Santangel's Review

Commentary

Marc Andreessen, Psychologist

In the middle of this New York Times interview, Marc Andreesseen of Andreessen, Horowitz gave an unexpectedly serious answer to an throwaway question:

[NYT:] After hearing a story about Foursquare’s co-founder, Dennis Crowley, walking into a press event in athletic wear and eating a banana, I developed a theory that bubbles might be predicted by fashion: when tech founders can’t be bothered to appear businesslike, the power has shifted too much in their favor.

[MA:] Believe it or not, this goes deep into the interior mentality of the engineer, which is very truth-oriented. When you’re dealing with machines or anything that you build, it either works or it doesn’t, no matter how good of a salesman you are. So engineers not only don’t care about the surface appearance, but they view attempts to kind of be fake on the surface as fundamentally dishonest.

Andreessen was an engineer himself, but as a venture capitalist, he’s now largely in the business of evaluating human talent. To do that well, he has to take observations that would lead most people (and most reporters) to make one kind of inference, and instead make a more insightful inference about the true character of those he evaluates.

It’s easy to recognize human talent after it’s revealed itself through success. Who doesn’t doubt the genius of Mark Zuckerberg, now that Facebook is a household name? The real trick for Marc Andreesseen (and us) is to evaluate talent before it becomes obvious to the rest of the world. To do that requires the ability to look beneath the surface to see what truly lies underneath.