Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz has been on a hiring spree lately, and today it added Peter Levine as a venture partner to help it invest in startups that focus on enterprise and business computing.Levine is a veteran of the enterprise world: he was at storage and security provider Veritas (which was bought by Symantec for more than $10 billion in 2005) and more recently has been an executive XenSource, a virtualization company that was snapped up by one of the industry leaders, Citrix, in 2007.
In a phone call, Levine said he agreed that enterprise computing has kind of a stigma attached to it in the VC community — sales cycles are long, IT managers are tough sells, and big companies like Microsoft and IBM have a strong hold which can make it hard for startups to break through.
But he thinks that is starting to change as employees start to wonder why their work systems are so painful when they have such elegant technology at home.
“When you and I go to work and we use a computer to work, and find that our work apps are completely onerous and the apps we use at home are quite easy, we wonder why can’t it be simpler, easier, quicker, and less expensive?”
This trend — consumerization — is a dirty word in some IT shops that would prefer to keep employees locked down on known secure systems. But it’s irreversible. “When someone goes to work now, they bring a device they may own, an iPhone or iPad, and say to the IT organisation ‘I need this thing to work with your environment.'” If that person is an important exec, the IT director won’t say no.
Levine also thinks that cloud computing is going to shorten enterprise sales cycles by making it easier for big companies to try out new apps: “In the old days, I’d have to go as a company, buy computer resources, buy servers, buy storage, and lash it all together. It took a long time to stand up. Now if I need, I can go to Amazon or Rackspace and buy some computer power nearly instantaneously.”
Other big areas of opportunity Levine sees in the enterprise include:
- Social networking. “I can certainly imagine a day where task workers, enterprise workers no longer communicate via email, but instead use some social vehicle that looks a lot like consumer social networks we see today.” He points to Box.net, which lets users share documents in an online space rather than sending them back and forth as email attachments, as an example.
- Security. As employees bring their own devices to work, IT departments are going to have to figure out how to keep data from leaking out of the company.
- Storage. Enterprises have gotten used to paying much less for storage on public cloud services, and will demand the same cost savings in on-premise solutions. “I see storage certainly having a renaissance as well.”
Levine will continue as VP of strategic development at Citrix, and will keep teaching at MIT as well.