Friday, February 20, 2009

Major Influences of Mine: Netscape Time & Marc Andreessen

While I was at college the internet boom was exploding. Everyday it seemed I would read about another technology IPO that I had missed out on. "Pets.com raises over $80 million", what!?

I wasn't jealous though. Mostly I observed the news in awe. The world of Silicon Valley, start-ups and IPOs was still completely foreign and intangible to me. It was something I just skimmed headlines about. I could hardly imagine what my own life would be like after school. A 40 hour a week that doesn't involve slicing meat or serving sandwiches?

Then one day a PhD student I worked with with gave me a book and demanded I read it. For better or worse it changed my life. It was called Netscape Time: The Making of the Billion-Dollar Start-Up That Took on Microsoft. For the youngins out there Netscape was the first hugely successfully web browser and it ultimately led to Firefox.

I started the book that night and didn't go to sleep until I finished the next morning. The book details the incredible rise and fall of Netscape Corp. The team consisted of several recent computer science students (like me?) led by co-founder Marc Andreessen. Together they worked extremely hard to create a software product that would change the world. And as if bragging rights for doing that wasn't enough they all became multi-millionaires after Netscape had its historic IPO on Wall Street.

That night I was bitten, hard, by the start-up bug.

Single-handedly the book gave me my first peak into a world I had only vaguely known existed. It gave me a new dream. Of course I don't have illusions of a Netscape life (well, not anymore!) but the concept of owning equity in a company and working really hard with a great team to build a cool product appeals to me at the deepest possible level.

After reading the book, Marc Andreessen became a bit of a hero of mine. I linked to him from here once before. Surprisingly though I had never heard him speak. That is, until last night. I was thrilled to tune into Charlie Rose and see that he was the guest for the hour.

When you have the time check out this terrific interview.

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