It’s unseasonably warm in San Francisco. But is top Valley investor Marc Andreessen planning for winter? PEHub’s Dan Primack reports that Andreessen’s venture-capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, is raising a $650 million fund, little more than a year after it raised its first $300 million fund.
Andreessen’s timing is excellent. His firm beat fierce rivals and would-be acquirers to back Foursquare, the fast-growing location-based service, in a $20 million round. Another portfolio company, Skype, just filed to go public, after Andreessen negotiated a complex deal to spin the company out of eBay (where Andreessen is a board member). He’s also on the board of Facebook and an advisor to Twitter.
In short, he has a hot hand right now. With the industry facing a deadly dearth of lucrative exits, the pension funds and other big investors who put money into venture-capital funds pay attention to firms’ ability to win eye-catching deals. And Andreessen Horowitz has certainly shown that.
The question, though, is what he’ll invest in. Andreessen Horowitz’s ambitions run the gamut of venture capital, from the trendy seed investments in raw startups to private-equity style deals like Skype. Those larger deals require more capital. But even storied Silicon Valley investors like Sequoia Capital have run into trouble expanding beyond their core competencies. And when Andreessen started, he promised his investments would average around $500,000.
His thinking has obviously changed since then. Last year, he told AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher, who earlier reported rumors of Andreessen Horowitz’s interest in raising a new fund, “Sometimes having a huge checkbook is a good thing.”
Here’s the scary thing about Andreessen’s move. When Ning, a social network he’d backed, raised $60 million in 2008, he described it as preparation for “nuclear winter.” Sure enough, the global economy tanked. (So did Ning, incidentally, but not because of the recession.)
If Andreessen is raising money now, does that mean he sees trouble down the road — a double-dip recession, or a collapse in the venture-capital market? That might be a question his investors should ask.