Marc Andreessen talks startup failure, AI and whether his firm is really falling behind

Marc Andreessen doesn’t buy the Silicon Valley golden rule “fail fast.” But he stands by his famous claim that software is eating the world.

Those were some of the tidbits he offered to a packed audience Tuesday at the annual TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference.

The legendary investor, of Sand Hill Road VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, said despite the pressure to achieve results right now, it still takes a decade or more to build something significant.

“I think a lot of founders talk themselves out of what would be good ideas in the long run because they’re not getting immediate traction,” he said.

One area Andreessen has his eye on is artificial intelligence, or AI. There’s been a recent wave of small startups using AI technology in promising ways, he said, which is a big contrast from two years ago when the technology and the talent in that area was controlled by four or five giant companies. Many of those engineers have left the big companies to found their own startups, and at the same time, the technology has become more widely available. For example, Udacity even offers Google-caliber AI as an online course, Andreessen said.

Andreesseen also weighed in on a recent Wall Street Journal Article with the headline “Andreessen Horowitz’s returns trail venture-capital elite,” which questioned his firm’s investment results. The firm criticized the story in a blog post, claiming the WSJ’s metrics didn’t tell the whole story.

But on Tuesday, Andreessen had a different comeback.

“The main response to that article was people wanting to put more money in our funds,” he said.

Conference attendees also heard from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who discussed the importance of fighting for equality for women and for the LGBTQ community. He said next week Salesforce will announce its first chief equality officer, who will fight discrimination and will report directly to Benioff. That move comes on top of what Benioff described as a “broad” set of policies designed to eliminate the gender pay gap within Salesforce, a claim that received a round of applause and cheers from the audience.

Benioff also encouraged every CEO in the audience to give back to the community by adopting a school.

“Silicon Valley does not have to be stingy like it traditionally  has been,” he said.

Photo: Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz addresses the audience Tuesday at the annual TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference. (Marisa Kendall/Bay Area News Group)


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