The guy who sold his startup for $1.26 billion to VMware just got poached by a top VC firm

Martin Casadoa16zMartin Casado

Martin Casado is one of the most influential people in the networking business.

He developed a new type of technology called OpenFlow as a PhD student at Stanford, and used it as the foundation to launch his startup Nicira. The software-defined networking (SDN) concept he created basically made it easier and cheaper to build corporate networks, and spawned a series of new SDN startups.

It’s why VMware spent $1.26 billion to buy Nicira in 2012, just 4 months after its service officially launched.

And now, after spending almost 4 years at VMware, Casado is making another big move that could shake up the entire industry: he’s joining VC firm Andreessen Horowitz as its 9th general partner.

“I want to be the best VC in Silicon Valley,” Casado told Business Insider.

Casado says he’s been thinking about becoming a VC for a while, but it wasn’t until recently when Andreessen Horowitz first reached out with an offer that he started thinking about it seriously. The firm was looking for a partner to boost its enterprise side, and given his history working with them, it seemed like a natural fit, he says. Plus, it helped that all general partners at the firm had some sort of operating experience prior to becoming a VC.

A huge shift

Casado’s history with Andreessen Horowitz dates back to the early days of Nicira, when the VC firm became its first institutional investor. The firm’s cofounder Ben Horowitz also sat on Nicira’s board, and served as Casado’s close mentor for years.

From networking to data centres, software is playing a bigger role in reshaping the enterprise industry, and Casado believes his experience taking a small startup to a successful acquisition, and then expanding it to a $600 million revenue run rate business will be invaluable as a VC.

“I wanted to have a broader participation in this huge shift that’s happening, and I think the right way to do that is as a VC,” Casado said.

Casado says he will start by investing in software-based infrastructure startups, but could expand to other areas in the future, since Andreessen Horowitz doesn’t keep its partners “pigeonholed” to a narrow set of investment areas. He also stressed that the change going on at VMware with the merger between EMC and Dell had nothing to do with his decision to leave the company, which is why he says he’s in the VC game for the long haul.

“My assumption is that for the next decade at least, I’m going to be a dedicated VC driving deals,” he said.

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