How Marc Andreessen sees the world
Good morning! This Friday, the way to Marc Andreessen's heart — or the way to become another Marc Andreessen — is so complicated, it's almost simple. I’m Hirsh Chitkara, and I hope my pain as a lifelong Cincinnati Bengals fan will be alleviated this weekend.
It’s the Lindy way
A16z co-founder Marc Andreessen is one of Silicon Valley’s most influential gatekeepers. It’s not a stretch to say your startup doesn’t matter until it’s on his radar.
Facebook, Lyft, Instagram, Affirm, Roblox and Coinbase all benefited from early a16z investments. And with the firm fresh off a $9 billion fundraising campaign, startup founders are more eager than ever to understand the thought processes that determine who gets a coveted a16z stamp of approval.
One thing you might want to know about Andreessen before pitching? He’s fascinated with an idea floating around internet intellectual spheres known as “the Lindy Effect.”
- The Lindy Effect says that you can usually predict how long something will survive based on how long it’s been around. The thinking goes something like this: For something to survive a long time, it must be versatile and durable. Versatile and durable things are more likely to survive relative to new and unproven concepts.
- Books, therefore, are Lindy; Kindles are not. Sandwiches are Lindy; cronuts, not so much. Coffee yes, Bang Energy drinks no.
- To people like Paul Skallas, better known online as LindyMan, the theory has become an entire lifestyle. Skallas applies the Lindy principle to yield tips that include going on long walks, lifting weights for exercise and avoiding canola oil. He and Andreessen have reportedly exchanged messages for a year or two, and Andreessen appeared on Skallas’ Lindy Talk podcast in March 2021.
Even if you don’t buy into the lifestyle applications of Lindy, it’s still possible to imagine scenarios in which the concept would be useful to an investor.
- For instance, the Lindy Effect would predict a short lifespan for fake meat companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.
- It would also tell you that people won’t easily accept the idea of appending electronics to their heads in the form of Google Glass or other augmented-reality glasses.
But successful venture capitalists need to invest in something, and that’s where Lindy seemingly falls short.
- Lindy would predict a short lifespan for social media, which is in part designed to upend millennia-old social structures.
- If Andreessen had applied the Lindy Effect in such cases, he’d be a few billion dollars poorer. Similar arguments can be made for the bulk of companies in a16z’s portfolio.
- This doesn’t mean the Lindy principle is wrong. Rather, a technology can be short-lived in the grand scheme of things while still making investors extraordinarily wealthy along the way.
And it’s important to note that “Lindy” isn’t the only heuristic in Andreessen’s toolbox:
- Tall poppy syndrome. In the same vein as “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down,” tall poppy syndrome refers to cultures in which those who visibly strive for excellence get attacked by the collective. In an October 2021 podcast interview, Andreessen said he finds the phenomenon “horrifying” and sees a raging pandemic of tall poppy syndrome in the U.S. and throughout Europe.
- The OODA loop. This U.S. military’s decision-making framework (observe, orient, decide and act) suggests that if one combatant is able to go through a decision-making cycle faster than the opponent, they will break the opponent’s decision-making cycle and force them to start from scratch. It helps explain “why internet politics [and] internet culture takes over everything,” Andreessen said in that same interview. He added: “Internet culture just evolves faster, and the fact that it evolves faster guarantees it takes everything over.”
These heuristics aren't mathematical formulas that yield the same output when given the same inputs. In fact, they can directly contradict one another. For instance, the OODA loop is difficult to reconcile with Lindy: If, as Andreessen said, “Internet culture just evolves faster, and the fact that it evolves faster guarantees it takes everything over,” then the obliteration of ancient cultural norms and technologies seems inevitable. So for now, if you’re hoping to get a chunk of that a16z money — or if you’re looking to invest as though you have a16z money — maybe just stick with taking a Lindy walk to think things over. Inspiration might arrive when you least expect it.
A version of this story first appeared on Protocol.com. Read it here.
On the calendar
Low-code/no-code and the changing developer
As organizations endeavor to become more tech literate from top to bottom, the race to get low-code and no-code tools in the hands of more and more employees has forced tech executives to set up new strategies and infrastructures to ensure that the company can make full use of the software.
Join Protocol's Kevin McAllister, Nutanix's Wendy M. Pfeiffer and Pegasystems' Kerim Akgonul for a discussion on the underlying tech in low-code and no-code tools at 10 a.m. PT Wednesday. RSVP here.
A MESSAGE FROM HONEYWELL
Honeywell’s Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Kimbell sits with Futurum’s Daniel Newman to talk through the world’s emerging trends in innovation, sustainability, tech and markets. Don't miss the insights into Honeywell's latest strategy for 2022!
People are talking
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So you think you can Wordle
Wordle is hard, and it can feel intimidating when you don’t know how you stack up with other players. So we’re trying to figure out what counts as a good Wordle score, both for our sanity and yours.
Protocol’s data engineer, Eric Blom, created a survey that asks about the number of games you’ve played and won. He’ll collect responses over the next few days, then release them for the world to see sometime next week. It’s just a game — we know, we know — but a little friendly competition never hurts!
Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to email@example.com, or our tips line, firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day, see you Sunday.