What did you wake up thinking about this morning? The data networking industry, and how this $40 billion sector is going to get rebuilt. We've made about four investments in this sector and they all seem to be working. We sold Nicira Networks for $1.3 billion in July. There seems to be unlimited opportunity in this area. Then I had that Trinidad James song in my head ["All Gold Everything"]--the line "Mom always told me, boy count your blessings."
Describe a lesson you learned from a failure. I've had so many failures. My big lesson in general is not quitting. If you take failure personally and you give up, it really does become a failure. People start thinking, "I failed, therefore I'm a failure." The same way you don't succeed because you're successful, you succeed because of what you do. I learned pretty early on when you start thinking, "I'm successful because I'm Ben Horowitz," or whoever, that's when you start making mistakes. With investments, we're doing a good job when we back the person more so than the idea. When it doesn't go right, the best thing I can do is to stay focused and clear on what their options are. There's always some move you can make that can improve things.
What will define your career in the coming year? My career is going to be defined by how helpful I am to the entrepreneurs who are in the struggle while they're in it, and if I can't make a meaningful contribution, then it's time to move on. Sometimes they need help with how to put their team together, how to finance a company when it's in a pickle, how to think about a competitive situation or how to fire someone. For example, I might be a rap fan but I don't make a $15 million investment in a company like Rap Genius because it's cool. The idea the founders have is much broader than rap; they're now expanding to poetry and legal notes.
Who is your most important mentor, and what did you learn? Bill Campbell, chairman of Intuit and Apple director. A lot of what I learned from him was how to treat people and help them understand where you're coming from. In these [venture capital] situations, there is a lot of hard and bad news that gets delivered. Being able to do that and preserve relationships is a very hard thing. When I was CEO of my first company, Opsware, he was on the board.
Name a project that you're not affiliated with that has most impressed you in the past year. I've been very impressed with my friend Drew Houston and his company Dropbox. Yes, they're threatened by the likes of Apple's and Google's cloud services, but they're doing a good job with product strategy and assembling a great team.
Name a desert island album. Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy." He put so much of himself into that album.