Ben Horowitz is many things a top investor usually is – businessman, investor, blogger, author, and philanthropist – while also being what most top investors are not – a rap and hip hop enthusiast. In many ways, Horowitz’s career is tied to that of Marc Andreessen: they’ve co-founded, partnered, and sold several different firms together. Their present company is the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which invests in and consults tech startups, usually to great success, part of why Horowitz, along with Andreessen, has had a huge influence on both the investing and tech startup worlds.
A native of London, England, Ben Horowitz grew up in Berkeley, California. He turned his interest in computers into a BA in computer science from Columbia University. Two years later, in 1990, Horowitz got his MBA in computer science from UCLA. After his graduate work, he earned a living as an engineer at Silicon Graphics, a producer of computer hardware and software.
Several years later, in 1995, he started at Netscape as a product manager, climbing the corporate ladder until becoming Vice President and General Manager. When Netscape was acquired by AOL in 1998, Horowitz became a VP in the eCommerce Division of AOL.
After a year, Horowitz left to follow his entrepreneurial spirit.
In 1999, along with Marc Andreessen and 2 others, Ben Horowitz co-founded an infrastructure and application hosting service company called Loudcloud. The company grew wildly, taking on such clients as Nike, Ford Motor Company, Gannett Company, and the U.S. Army.
In 2002, Loudcloud began transitioning into an enterprise software company called Opsware. Horowitz sold off Loudcloud’s core business to Electronic Data Systems to raise cash, and, by 2007, Opsware had grown enough that Hewlett-Packard bought it for over $1.5 billion in cash. Flush with cash from the sale, Horowitz didn’t immediately depart, spending the next year as the VP and GM of HP Software.
Helping Start Up Startups
Ben Horowitz ended up leaving HP after only a year to launch Andreessen Horowitz with his old partner and friend Andreessen. The firm is dedicated to investing in and consulting both early stage tech startups and established tech firms. They started the firm with $300 million, which grew to over $2.5 billion within 3 years.
The firm invests in industries as varied as mobile, gaming, social media, education, e-commerce, and cloud computing and security. The startups it has invested in reads like a Who’s Who of the most popular, impactful startups ever:
In fact, the investment in Skype was widely panned as an unwise move at the time. Of course, that was before Skype was later sold to Microsoft for $8.5 billion, making fortunes for many investors.
Andreessen Horowitz has an impressive record of successful investments in startups. Their impact has been significant in both the investing and startup worlds for their penchant for finding winners in the often chaotic world of investing in startups.
Influence of the Word
Ben Horowitz has spread his influence further and wider than he could have otherwise by doing something simple: he regularly blogs about Andreessen Horowitz’s investing strategies and entrepreneurial moves. His is among the most popular, most influential entrepreneurial blogs in Silicon Valley.
Much of the blog’s popularity is due to the strong, helpful business advice he dispenses. However, a large part is due to the rap and hip-hop references and lyrics interspersed through each post.
Horowitz’s love of rap and hip-hop is well chronicled. In addition to investing in RapGenius, he starts each post with a rap or hip-hop quote. Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing about Being Hard is a compilation of blog posts, where he dishes on the influence rap sometimes has on his investing as well as on his favorite songs and rappers (some of whom he’s seen hanging out with from time to time).
All of this helps explain Horowitz’s support for Code 2040, a non-profit dedicated to creating awareness about and opportunities for minorities who want to follow their untapped engineering, geeky sides. Horowitz is hoping to encourage minorities around the country to pursue Silicon Valley and technology careers. As America becomes more and more diverse, because this is America’s future, he feels he must do his part to help shape, guide, mentor, and give opportunities to minorities.
In addition to all he does with Andreessen Horowitz, he also donates time and money to various hospitals and community organizations as well as to his alma mater (Columbia).