It’s been more than four years since “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” was published, and it remains — including to minds of many of us at TechCrunch — one of the best, most authentic, most instructive business books ever written. It’s partly for this reason that we’re so excited to announce its author, Ben Horowitz, co-founder of the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, is coming to Disrupt SF this September.
Why do people care about Horowitz’s management advice, as opposed to many other venture capitalists? Much of it boils down his operating experiences and his candid descriptions of his ups and downs on the job. Horowitz, for example, was the co-founder and CEO of Opsware (formerly LoudCloud), which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2007 for $1.6 billion. But as Horowitz has very publicly elucidated, Opsware looked like a goner more than once, including when one of its biggest clients shut down in the aftermath of the dot.com bubble’s implosion.
Horowitz also ran several product divisions at Netscape Communications when the company was still very young, yet was already publicly traded. (It IPO’d an astonishing 16 months after it was founded.) While a thrilling ride, Horowitz has been frank about pissing off Netscape’s young co-founder, Marc Andreessen, after complaining that Andreessen gave away too much of Netscape’s strategy to a reporter ahead of a public launch that Horowitz and others were planning. (Andreessen’s reply: “Next time do the f*cking interview yourself.”)
It’s funny now, but at the time, Horowitz — already married with three children — thought he might have to find another job.
Indeed, a big part of Horowitz’s appeal to founders is that, given his career, he knows about that which he speaks. Horowitz doesn’t sugarcoat anything, either. Whereas many management coaches and books can be abstract and theoretical — even squishy — Horowitz gets straight to the point. He knows what CEOs mess up most commonly, how to think about demoting versus firing people and when and how to give out raises. All tie to a concept that Horowitz advises that entrepreneurs learn: that they need to take every point of view into consideration when making a decision, so they can see the decision through the eyes of the company and not just the person who may be most directly impacted by it.
It isn’t easy to do, particularly given that leaders are often making decisions under a great deal of pressure, as Horowitz readily admits when offering management advice. But it’s also crucial to running a healthy organization.
It is because of Horowitz’s acumen and more that we’re very eager to sit down with him this fall to talk about entrepreneurship, including how it has evolved in the nine years since Andreessen Horowitz was founded, as well as how the firm is evolving alongside it.
If you’re a founder, or you’re thinking about becoming one, you won’t want to miss this conversation. To buy passes to the show, taking place in San Francisco September 5th through September 7th, you can click right over here.