Andreessen Horowitz founder and partner Ben Horowitz gave a great talk at our IGNITION West conference yesterday.
He told the story of how, as the CEO of LoudCloud in 2001, he engineered one of the boldest and most successful “pivots” in the history of technology, selling off LoudCloud’s primary business and starting a new business that ultimately sold to Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion.
He argued that great CEOs are made, not born.
One reason Facebook has been so successful, he said, is that Mark Zuckerberg has learned how to be a great CEO, which he wasn’t at the beginning.
And he explained why Andreessen Horowitz prefers to keep founders as CEO, provided they’re willing to learn how to be CEOs.
(Why? Because of “the John Sculley problem.” Professional CEOs may know how to manage companies, but they don’t usually know how to innovate products. Founders, meanwhile, often have a strong product vision. And it’s easier to learn management, Horowitz says, than to develop product vision.)
At the end of the interview, I asked Ben one of those questions that make for great tweets and headlines, but don’t matter much in the real world. And, to my surprise, after providing an excellent non-answer, Ben answered it.
If you had to put all of Andreessen Horowitz’s money into Apple or Google, I asked, which would you pick.
Ben said he’d be happy with either of them.
Then he said that, if he had to pick one, he’d pick Apple.