Marc Andreessen on Change, Constraints, and Curiosity | Summary and Q&A

November 14, 2016
Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Marc Andreessen on Change, Constraints, and Curiosity


Venture capitalist Mark discusses the evolution of the tech industry, the abundance of capital, and the need for curiosity and learning in order to stay relevant in the 21st century.

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Key Insights

  • 🥺 Educational resources and support have led to more startups and increased competition in the tech industry.
  • 🧑‍💻 The tech industry is experiencing a tech depression rather than a bubble, as there is a shortage of new technology and productive ways to deploy capital.
  • ❓ Recruiting and retaining top talent is crucial for startups to succeed in the competitive ecosystem.


[MUSIC] [APPLAUSE] >> Well, Mark welcome back to Stanford and from one Midwestern to another, we're honored to have you here. >> Great, thank you, thanks everybody. >> So, I'd like to begin by exploring your intense intellectual curiosity, recent wired article profiled your library And instead of it being in your home, it's actually in the lobby of... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does the availability of educational resources and support for entrepreneurs impact the tech industry?

The increase in educational resources and support has led to a larger number of startups and a more competitive ecosystem. This means that startups need to be able to differentiate themselves and recruit top talent in order to succeed.

Q: Is the tech industry experiencing a bubble?

No, the tech industry is actually going through a tech depression, as there is a shortage of new technology and productive ways to deploy capital. The industry is in need of fresh ideas and solutions to problems.

Q: How can entrepreneurs with big, capital-intensive ideas get funding?

Entrepreneurs with such ideas should focus on demonstrating the potential for high growth and return on investment. They may also need to consider alternative sources of funding, such as partnerships or crowdfunding, and gradually build their idea into a viable business.

Q: How does the hands-on nature of venture capital impact international investments?

The hands-on nature of venture capital makes it challenging to invest in international markets, as it requires deep understanding of local dynamics and the ability to build and retain local teams. Many venture capital firms struggle with this issue, as it is difficult to find the right balance of hands-on involvement and localized expertise.


In this video, Mark Andreessen, the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz and a prominent figure in the tech industry, is interviewed at Stanford about his thoughts on various topics related to technology and entrepreneurship. He discusses his passion for learning from history, the parallels between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, the implications of the abundance of scientists and engineers in the world today, the future of employment opportunities in technology, the importance of being open-minded and willing to challenge your beliefs, and the differences in leadership between operating a company and being an investor. He also talks about the role of strategy, the need for extreme thinking and exploring ideas that are ten or more years out, and the misconceptions about the tech industry being in a constant bubble.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why did Mark Andreessen decide to put his library in the lobby of A16Z instead of his home?

Mark explains that most venture capital offices have a look of tombstones of long dead companies, which he finds depressing. By placing his library in the lobby, he wants to convey a different message - the sense of newness and audacity that characterizes Silicon Valley. He believes in thinking from first principles and not taking received wisdom from the past, but also acknowledges the value of learning from the accumulated experience of great people who have come before us.

Q: What fascinates Mark Andreessen about the history of Hollywood and how does he see parallels to Silicon Valley?

Mark highlights the differences between Hollywood and the Valley, particularly in terms of how they view the importance of story and the competitive nature of their respective businesses. However, he also points out that both industries embody the spirit of California and the West in the US. They are the two big original California industries that power the state's economy. They attract energetic individuals with a real sense of what greatness is and have a history of producing high quality work. Mark sees value in learning from different industries and gaining perspective from those who have it harder.

Q: How does Mark Andreessen approach learning and how does he decide what to focus on?

Mark explains that as a venture capitalist, he is exposed to a wide range of information and ideas from different companies and trends. He spends a significant amount of time meeting with entrepreneurs and trying to survive the tsunami of pitches. Additionally, he actively seeks out new areas of science and explores historical patterns to gain insights on what the future might hold. He believes that there is much to learn from the past and that combining historical context with current information is crucial for making informed decisions.

Q: According to Mark Andreessen, 90% of scientists and engineers who have ever lived are currently living and working. What does he think this implies for the future?

