In his new blog, the famous technologist Marc Andreessen has been sharing with the world what a few of us who’ve known him in his post-Netscape/AOL days have understood for a while now: The guy has got a lot to say about a lot of things. Andreessen is like a rare fish you might see snorkeling or diving. Yes, he swims with the other fishes, but he’s somehow different, more colorful, a standout who isn’t uncomfortable paddling along a bit off to the side.
One of Andreessen’s favorite topics on his blog has been entrepreneurialism and the art of startups. What’s interesting, though, is that it’s only today that the co-founder of Netscape joins the pantheon of truly successful entrepreneurs. Sure, Netscape was a massive financial success. But he was just a kid when it started, and he never was completely in control of its tortured path. Now in his mid-thirties, Andreessen has come into his own. He and his co-founders sold Opsware (OPSW) today to Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) for $1.6 billion, a 38% premium over its closing value on Friday. Andreessen’s stake, according to the company’s most recent proxy, is worth $138 million.
The sale also is a success for a handful of Silicon Valley bold-faced names who aren’t all that well known beyond. People like board members (and noted restaurateurs) Bill Campbell and Mike Homer. And investor Ron Conway. And longtime CEO Ben Horowitz, who, like Homer, worked with Andreessen at Netscape.
The famous co-founder is onto other things, including his new software company Ning, which had an unfortunately timed service outage this morning. But having started a company that had little to do with Netscape, nurtured it through tough times (read his blog entry today for a description), patiently kept at it for eight years or so, and sold successfully to a surging tech behemoth down the road, Andreessen certainly deserves to take a moment and enjoy his success.
Am I being too cornball about a smallish software company cashing out? Perhaps. But for every story of lottery-like bonanzas in Silicon Valley there are ten stories about startups that gut it out for years and never make it. And then there’s one about one that does.