evaluating companies’ growth, because it’s becoming increasingly harder to tell if a company is experiencing real growth, or whether it’s “the result of spam,” he said. (“Instagram for video” startups, take note!) 

As for what Andreessen Horowitz looks for in the companies they invest in, Jordan didn’t really give away much of the firm’s secret sauce, saying that they’re looking to find one of the 15 companies that create all the value in venture investments every year. He cited Pinterest especially as one of those that worked really hard to achieve product and market fit.

Finally, Eldon asked about how Andreessen Horowitz’s partners had pledged to donate half their income to charity. Some are saying that’s just a PR stunt, said Eldon. That would be a “damned expensive PR stunt,” laughed Jordan. All of the partners are passionate about charity, he said, and he would be “ecstatic” if others follow their lead.