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Nice-ira: Andreessen Horowitz returns first fund twice over

Jul 24, 2012

FORTUNE --Warning: What follows may appear to confirm today's New York Times insinuation that I blindly carry water for Andreessen Horowitz. We'll deal with that a bit below...

Andreessen Horowitz has returned its debut fund two times over, following news that VMWare (vmw) will acquire Nicera Inc. for more than $1 billion in cash, Fortune has learned.

This is the $300 million fund that Andreessen Horowitz raised in early 2009, which already has cashed in on such deals as Skype (sold to Microsoft), Fusion-io (fio) and Instagram (pending sale to Facebook). Nicera will return between $250 million and $300 million on its own, while the fund still has several active portfolio companies, including Foursquare.

Andreessen Horowitz, declined to comment, natch.

Okay, now an editorial word from someone who has "become protective of the firm, attacking any reports that cast Andreessen Horowitz in a negative light."

First, Andreessen Horowitz doesn't need my protection. Back in 2009, I wrote the following upon reporting that the firm was seeking $250 million for its first fund:  "If you just heard a choking sound, it’s probably coming from your own throat (or that of your closest LP)." Then I threw around the term "bloated," and basically concluded that Andreessen Horowitz had very little chance of hitting its target. Remember, this is the aforementioned fund that raised $300 million. If my arrows don't pierce the firm, it's unlikely that my shield is of any more value.

More importantly, my take on Andreessen Horowitz has been fairly consistent for the past couple of years: I am amazed by how easily it raises money, and by how it has quickly established itself as a top-tier firm among tech entrepreneurs (even if that latter part is thanks, in part, to regularly offering richer terms than anyone else on Sand Hill Road).

But, at the same time, venture capital firms ultimately aren't judged by fund sizes or geek buzz. All that really matters are the investment returns and, in that regard, the jury has remained out on Andreessen Horowitz.

Well, until today. Doubling its debut fund is an unassailable accomplishment. Saying so doesn't make me a sycophant. It makes me a reporter.

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