You don’t have to have helped create the first Internet browser (Mosaic) and one of the IT industry’s earliest successes (Netscape) to be a credible judge of innovative ideas, but Marc Andreessen is living proof that it helps.
Now a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, one of the major venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, Andreessen probably hears more pitches for potentially game-changing technologies than the average CIO lobs at his senior management team. You might think that makes him even toughest than the toughest CEO, but not necessarily. Despite recent discussions about how CIOs should think like a VC, Andreesssen reveals in a recent interview with New York magazine that VCs aren’t necessarily a new form of “no” person:
There are people who are wired to be skeptics and there are people who are wired to be optimists. And I can tell you, at least from the last 20 years, if you bet on the side of the optimists, generally you’re right . . . I’m incredibly optimistic. I’m optimistic arguably to a fault, especially in terms of new ideas. My presumptive tendency, when I’m presented with a new idea, is not to ask, “Is it going to work?” It’s, “Well, what if it does work?’
That approach may not represent the default mode for CIOs, who often worry about what kind of risks they’re going to take on as they move into areas such as cloud computing, big data analytics and mobility, but Andreessen arguably has to shoulder just as many concerns about failures in his investment portfolio. (I’m particularly interested, for example, to see what comes of his firm’s funding of Tanium, a security and service management software provider that could potentially solve a number of enterprise IT pain points.)
The interview is well worth reading in its entirety as Andresseen reflects on the perpetual fears around automation, job loss, and more. Of course, the answer to “what if it does work” may still lead to a “no,” but at least it will be the kind of “no” that helps CIOs decide what to do instead.