SXSW Interactive 2014: Nas and Ben Horowitz Discuss Entrepreneurship and Surviving Tech’s School of Hard Knocks
BY JASON PARHAM Via Complex.com
“Do you think Nas benefits more from this relationship?” asked my seat mate.
The question came midway through one of SXSW Interactive’s featured sessions earlier today. Nas, one of hip-hop’s elite rappers, and Ben Horowitz, the rap-loving co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, were together on stage discussing the parallels of being a rapper and being an entrepreneur. It was a curious sight, but not completely unlikely given the tech world’s and hip-hop’s recent obsession with other.
Because even in Silicon Valley, street cred carries weight.
Horowitz spoke at length about being CEO of Loudcloud, a managed services provider that offered hosting services for Internet companies during the dot-com era, and one of the first companies to popularize the idea of cloud computing.
Horowitz, who recently released a book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, has been working with Marc Andreessen for over 19 years, and together the two have molded their VC firm into a king-making tech goliath. But, Horowitz admitted, his relationship with Andreessen is not what you’d expect. “We don’t get along at all,” he said. “[Marc will] say things that make me feel some type of way.” To which the crowd laughed, acknowledging his play on Rich Homie Quan’s recent hit.
“Nobody knows how to be a CEO. It’s something you have to learn,” Horowitz said, adding: “It’s a very lonely job.” Many up-in-coming CEOs have dreams of being Mark Zuckerberg and living the Silicon Valley good life, he continued, but the reality of getting there is often harder than they realize.
The nature of entrepreneurship, Horowitz believed, boiled down to one simple principle: You come up with an idea that everybody thinks is stupid and go out and build it, despite the inevitability of failure.
“Things will begin to go wrong.” he said, “You can’t worry about the mistakes, because you’re going to make a lot of them. You’ve got to be thinking about your next move.”
Nas chimed in: “That’s how I saw life, in a way, I had to find an opening.”
Early on, Nas said he was told by his father, Olu Dara Jones, an accomplished jazzman, to go out in the world and make something of himself and become his own boss, to, essentially, become an entrepreneur.
Last December PandoDaily reported that Nas and his manager have invested in more than 40 startups, from Fancy and SendHub to Rap Genius, the online database the decodes rap lyrics, poetry, and news (Andresseen Horowitz made waves in 2012 when they injected $15 million into the controversial site).
As the talk came to a close, Horowitz touched on the idea of being a “Wartime CEO,” a term he coined in his book, which means doing whatever it takes to get the job done for your company, no matter what.
“I’m all about being a wartime CEO,” Nas said.
“Yeah,” Horowitz began, “I’ve heard ‘Ether.’”