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Andreessen Horowitz’s ‘Future’ is a media machine

It's part corporate blog, part opinion page. And all Future has to do to win is persuade founders of the firm's love of technology, its creators say.

Andreessen Horowitz’s Marc Andreessen

Andreessen Horowitz's Marc Andreessen once spoke frequently at tech conferences. Now he prefers to "go direct."

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Andreessen Horowitz wants to invest in the future, so the venture capital firm has launched its own standalone media property, Future, to tell you exactly what that is.

Its new media venture is taking the fundamentals of a corporate blog, but supersizing its ambitions to fold in outside voices and articles written by experts. What it's not doing is writing about tech news, picking favorite companies or hosting takedown articles about the industry, said Andreessen Horowitz's Margit Wennmachers. Instead, Future will have a defined voice of techno-optimism and, if all goes to plan, become a way to win deals by convincing founders to work with the firm.

"If you're a venture capital firm, you want to advance the future. And that's what this media entity is designed to do," Wennmachers said. "If we help accelerate the advancement of the future, and by reputation we are viewed by entrepreneurs as like, 'These people get me, I'd like to take their money,' then I think the community will be happy, the world with more tech will be happy and our [limited partners] will be happy."

Future will blend outside writers' voices and opinions with the content that a16z has already been producing. Wennmachers is adamant that it's not going to be just a corporate blog under a new domain name. Instead, she views it as a "radical departure" with much higher ambitions to become a media entity. There's a team of seven editors working to bring in outside writers to contribute, and other venture firms are welcome to join in the fray. It's launching with articles like Assassin's Creed co-creators' view on intellectual property in gaming and a paleobiologist's take on what you can learn about the future from the past.

"We will include outside voices because we don't have a monopoly on good ideas, and if you want to be credible, it can't just be a thing like, 'Here are our ideas,'" Wennmachers said. "That said, it's in a way a natural evolution of what we've been doing because we've been blogging about why we invest in so-and-so or why we think open-source business models should be thought about X or Y way."

Thought leadership is par for the course in the venture capital industry, but Andreessen Horowitz turned the occasional blog post into an entire media machine. The firm already produces an array of content, from its podcasts on crypto and "bio eating the world" to essays on startup building to Clubhouse audio shows hosted by partners like Wennmachers and Sriram Krishnan.

When the firm first announced in January that it planned to build out its own media entity — and called it "the go-to" place for entrepreneurs — many tech journalists were apprehensive about what it would look like and whether it would be direct competition.

It also hasn't helped that a16z's relationship with the media has shifted over time, as Eric Newcomer first detailed, to being wary of what Wennmachers views as an increasingly negative press. The firm prefers to "go direct," an increasingly common mantra in tech circles of publishing directly to an audience instead of speaking through the press. (A16z's stance on going direct made it all the more surprising when Marc Andreessen granted an interview to a satirist who degraded journalists and repeatedly used a slur against the developmentally disabled. Wennmachers told Protocol she disliked the questions, though she retweeted and liked approbatory tweets about the interview.)

"I was a little surprised by the upset because if you look at our current content, or if you think about the paleobiology example, I don't think the stuff that ends up on our properties is the stuff that you would see on Protocol or on The New York Times," Wennmachers said. "It's much more analysis, it's a take, it's much less like the takeoff of what's happening [that] day and who said what, and all of that. It may be spicy and controversial, but it's more about the ideas than the day's news."

The question now of Future is whether it is also the future of media. A16z's former in-house prognosticator, Benedict Evans, has long viewed the firm as a "media company that monetizes through venture capital." Future's content is not supposed to feel like it's marketing, but Wennmachers oversees both functions at the firm. It is supposed to influence how people are thinking about the future in a specific way, and as a result, also shape how they view Andreessen Horowitz.

"We have a business to run, and we're in the business of investing in the future and providing returns for LPs," Wennmachers said. "So as much as I can help advance the future and the narrative of the pro case for the future … that's what I'm trying to do. That is the goal."

Protocol | Workplace

The whiteboard wars: Miro and Figma want to make meetings better

Miro and Figma separately launched features on Tuesday aimed at improving collaboration on their platforms.

Whiteboard rivals Miro and Figma each released collaboration improvements.

