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With $1.5B to invest, will Andreessen Horowitz become a regular in Boston?

October 10, 2012

In December, I wrote that while Silicon Valley VC Marc Andreessen has poo-pooed the Boston tech scene, his firm has acted otherwise. That month Andreessen Horowitz led a $33 million round for Waltham data backup firm Actifio.

After seeing the whopping $1.5 billion new fund announced by the firm yesterday, it raises the question of whether the firm might be showing up in more deals in the Boston area in years to come.

Regardless of what Andreessen has said in the past, Actifio founder and CEO Ash Ashutosh says Andreessen Horowitz is perfectly open to investing in Boston. “I don’t think geography affects how they view opportunities,” Ashutosh said.

One thing of particular note: The Andreessen Horowitz general partner who found the Actifio deal — Peter Levine — is a Boston University engineering grad who earned his MBA from MIT Sloan. He’s also worked in Boston in the past while holding executive roles at tech companies, Ashutosh said (Levine was an executive at Veritas Software and Xensource/Citrix).

Ashutosh said the investment from Andreessen Horowitz came more from serendipity than the VC firm hunting for Boston deals. Actifio had just started looking for its next round, when Levine happened to call and find out where the company was at, Ashutosh said (he and Levine knew each other from working in data storage technology in the past). But Levine didn’t make the call expecting to make a deal, Ashutosh said.

Nonetheless, “everything lined up,” he said, and the deal closed nine days later.

The willingness to move quickly might be appealing to Boston entrepreneurs if Andreessen Horowitz does in fact end up getting more active in Boston (I’ll update the post if I hear back from the firm).

Another aspect that might be appreciated is the firm’s stated focus on keeping founding CEOs in place. Firm co-founder Ben Horowitz wrote in a blog post Tuesday that his own experience as a founding CEO — where a VC once asked him, “When are you going to get a real CEO?” — has made guiding founding CEOs a priority.

“Marc and I share a simple belief that became the basis for our new venture capital firm: in general, founding CEOs perform better than professional CEOs over the long term, and a venture capital firm that enables founding CEOs to succeed would help build the best companies and yield superior investment returns,” Horowitz wrote.

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