He may not be as discussed as Mark Zuckerberg or revered as nearly as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, but nobody casts a bigger silhouette in Silicon Valley than Marc Andreessen, the man who changed the very way we communicate.
In 1993, when the idea of commercialization was knocking on the Internet’s door, Andreessen, then a 22-year-old random kid from small-town Wisconsin, invented Mosaic – the first graphical web browser.
With this innovation, considered still one of the early marvels of modern technology, Andreessen helped take the Internet past the closed halls of academia where it was long shackled and into the warm embrace of millions around the world.
In other words, Andreessen knocked the ‘I’ out of the Internet – that elitist thinking that it only belonged to a few – and replaced it with the idea that ‘information is for all’.
It was a radical idea, but Silicon Valley is enamoured by them.
Robert Metcalfe, the entrepreneur who co-invented the Ethernet and helped pioneer the Internet starting in 1970, wrote in InfoWorld (1995) that Andreessen had made the Web seem “better than sex”.
Indeed, the world was lured in, as if a Marc Andreessenmagic portal had just opened.
Today, there is only a handful who could go about their day without using the internet. It has changed the very fabric of our lives. Adressen knew with absolute conviction that this was the path the world was headed.
The secret behind the success
Part of Andreessen’s success can be attributed to his unwavering faith in himself, even amid the many upheavals of the 90s. As great men got waylaid as their paths grew difficult (even treacherous), Andreessen whistled past, and reached milestone after milestone.
In an interview with Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of WIRED, Andreessen recounts that it is a juxtaposition of the two – being from a small town and having access to a supercomputer – that made him see the future of the web in a way that most could not.
“Where I grew up, we had the three TV networks, maybe two radio stations, no cable TV. We had a very small public library, and the nearest bookstore was an hour away. So I came from an environment where I was starved for information, starved for connection.
Then, at Illinois (University of Illinois), I found the Internet which could make information so abundant. The future was much easier to see if you were on a college campus. At the University, you were on the Internet in a way that was actually very modern even by today’s standards.”
In 1994, at the young age of 23, Andreessen was one of the six inductees in the World Wide Web Hall of Face announced at the First International Conference on the World Wide Web. Many other accolades followed including the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.
In 2012, Andreessen was named in the Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world assembled by Time.
You too could be the next big thing
It is difficult to emulate Marc’s success, especially today. But we could strive to be better than who we were yesterday. For this, we must ensure that we are not deterred in the face of criticism or are left exhausted by the many black swans (like coronavirus) that may upend the world.
One way to do this, and effectively, is by keeping a journal. All good leaders do it.
Keeping a journal reinforces the beliefs and ideals that set you on your journey. It is a road map, a compass. Besides, it is also an avenue to distil one’s thoughts and seek the kernels of truth and see the future, like Andreessen was able to.
It is also a way to identify the emotions that fueled our most important moments and capture the nuances of what they imply in the context of a wider narrative.
When a journalist from The Economist had gone to interview Andreessen after the success of Mosaic, he expected the conversation to be all numbers and technical lingos like HTTP and TCP/IP, but what transpired surprised him.
Andreessen was talking about globalization, about international trade and how they will all be facilitated by the Internet. The 24-year-old had already begun thinking (and discussing) about the Internet in macroeconomic terms.
Andreessen was a visionary, but to say his awakening came at any one certain point in his life would be to undermine the contributions of all that made him. His was a long journey fueled by the alchemic concoction of the desire to excel and the will to act.
The man of tomorrow
Now, as a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz, a firm he founded with longtime business partner and friend Ben Horowitz, Andreessen has got a piece of the pie in all major web 2.0 companies including Facebook, LinkedIn, Oculus VR, Twitter, Qik, GitHub, Pinterest and many more.
It’s no wonder then that Marc Andreessen is described by many as not just the man who sees the future, but ‘The Man Who Makes the Future’.