A couple weeks ago I posted on the oddness of Facebook being honored for its business acumen. At the time I made the point that Facebook had made some impressive technical achievements but had not yet proven itself as a viable business and certainly didn't deserve to be honored as such.
After thinking on it for a couple weeks I came to the conclusion that the business community just gets enamored with tech companies. Something about the creation of new business models makes them abandon any rational analysis of a company's actual performance or future chances of success.
That theory is what's on my mind after reading the news that Marc Andreessen has joined the board of Facebook (as reported by Techcrunch)...
Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape, Opsware and Ning and the former CTO of AOL, is adding a new notch in his belt: he has joined the board of directors of Facebook, two sources close to the company confirmed to us (speculation about Andreessen possibly joining the Facebook board started last month on the Boomtown blog). The company should be announcing it shortly, perhaps this week.
I have a lot of respect for Marc Andreessen from the technology perspective and the guy is a master at selling companies for more than their probably worth. But a business man who builds for the long term he is not.
In fact, Netscape's downfall was largely due to the fact that he and Jim Clark squandered their resources at the same time they were taunting the biggest, most aggressive company in the IT industry. The end result of which was to take a company that was already profitable and on its way to long term success and effectively bury it.
That makes Mr. Andreessen seem like an odd fit given Facebook's insistence that it's in this for the long term.
Even more bizarre is the fact that he's founder, chairman, and a full time employee of Ning which is a direct competitor to Facebook. This isn't like Eric Schmidt of Google joining the board of Apple even though both companies make Cell. phone technology. Facebook does one thing, Ning does one thing and they're both the same thing. Its ridiculous.
I bring all this up to again point out the bizarre nature of Silicon Valley funding. No company in any other industry would dream of pulling a move like this particularly when they had no profits and no viable plan to eventually turn a profit.
Addendum: I stick by what I said in the post above but in thinking it over I wanted to add a couple things. First, Andreessen was 22 when Netscape was founded and only 28 when it was acquired by AOL so it’s a little unfair to hold a lot of what happened at Netscape against him. Second, though he’s famous for turning huge profits on companies that aren’t that successful it should also be mentioned that he makes more of an effort than most to stay involved in those companies. He stayed on after Netscape was acquired by AOL and he remained chairman while Loudcloud/Opsware was changing hands. That should all count for something.