He sold his last company to Cisco for $635 million. Now, he's the newest investor with Andreessen Horowitz

Andreessen HorowitzAndreessen Horowitz General Partner David Ulevitch is best known as the founder of OpenDNS.
  • Andreessen Horowitz has hired David Ulevitch as its newest general partner.
  • Ulevitch is best known as the CEO of OpenDNS, which he sold to Cisco for $US635 million in 2015.
  • He stayed with Cisco for three years after the acquisition, but decided to stay on to help guide his team and technology.
  • Now, he says he’s particularly interested in how AI can change enterprise software.

When Martin Casado first pitched David Ulevitch on the prospect of joining Andreessen Horowitz – one of Silicon Valley’s premier venture firms, where Casado is a general partner – he got an unexpected response.

“He’s like, ‘not now,'” Casado recalls. “Which I deeply respected.”

The reason for the reluctance, Ulevitch tells Business Insider, was that he had some business at his former employer Cisco to see through. Back in 2015, Ulevitch sold his web security startup, OpenDNS, to Cisco for $US635 million. He stayed on with Cisco as an exec in its security unit, helping guide his team and technology through the acquisition.

Now, though, he’s finally ready for something new, as he takes Casado up on his offer and joins Andreessen Horowitz as its latest general partner. He worked with a lot of startups as an advisor during his OpenDNS days, and says that he’s been itching to get back to it.

“After three years [at Cisco], I decided there was a better way to get closer to entrepreneurs,” Ulevitch says.

He says the decision to join Andreessen Horowitz came as the result of some soul-searching: He spent the summer deciding what he wants to do with the next ten years of his life. That might seem like a long time horizon to worry about, but OpenDNS lasted ten years before the sale to Cisco, and he loved it. In that light, he says, “a ten year decision doesn’t seem that daunting.”

As both an entrepreneur and an advisor, Casado praises Ulevitch as “kind of [embodying] the ethos of the firm” – until recently, Andreessen Horowitz required all of its general partners to have been a CEO at some point, with no exceptions. The firm scrapped the rule earlier this year, even as it promoted its own Connie Chan to general partner. Like Ulevitch, Casado was once a founder; he sold his startup Nicira to VMware for $US1.26 billion.

a16zAndreessen Horowitz General Partner Martin Casado

At the firm, Ulevitch will be working most closely Casado and their fellow general partner Peter Levine, handling enterprise IT deals. Andreessen Horowitz is an investor in enterprise and software developer-focused companies like Mesosphere, Kong (formerly Mashape), and even GitHub, which Microsoft recently snapped up for $US7.5 billion.

We’re in ‘the first days of AI’

Going forward, Ulevitch says that while his background is in security, he intends to focus on the IT landscape at large. Artificial intelligence, he says, is a particular area of opportunity – especially as IT departments and developers are called upon to analyse ever-larger amounts of data, and as software companies work to integrate it into their products.

“We’re just in the first days of AI changing our opportunity,” says Ulevitch. “How do we analyse data in ways we haven’t done previously?”

“It’s pretty clear that we’re seeing a massive platform shift happening,” said Casado.

Ulevitch says that he also shares Casado’s belief that developers are only growing in importance as a market for startups. Developers have an unprecedented ability to pick and choose what software and tools they want to use to do their jobs, which means opportunity for any company smart and savvy enough to capitalise on it.

Still, Ulevitch isn’t in any hurry to make his first deals, he says. He’s going to spend his first few months taking meetings, talking to entrepreneurs, and learning as much as he can (though he also says that he’ll do that after his first few months, too). And then, perhaps, he’ll meet the first startup with which he wants to cut a deal.

“When all the stars align, I’ll be ready to open a checkbook and back a great company,” says Ulevitch.

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