Successful American entrepreneur and renowned venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has published an essay, It's time to build, exposing the West's lack of preparedness and disorganized response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Not yet 50 years old, Marc Andreessen has already had several lives. Before becoming an influential venture capitalist in Silicon Valley and serving on the board of Facebook, the Iowan was a successful entrepreneur. He co-created the internet pioneer Netscape, which was bought in 1998 by AOL for $4.2 billion, and Loudcloud (renamed Opsware), a data center software company acquired in 2007 by Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion. In 2009, the billionaire co-founded Andreessen Horowitz, a US venture capital fund that "supports bold entrepreneurs building the future through technology." Forbes has the 49-year-old – who recently confided that he plans his entire day into his calendar, including his personal time, when to sleep and when to wake up to avoid burnout – 89th on its "Top Tech Investors" list.
"Software is eating the world", wrote Marc Andreessen in 2011 in a now famous essay published in the Wall Street Journal. In April, on the website of his fund, he published a new essay of a very different scope, It's time to build, in which he calls for a renaissance of the construction that made America great. He contrasts the mythical American skyscraper with the shortage of masks and the absence of vaccines, and denounces the loss of Western society's "desire" to build its future with its own hands.
Willpower the watchword
The text may be bombastic, but Marc Andreessen's entrepreneurial and voluntarist thinking is evident in every line as he attempts to highlight Western society's inertia, particularly in his own country. "We could have these things but we chose not to have them - more precisely, we chose not to have the processes, the factories, the systems to make them. We chose not to build," he explains.
By encouraging people to think bigger and to be more ambitious, the man sets himself up as a coach of modern society and the message becomes clear. "The problem is desire," "the problem is inertia," "the problem is regulatory capture," and "the problem is willpower. We have to build these things," the entrepreneur exclaims. Faced with all these problems, there is only one solution, to build: "I think it is by building that we can restart the American dream."
"By encouraging people to think bigger and to be more ambitious, Andreessen sets himself up as a coach of modern society"
It is more than just an ideological and idealistic essay, it is meant to be reassuring. By believing that today's society has the financial and intellectual means to face the consequences of the pandemic and to master the next ones, he encourages it to repair its mistakes by leading it to question its responsibility: "Building is not easy, otherwise we would already be doing all this. We must demand more from our political leaders, our CEOs, our entrepreneurs and our investors. We must demand more from our culture, from our society. And we must demand more of each other. We are all needed, and we can all help build."
Leading by example
While many venture capital firms are trying to secure their portfolios, Andreessen Horowitz is putting his money where his mouth is, and last April the Silicon Valley fund redoubled its efforts to get involved in the speculative field of emerging technologies. The company raises a second investment fund focused on cryptographic currencies, worth $515 million, in addition to the initial $300 million two years earlier. The company's success in this area is a clear indication to critics that its trial is more than a mere roundabout affair.
By Béatrice Constans
Marc Andreesson’s Wisdom, a curated collection of his published work, is available on e-book