Fireside Chat With Chris Dixon (Andreessen Horowitz) | Disrupt NY 2013 | Summary and Q&A

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April 29, 2013
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Fireside Chat With Chris Dixon (Andreessen Horowitz) | Disrupt NY 2013

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Summary

In this video interview, Andreessen Horowitz general partner Chris Dixon discusses his experiences in Silicon Valley and the potential of Bitcoin and 3D printing. He shares his insights on the differences between the tech scenes in New York and California, the opportunities and challenges of Bitcoin as a payment system, the potential of 3D printing to transform manufacturing, and the resurgence of consumer-focused startups. He also touches on the changing dynamics between venture capitalists and entrepreneurs and shares his thoughts on the value of an MBA degree.

Questions & Answers

Q: What surprised Chris Dixon about Silicon Valley so far?

Chris Dixon describes the California tech scene as similar to New York in terms of consumer internet startups, but he highlights the difference in focus between San Francisco and the southern part of California. He mentions that San Francisco is more oriented towards consumer-facing tech that applies technology to real-world problems.

Q: How does the tech scene in New York differ from Silicon Valley?

According to Dixon, New York has plenty of great investors, entrepreneurs, and engineers. However, he believes that one area where New York is lacking is a mid-level layer of talent that specializes in scaling successful startup products, such as expanding internationally or introducing monetization schemes. He attributes this to the shorter history of the tech scene in New York compared to California.

Q: What potential does Chris Dixon see in Bitcoin?

Dixon believes that Bitcoin has been misunderstood as solely a store of value when its potential as a payment mechanism is equally important. He sees Bitcoin as a solution for online fraud, cross-country payment barriers, and high payment fees. He views it as a way to pay someone without trust being a requirement, as recipients can verify the received Bitcoin without needing to know the sender's identity. He describes it as an anonymous payment system on top of an anonymous network and speculates that it could be a release valve for frustration in the financial tech industry.

Q: Is Chris Dixon planning to invest in Bitcoin?

Dixon finds Bitcoin to be a fascinating area and acknowledges that many smart entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are becoming heavily involved in it. He believes that there will be another wave of Bitcoin startups and mentions potential areas for investment, such as merchant services, exchanges, and bank models that address the complexity of storing Bitcoin.

Q: Why did Chris Dixon invest in Shapeways and what is the significance of 3D printing?

Dixon sees 3D printing as a major innovation that has the potential to transform manufacturing. He explains that the relatively low amount of venture capital invested in 3D printing, especially by large California firms, presents an opportunity. He highlights the desktop 3D printing space and the development of software tools as interesting areas for investment. Dixon emphasizes that 3D printing can democratize manufacturing by enabling individuals to create products without having to make large upfront investments or commit to minimum batch sizes, potentially bringing manufacturing back to the US.

Q: Why has New York become a hub for 3D printing companies?

Dixon confesses that he is not sure why New York has become a hotspot for 3D printing companies like Shapeways and MakerBot, despite finding it surprising. He suggests that New York's entrepreneurial ecosystem and its historic focus on media and consumer businesses may have contributed to its emergence as a hub for 3D printing.

Q: Is there room for startups to compete with Google in the wearable computer market?

Dixon believes that there is potential for startups to compete in the wearable computer market, citing the success of Pebble as an interesting example. However, he notes that Google has invested significant resources and expects a battle between Google, Samsung, and Apple in this domain. He also sees potential for wearable computers in professional applications such as construction and law enforcement.

Q: Is consumer-focused investing making a comeback in the venture capital industry?

Dixon confirms that consumer-focused investing is experiencing a resurgence, particularly in consumer websites and consumer mobile apps. He acknowledges that there was a period where consumer investing took a backseat, but now there is renewed interest and activity in this space.

Q: Has the relationship between venture capitalists and entrepreneurs changed?

Dixon acknowledges that the power dynamic has shifted from VCs picking entrepreneurs to entrepreneurs picking VCs. He believes that this shift has had positive effects because it encourages VCs to be more helpful and supportive of entrepreneurs. He also mentions that the increase in information flow and access to venture capital has made entrepreneurs more sophisticated in their dealings with VCs.

Q: Is pursuing an MBA degree worth it in today's entrepreneurial landscape?

Dixon believes that pursuing an MBA degree depends on individual circumstances. He mentions that if someone has the opportunity to work at a startup or gain real-world experience, that may be a better route. However, he personally found value in getting an MBA because it provided him with business knowledge and understanding that he lacked as a programmer. He emphasizes the importance of gaining practical experience but highlights that an MBA can serve as a useful on-ramp for those who are less experienced in business.

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