Why Several High-Profile VCs Sponsored Andreessen

Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz’s $300 million VC fund received no shortage of press attention yesterday, with Google showing 420 articles published online alone (including two here at peHUB). 

Given reader appetite for the story, it isn’t surprising that several related articles emerged today. Using the fund as a springboard, the New York Times, for example, published a piece about VCs feeling the need to return to the basics, with Horowitz observing that too many firms base dollar commitments on fund size or number of partners.

Another follow-on piece was published by BusinessWeek. It’s about the perceived role that superstar VCs like John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins and Jim Breyer of Accel played in the ability of Andreessen and Horowitz to close on all that money. To wit, the magazine reports that Doerr, Breyer, and Aneel Bhusri of Greylock Partners made numerous introductions to their own LPs on behalf of Andreessen and Horowitz. It goes on to state that in the long tradition of sponsorship in the venture business, such personal introductions translate into more credibility. “Being sponsored is sort of like being a made man in the mob. You are tapped on the shoulder and invited into an elite club.”

While true that Andreessen and Horowitz raised their fund with enviable ease — they began meeting with investors in early March, soon after Andreessen announced his plans to dive into VC on the “Charlie Rose” show –I strongly question whether the other firms’ sponsorship should be credited.

While the collective blessings of Doerr, Breyer, and Bhusri might be exceedingly meaningful for any other emerging fund, Marc Andreessen hardly needed anyone to grease the wheels for him. Not only does he have a much better entrepreneurial resume than almost anyone in the Valley — 12 years after Netscape went public, he sold OpsWare for $1.6 billion — but he’s already involved with some of the hottest companies in the world right now, including as an investor in Twitter and LinkedIn and as one of Facebook’s board members. That’s saying nothing of the roughly 40 other startups Andreessen has insight into owing to his other angel investments, or of eBay, on whose board he sits.

Did personal introductions help? Maybe they cut down on some time. But had Andreessen simply picked up the phone and called the likes of Harvard and Stanford and Horsley Bridge Partners directly (and he may have), I’m pretty certain they’d have eagerly met with and backed him (and may have).

In fact, while I don’t doubt how important Andreessen’s ties to firms like Kleiner and Accel and Greylock will be over time — being chummy with them means not competing as vigorously against them — the real winners in these introductions are the older firms, which may need Andreessen’s good will some day. 

As hard as it is to imagine a time when the words “Kleiner Perkins” are no longer interchangeable with “top tier,” it will happen. Top-tier firms are incumbents, and in the end, incumbents always get sacked by newer entrants. That’s a longstanding tradition, too.