And Then There Were Seven (GPs): Andreessen Horowitz Brings Aboard Chris Dixon


Though the cat was basically out of the bag by Saturday, the news is now official: Andreessen Horowitz, the firm founded in 2009 by Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen, has hired Chris Dixon as its newest partner.

For the uninitiated, Dixon most recently cofounded the recommendation engine Hunch, which eBay acquired for $80 million almost exactly a year ago. He was also the CEO and cofounder of SiteAdvisor, which was acquired by McAfee in 2006 for $74 million.

Dixon joins four other general partners who have been brought into Andreessen Horowitz since its founding, including Jeff Jordan, the former CEO of OpenTable; Scott Weiss, the cofounder and former CEO of IronPort Systems; John O’Farrell, who was an executive vice president for Silver Spring Networks; and Peter Levine, the former CEO of XenSource.

On its face, inviting Dixon aboard seems like a smart move for everyone involved. First and foremost, Dixon gives Andreessen Horowitz a much stronger presence on the East Coast than it has had. Of the firm’s hundreds of investments, it has just three “big ones” in New York, as Andreessen himself noted in a call with Dixon earlier today: the location-based app company Foursquare; the shopping site Fab; and Quirky, a company that uses social media to develop products.

Dixon is actually moving to California but he says he is maintaining his apartment in New York and will “probably” visit at least “once a month.”

Another way they seemingly fit: All of Andreessen Horowitz’s partners appear to be strongly encouraged to blog, with Ben Horowitz’s posts often attracting widespread attention. Meanwhile, Chris Dixon has come to be considered a thought leader among tech entrepreneurs, owing to many of his own wildly popular posts about entrepreneurship.

And Dixon knows his way around a venture capital fund, having worked for several years as an associate at Bessemer Venture Partners (which went on to fund SiteAdvisor), and more recently as a cofounder of the three-year-old seed-stage firm Founder Collective, which began life with a $40 million fund and closed a second, $70 million fund in September. (Dixon is merely “an advisor” to the new fund, he says.)

Not last, in the same vein as Andreessen Horowitz — which has always positioned itself as a new, more entrepreneur-friendly kind of venture firm — Dixon has managed to both work closely with venture firms throughout his career as well as distance himself from them. It’s not an easy hat trick to pull off.

(Kara Swisher, who broke the news that Dixon would be hired imminently by Andreessen Horowitz, highlighted this post of Dixon’s as just one example of how he has managed to “tangle with VCs.”)

As for the advantages the move provides Dixon, heading West appears to be one. Though Andreessen Howoritz is a “single office firm,” says Andreessen, the decision to leave New York for California was Dixon’s. “He’s doing it voluntarily; it’s his decision even more than ours,” Andreessen says.

Dixon also seems enthusiastic about spending all of his time investing, which has “always been a side activity for me, like a hobby,” particularly over the last eight years when Dixon was either running a startup or working for its acquirer.

Asked whether bringing Andreesseen Horowitz’s considerable firepower to New York will impact his reputation or his friendships with other New York-based investors (after all, the firm has raised $2.5 billion in its 3.5-year history and is known for throwing its weight around), Dixon laughs.

“People think I’m kind of aggressive and brass-knuckled and [Andreessen is] this big, warm, lovable teddy bear.”

Already the team player, Dixon adds: “I sort of learned the angel investing business from Ron Conway, whose entire philosophy revolves around putting entrepreneurs first, and Andreessen Horowitz is the largest scale version of that. I find it very philosophically compatible.”

Image: Photo courtesy of Crunchbase.

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