Do You Have The 3 Qualities Marc Andreessen Wants In A Founder?

He cofounded Netscape, then helped launch one of Silicon Valley's premier firms. Now Marc Andreessen reveals what he likes in leaders.

Box, Fab, Facebook, Foursquare, Skype, Twitter. You wouldn't blow too many minds if you said that Andreessen Horowitz has good taste in investments.

Similarly, it's safe to say that Marc Andreessen knows a thing or two about technology: He co-authored Mosaic, the first web browser; he cofounded Netscape, one of the original startups; and his surname adorns one of Menlo Park's premier venture firms.

Now, in an expansive interview with HBR, the man who predicted how software would eat the world has distilled what he wants in a founder.

The trifecta

Founding a company, like writing and fairy tales, abides by the rule of threes. Andreessen explains why:

"We aim for a trifecta in the people we want to back. We’re trying to find a product innovator who is entrepreneurial and wants to start a company, and who also has the bandwidth and discipline to become a CEO."

Let's take that trident point by point. What does Andreessen want in a single person?

  • a product innovator
  • an entrepreneur
  • a potential CEO

To begin, he wants a product innovator. Later in the interview, Andreessen says that he's looking for a company whose value is the innovations it's bringing into the world. Not the product it's currently building, but the products it will be building. He wants "innovation factories," he says.

What builds an innovation factory? Being able to find the right problem, again and again and again and again.

Next, Andreessen wants an entrepreneur. While he doesn't define entrepreneur in the interview, he does mention the methodology of someone who does: Lean Startup author Eric Ries. In an interview with us, Ries said that what makes an entrepreneur is that they work in a context of extreme uncertainty, since they're doing something that doesn't have antecedent evidence that it'll work.

Lastly, Andreessen is looking for someone who can become a CEO. His specializes in training innovators to become CEOs, he says—and they don't spend much time trying to turn CEOs into innovators. What's a CEO look like to Andreessen? He uses the words bandwidth and discipline.

If we take bandwidth to be the ability to handle a lot of information and discipline to be the ability to do command one's behavior, they're both products and processes of habit—meaning that Andreessen is in agreement with Warren Buffett about what makes people successful.

In Search of the Next Big Thing

[Image: Flickr user Ian Nasikoman]