Logos: Figma and Miro

We expect a lot from our productivity tools these days. You can't just stroll over to your team members' desks and show them what you're working on anymore. Most of those interactions need to happen online, and it's even better if the work and the communication can happen in one place. Miro and Figma — competitors in the collaborative whiteboard space — understand how critical remote collaboration is, and are both working to up their meeting game.

This week, both platforms announced features aimed at improving the collaboration experience, each vying to be the home base for teams to work and hang out together. Figma announced updates to its multiplayer whiteboard FigJam, and Miro announced a new set of tools that it's calling Miro Smart Meetings. Figma's goal is to make FigJam more customizable and accessible for everyone; Miro wants to be the best place for content-centered, professional meetings. They both want to be the go-to hub for teams looking to get stuff done.

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

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Kate Silver

Kate Silver is an award-winning reporter and editor with 15-plus years of journalism experience. Based in Chicago, she specializes in feature and business reporting. Kate's reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic's CityLab, Atlas Obscura, The Telegraph and many other outlets.

Protocol | Workplace

Hybrid work is here to stay. Here’s how to do it better.

We've recovered from the COVID-19 digital collaboration whiplash. Now we must build a more intentional model for hybrid work.

This is a call to managers to understand the mundane or unwanted projects their employees face, and what work excites them.

Photo: Adobe

Ashley Still is Adobe's Senior Vice President of Digital Media – Marketing, Strategy & Global Partnerships.

When COVID-19 hit, we were forced into a fully digital mode of business operation. Overnight, we adopted available remote work tools — even if imperfect, they were the best tools for the job.

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Ashley Still
As Senior Vice President, Digital Media – Marketing, Strategy & Global Partnerships, Ashley Still leads product marketing and business development for Adobe's flagship Creative Cloud and Document Cloud offerings. This includes iconic software brands such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat. Her expanded remit now includes Adobe's strategic partnership work with technology companies globally, including Apple, Microsoft and Google; and driving Adobe's fast-growing mobile app business. Her team is also responsible for the demand generation marketing campaigns that makes Adobe the market-leader, across creative and document productivity segments. Previously she was Vice President and General Manager, Adobe Creative Cloud for Enterprise. Here her team delivered an integrated content creation, collaboration and publishing solution that securely enables brands to create exceptional design and content. Prior to this, Ashley was Senior Director of Product & Marketing for Adobe Primetime, an Internet television platform used by Comcast, Turner, NBC Sports and other global media companies to deliver TV content and dynamic advertising to any Internet device. Under Ashley's leadership, Adobe Primetime won an Emmy Award for the Adobe Pass TV-Everywhere service. Ashley joined Adobe in 2004 following her internship with the company and held several product management positions for Adobe Photoshop. Still earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and her Masters degree from Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Protocol | Workplace

Meet the productivity app influencers

Within the realm of productivity influencing, there is a somewhat surprising sect: Creators who center their content around a specific productivity app.

People are making content and building courses based off of their favorite productivity apps.

Photos: Courtesy

This is the creators' internet. The rest of us are just living in it. We're accustomed to the scores of comedy TikTokers, beauty YouTubers and lifestyle Instagram influencers gracing our feeds. A significant portion of these creators are productivity gurus, advising their followers on how they organize their lives.

Within the realm of productivity influencing, there's a surprising sect: Creators who center their content around a specific productivity app. They're a powerful part of these apps' ecosystems, drawing users to the platform and offering helpful tips and tricks. Notion in particular has a huge influencer family, with #notion gaining millions of views on TikTok.

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Payments Infrastructure

Power Index: Payments Infrastructure

A data-driven ranking of the most powerful players in tech — and the challengers best positioned to disrupt them.

Welcome back to the Protocol Power Index, a ranking of the most powerful companies by tech industry subsector, as well as the companies best positioned to challenge them. This time: payments infrastructure.

The payments stack has been evolving dramatically in the last decade with the rise of ecommerce and new forms of money transfers, and though it's a sector that's been touched by Midas through each of its iterations, there's somehow still space for newcomers to be minted. Payments giants have ceded coveted territory to new market entrants during the process, but they are hardly down for the count.

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Hirsh Chitkara
Hirsh Chitkara (@ChitkaraHirsh) is a researcher at Protocol, based out of New York City. Before joining Protocol, he worked for Business Insider Intelligence, where he wrote about Big Tech, telecoms, workplace privacy, smart cities, and geopolitics. He also worked on the Strategy & Analytics team at the Cleveland Indians.
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