Marc Andreessen: Timing and Luck Are Really the Same Thing

Marc Andreessen Timing and Luck Are the Same ThingMarc Andreessen is one of Silicon Valley's geek elite. Famous for co-developing the world's first web browser and co-founding Netscape, when it comes to the Internet, the guy's footprint is everywhere.

He's an investor in Twitter, LinkedIn (blowout IPO), and Skype (Microsoft acquiring for $8.5 billion). He sits on the boards of Facebook, eBay, and Hewlett-Packard, among others. And he's chairman and cofounder of Ning.

In short, Andreessen pretty much walks on water in these parts. And, true to form, his far-ranging interview with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg at All Things Digital's D9 Conference, last night, delivered some real insights.

Here are a few excerpts I found particularly fascinating; I'm sure all the entrepreneurs and geeks out there will agree. From Liz Gannes's liveblog of an evening with a Silicon Valley legend:

On the last decade in tech

I've enjoyed the last 10 years tremendously. There's a psychological manic-depressive aspect, but the people I admire keep their heads down and work the whole time.
On Eric Schmidt's "Gang of Four" (which notoriously omitted Microsoft)
The market increasingly is PCs, smartphones and tablets, and if you partition that out by vendor that is a very interesting picture. And Microsoft fell below 50 percent about a year ago, of operating systems across those three categories.

The transformation of Apple is probably the biggest tech story of the last 15 years. They were 90 days from bankruptcy. Steve has really demonstrated there was nothing wrong with Apple that a few great products couldn't fix. So if Apple was recoverable, I think any company today could recover. If the next version of Windows or Windows Mobile is spectacular, it could change.

On innovation, timing, and luck
In general, timing is the hardest part. And entrepreneurs don't understand because they think it should have already happened. So I think timing and luck are really the same thing. Right now we're thinking up a list of things we want to invest in, and if they fail, we'll try the same things in three years, six years and nine years.

I just had this out-of-body experience where I saw someone reading on an iPad in the lobby and I had a flashback to the Newton. I'm quite confident that there are things we're funding now that will be great 10 years from now.

Here's my prediction: Almost every dotcom idea from 10 years ago that failed will succeed. Pet food, diapers, deliveries, they're all working again now.

On whether there's a tech bubble or not
A bunch of people think there's a bubble, so therefore we think it is not.

If everybody's euphoric, then I'm concerned. "If we're back here in three years and nothing's changed and nobody's worried, I'll be horrified. I'll wet my pants on stage." Today, in 2011: Apple's PE is 12, projected to be 10. Microsoft's is 7.2, next year 6.8. Google 13.7, next year 11.3. Cisco 7, next year 5.5. "PEs in single digits are what steel mills trade at before they're going out of business."

Note: Well, I don't know where Andreessen got his numbers, but Apple's P/E is 16.5, Microsoft's is 9.6, Google's is 20.5, and Cisco's is 12.7. I agree that tech is undervalued, but I think the question is more about the astronomical valuations of Internet companies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Groupon - which just filed to go public yesterday.
On smart TVs
"Very exciting! All I can say is I'd like to buy one. A friend of mine's three-year-old walked up to the TV screen and tried to swipe, and nothing happened, and said, 'Dad, what's wrong with the TV screen?'"
On the next "really big idea"
In a world of smartphones, we are able to connect our location to everything. The ability to map the real world into the virtual world is a really big idea. Read "Mirror Worlds" from 20 years ago, it's terrific.
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Image courtesy Time