Marc Andreessen: “Take the Ego out of Ideas”

“every year in the U.S. on average about 21 million jobs are destroyed and about 24.5 million are created,”

.. it’s wise to understand the difference between two types of errors. Mistakes of commission — losing everything you invest in a company — can be tough, but you’ll get over them in time. Errors of omission — not investing in the first place — will scar you for life.

.. “Just because MySpace didn’t reach Facebook levels of scale didn’t mean Facebook wouldn’t be able to. So you have to be ruthlessly open-minded and constantly willing to reexamine your assumptions,”

.. Instead of spending time overanalyzing whether something will work, he advises, try asking what happens when it does.

Lunch with the FT: Marc Andreessen

The Netscape founder and tech investor talks about the trouble with stock markets, what he looks for in entrepreneurs and why illegal immigration is good for America

His extended family farmed in Iowa. His father, Lowell, sold seed corn for an agricultural company; his mother, Patricia, was a housewife.

.. Deferral of gratification is a huge thing. Calvinism runs very deep. It sets you up pretty well for engineering.”

.. Andreessen sees technology as enabling what he calls the “great awakening”. Waggling his iPhone affectionately, he says: “This little guy right here is the equivalent power capability of the $20m supercomputer I was using. This thing is in two billion people’s hands.”

.. Within six months he had posted 22,300 tweets, and now, according to Bloomberg, averages more than 100 a day to his almost 250,000 followers.

.. His tech-optimism attracts both admiration and mockery. Last June, a Salon article said he used Twitter as a “personal pulpit for delivering Silicon Valley’s version of the Sermon from the Mount”.

.. it is not so much his voice as the speed at which he talks that makes lunch like navigating conversational rapids. He rushes at sentences, starting so many with “And”, or “So”, it is as if his speech cannot keep pace with his ideas. The transcript of our two-hour conversation comes to 20,000 words.

.. I’m really boring. My wife and I have no social life. We don’t travel. We don’t go on vacation. We don’t go out.”

.. We watch an unbelievable amount of TV or movies.” He gossips about The Honourable Woman series, and attributes the creative renaissance of television to its expanding internet audience.

.. He likes television, he says, because it puts the writer in charge, and compares it to the best tech companies which are also built when you put founders in charge for long periods. “By the way, writers are often crazy; they’re unpredictable, they don’t necessarily operate on a budget or timetable you might want. They argue a lot. Which is the same thing we deal with, with founders. But you get the magic.”

.. “We look for the ones who have been programming since 10.”

.. While the position of minorities and women are obviously things Andreessen has thought about, he is bluffly dismissive of too much hand-wringing. “In 2004, it was outsourcing. In 1989, it was Japan. Now it’s China. There’s always some bogeyman. I think the destiny of the US is in our hands.”

.. All will be well, he says, provided we allow more technology. “If we don’t get it quite quickly, we will not be able to afford things like social security, Medicare. We need far higher productivity for the shrinking percentage of people who are going to be working.”All will be well, he says, provided we allow more technology. “If we don’t get it quite quickly, we will not be able to afford things like social security, Medicare. We need far higher productivity for the shrinking percentage of people who are going to be working.”

.. “There is no backlash,” he continues: technology companies remain popular with the public. “There is only the tech backlash of the New Yorker and the New York Times and of the New Republic and of Harvard University.”

.. “They’re threatened. It’s a power recalibration. There’s a coastal element to it. There’s a liberal arts versus engineering element to it.

.. It’s a CP Snow thing.” Snow, a British chemist and novelist, in the 1950s identified two camps: a liberal arts culture and a science one.

.. “Business journalism ought to do extremely well … [people need to] know what’s going on.” But “for general news people want their biases and prejudices confirmed”.

.. In the US, growth would be slowing were it not for “illegal immigration. It’s the best thing that can possibly be happening to us, and I find it ironic; nobody wants to talk about that.”

.. His biggest worry? “There are so many people paid to make the problem worse: paid to regulate, to short-sell; to activists, to the governance experts, to the analysts. The pressure that comes to bear when you’re a public company is just astonishing and it comes at you from a dozen dimensions and you’re, “I can’t believe all these people are out there getting paid to attack me like this.”

.. Besides, tech groups have access to multimillions of private capital to fund growth, so have less need for public markets. Any gains, therefore, accrue to a narrow group of wealthy private investors, such as Andreessen, rather than pension funds.

25 years of HyperCard—the missing link to the Web

Before the World Wide Web did anything, HyperCard did everything.

Even before its cancellation, HyperCard’s inventor saw the end coming. In an angst-filled 2002 interview, Bill Atkinson confessed to his Big Mistake. If only he had figured out that stacks could be linked through cyberspace, and not just installed on a particular desktop, things would have been different.

“I missed the mark with HyperCard,” Atkinson lamented. “I grew up in a box-centric culture at Apple. If I’d grown up in a network-centric culture, like Sun, HyperCard might have been the first Web browser. My blind spot at Apple prevented me from making HyperCard the first Web browser.”

.. In his 1974 book, Computer Lib/Dream Machines, he defined hypertext as “forms of writing which branch or perform on request; they are best presented on computer display screens.” By simplifying the process of dispersing and accessing information, hypertext and hypermedia could liberate society from what Nelson saw as an overprofessionalized digital information elite.

.. Fearing antitrust reprisals from the government if it strayed into the software marketing business, AT&T leased UNIX to colleges and universities at bargain basement rates. Those schools, supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, built hundreds and then thousands of ARPANET “nodes” through the 1980s.

.. “We could not have created a business around Erwise in Finland then,” one of the team members explained. But other developers had also downloaded Berners-Lee’s code. These included Pei-Yuan Wei, working on UNIX X-terminals at UC Berkeley’s Experimental Computing Facility. Where did Wei derive inspiration for his “ViolaWWW” web browser? He took his lead from a program that he found fascinating, even though he did not have a Mac of his own.

“HyperCard was very compelling back then, you know graphically, this hyperlink thing,” Wei later recalled. “I got a HyperCard manual and looked at it and just basically took the concepts and implemented them in X-windows,” which is a visual component of UNIX. The resulting browser, Viola, included HyperCard-like components: bookmarks, a history feature, tables, graphics. And, like HyperCard, it could run programs.

.. Admiring all this activity was a young developer named Marc Andreesen of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois. Andreesen’s team launched Mosaic in January of 1993; it was the first browser available on PCs, Macs, and UNIX systems. Mosaic morphed into Mosaic Netscape a year later.

Not long after that, I downloaded a copy of Netscape onto a Dell PC. “Wow,” I thought, as I surfed various sites. “This looks like HyperCard.”

.. As late as August 2002, there were probably 10,000 HyperCard developers.

.. programmers for the Cyan software company originally wrote their hugely popular puzzle/adventure game Myst as a HyperCard stack.

.. When Tim Berners-Lee’s innovation finally became popular in the mid-1990s, HyperCard had already prepared a generation of developers who knew what Netscape was for.