Mark views this statistic as a reason to be optimistic about future innovation. He believes that there are still many opportunities for breakthroughs and technological advancements, despite claims by some economists that innovation is over. He explains that critics of technology often make two opposing arguments - one claiming that there is no innovation and no productivity growth, and the other claiming that too much innovation will destroy jobs. Mark points out that historical evidence shows that there are more jobs than ever before and that income levels have never been higher. He argues that the jobs landscape is constantly changing, and the key is to set people up to take advantage of the new opportunities that technology creates.

Q: Critics often raise concerns about the impact of self-driving cars on employment, pointing to the potential job losses for truckers. How does Mark Andreessen think about this issue and the impact of technology on employment?

Mark believes that the fear of job elimination due to new technologies is unfounded based on historical evidence. He argues that over the past 300 years of technological change, there have always been more jobs created, and income levels have continued to rise. He highlights the dynamic nature of the economy, with millions of jobs being destroyed and created each year. He also points out that technological change varies by industry, and while certain industries may face challenges, others experience rapid productivity growth and technological adoption. Mark emphasizes the need to focus on expanding opportunities and enabling people to access the benefits of technology through education, financial services, and access to capital.

Q: Who are some of the intellectual influences that Mark Andreessen turns to when thinking about important issues like change and funding in the economy?

Mark mentions a few individuals who have shaped his thinking. He has a mental model of Peter Thiel, with whom he often engages in debates and arguments. He also draws inspiration from Elon Musk and Larry Page, whom he considers to be audacious thinkers pushing the boundaries of technology and entrepreneurship. Mark also looks to historical figures like Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan for insights on past innovations and business practices. He believes in constructing mental models of these individuals to better understand their perspectives and learn from their experiences.

Q: Why does Mark Andreessen love engaging with people who may disagree with him?

Mark believes that engaging with those who have different perspectives and opinions is essential for robust decision-making and learning. In the venture capital industry, investors are constantly faced with making decisions about which companies to invest in, and the consequences of these decisions can have a significant impact. Mark explains that there are two types of mistakes in venture capital - omissions (not investing in a company that ends up being successful) and commissions (investing in a company that fails). The mistakes of omission often torment investors, and engaging with dissenting views can help prevent missing out on potentially great opportunities. Mark encourages open-mindedness and the willingness to challenge one's own beliefs in order to make more informed decisions.

Q: In regards to leadership, what are the differences between operating a company and being an investor, and how does Mark Andreessen navigate both roles?

Mark explains that the role of a leader in an operating company differs from that of an investor. As an operator, the majority of one's time is spent making decisions and taking action, while as an investor, the majority of time is spent thinking and analyzing. He notes that many operators struggle with the transition to being an investor because they are action-oriented and crave the constant activity that comes with running a company. As an investor, the focus is on making a smaller number of high-impact decisions and taking a long-term perspective. Mark acknowledges the challenge of balancing both roles and the need to constantly adapt and learn.

Q: What crazy ideas are being discussed at A16Z that Mark Andreessen thinks will define the future of Silicon Valley and technology?

Mark explains that rather than focusing on short-term ideas, they are more interested in exploring long-term ideas that are ten or more years out. He describes their approach as "extremist thinking," where they ask themselves what would happen if certain ideas actually worked, and then push the boundaries of those ideas. For example, he talks about the consequences of self-driving cars, such as the potential to reclaim commute time and change the concept of geography. A16Z spends a significant amount of time considering the implications of these long-term ideas and trying to anticipate how the future will unfold.


Mark Andreessen's interview provides valuable insights into his approach to learning, his views on the tech industry, and the importance of being open-minded and willing to challenge one's beliefs. He emphasizes the need to learn from history and explore long-term ideas that could define the future. He also highlights the differences in leadership between operating a company and being an investor. Additionally, he challenges the notion of a constant tech bubble and points to the resilience of the tech industry. Overall, his thoughts offer a unique perspective on the current state and future of technology and entrepreneurship.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The tech industry has changed significantly in the past decade, with more educational resources and support for entrepreneurs.

  • The competition among startups is intense, and winning in this environment requires not just a good idea, but also the ability to recruit and retain top talent.

  • The abundance of capital and the increase in startup opportunities have led to a tech depression rather than a tech bubble, as there are not enough productive ways to deploy capital.

  • Expanding investments to international markets is challenging due to the need for deep understanding of local markets and the difficulty in building local teams while retaining talented individuals.

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