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Silicon Valley’s Andreessen Horowitz keeps its eye on Boston tech

October 10, 2012

In January, Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz — a backer of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest — reported a stunning new fundraise of $1.5 billion. I wondered at the time whether the firm could end up deploying some of that new cash in Boston.

The reason: Though firm co-founder Marc Andreessen had scoffed at the Boston tech scene last year, the firm opted to lead a $33 million round in December for Actifio, a Waltham data management and backup services firm.

Peter Levine, the general partner at Andreessen Horowitz who led the Actifio deal, tells me that he does in fact have his eye on Boston — a place he actually knows pretty well. Levine is a Boston University engineering grad who earned his MBA from MIT Sloan, and has taught at Sloan in recent years.

Levine said he also got to know the Massachusetts technology scene as an executive at California-based Veritas Software, a data storage firm that led him to travel in the same circles as many Bay State tech companies.

During that time, in the late 1990s and early 2000, Levine said he got to know Ash Ashutosh, then the founder of AppIQ, a Burlington data storage firm (bought by HP in 2005).

Ashutosh would go on to found Actifio in 2009. The firm aims to cut data management costs by up to 90 percent while bringing an “Apple-like simplicity” to data management, Ashutosh says; the company saw more than $10 million in revenue in 2011 and expects to triple that this year.

Levine came on at Andreessen Horowitz a year ago to focus on storage and other enterprise technology, and said his previously relationship with Ashutosh was the initial connection for the Actifio deal.

“After I joined Andreessen Horowitz, I called Ash. I didn’t really even know what the company did,” he said.

After a meeting, Levine was convinced Actifio offers a “tremendously compelling economic benefit” through reducing the number of copies of data a company needs to maintain. “It’s right in our sweet spot of where we like to invest,” Levine said. “We also love to invest in technical co-founders.”

As for other companies in Boston, Levine calls it “likely” his firm will invest in the area again.

“I look at Boston-based companies all the time … There’s certainly great companies in Boston,” he said. “If the deal makes sense on the merit of the deal itself, we’ll go and do the deal … Geography is sort of way down the list.”

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