Marc Andreessen's Guide to Startups

His lost blog series from 2007 is still relevant today

Hey y’all — these days Marc Andreessen blocks just about anyone he disagrees with on X, but back in 2007 he wrote a series of hugely influential blog posts that broke down how

It’s been almost 20 years but much of the advice is still relevant.

This week I re-read it and, along with the link to his original pieces, added my own thoughts for what’s changed since then.

Also — I’m releasing my course on how to set the right valuation for your startup for the first time. It has 14 video lessons and exercises that use my 5-step framework to help you find the valuation that works for both you and investors.

Until now it’s only been available to members of my founder community. Read on to learn more about it further down in the piece👇

Marc Andreessen’s Guide to Startups

Why to Not Build a Startup

Startups fundamentally give you some unique abilities when you’re successful:

  • To be in control of your own destiny

  • To create something new

  • To have an impact on the world

  • To create your ideal culture and team

  • Freedom and agency, via money

However, being a founder is not for everyone. This could be a topic for an entire post another time, but for now here are my thoughts on the reasons Marc flags:

Startups are an emotional roller coaster

No one’s day (at least in the business world) can have highs and lows quite like a founder.

Mental resilience is arguably the most valuable trait a founder can have, because most things will go wrong along the way.

Nothing gets done unless you force it to

Founders need to be a force of nature to simply make progress. No one outside your company will care about what you’re doing to anywhere near the degree you do (or at all, in most cases).

99% of what you hear is “no”

The people you want to believe in you — through investment, partnership, employment, or as customers — tell you no over and over again.

You need to balance iterating your approach to try to get a better response while remaining mentally undeterred that you will figure it out.

Hiring is really hard

The more someone would accelerate the trajectory of your startup, the harder it often is to convince them to be a part of it.

And their position is rational — anyone who joins is inherently taking a foolish bet. They could have a higher, more stable salary and more free time and while you can try to convince them with the upside that equity presents, the best employees are the ones who join because they’re passionate enough about building alongside you to overcome the hurdle of irrationality.

You need to make sacrifices

100+ hour weeks happen, especially in the early days.

It’s extremely hard to balance building a startup with having enough time for family time, socializing, staying in shape, and hobbies. You need to pick and choose a couple from that list at the most, or at least hire an assistant via a service like Athena to delegate what you can afford to.

It’s really easy to get off track

Startups get derailed all the time for unexpected reasons.

You’re balancing so much as a founder that just keeping things on course is extremely hard.

How Much Should You Raise

Marc makes this dead simple. In his opinion founders should first raise “enough to get to product-market fit” and then, afterwards, “enough to fully exploit that opportunity.”

He goes on to say that founders should raise “as much as they can without giving away control of the company or being insane” and more in detail.

In Q4 I launched a course on exactly this question based on my 5-step framework that helped us raise $10 million from a16z. The course helps you:

  • Understand how investors view your offer

  • Set the right milestones for your round

  • Determine how much you need to raise and in what valuation range

By the end of it you should be confident in your ask to investors, with answers to any pushback about your valuation or round in general.

Until now I’ve only mentioned it to members of my founder community (they get this and all future courses I release for free) but now I’m finally making it available to anyone.

What to do When VCs Say No

One “no” doesn’t mean anything, but many means there’s something wrong with your offer or how you’re presenting it that you aren’t seeing yet.

Marc mentions three steps to re-asses and retool your offer:

Lay the groundwork to go back later

When investors pass they prefer to keep their options open to invest in you in the future because they know how quickly things can change for a startup. The facts change.

Founders gripe about this but it’s actually in their favor — a funding environment where you actually can change the mind of an investor by sharing updates on your progress is powerful.

So be graceful in defeat, thank them for their time, and ask if you can reach back out in the future as the startup grows.

Look at the macro environment

Don’t blame macro factors on not being able to figure out the puzzle and raise funds, but understanding them does help you get a feel for how investors will approach your deal.

The only advice here is to make sure you’re doing that realistically.

Identify and reduce risks

Marc lists 11 different types of risk that startups face — I won’t address each one individually but suffice to say that part of the founder’s job while fundraising is to understand what investors are seeing as the weaknesses in their offer.

Investors want to back startups that are as de-risked as possible because startups are so inherently risky to invest in.

Being able to think like an investor and see these risks honestly will let you address them or, at worst, have good answers for why they currently exist you can proactively talk about in meetings or your deck.

When you go back to the VCs later you can then “peel the onion,” as Marc says.

His “onion theory of risk” says that investors watch founders peel an onion with their pitch and the goal of the founder is essentially to not make the investor cry while you’re exposing each layer of your business (and yourself) to them.

What to do When You Don’t Know Any VCs

Look, this is a real problem. There’s a reason one of the most common questions I get asked is how to get warm intros to top VCs — it’s hard, and it’s important.

Marc doesn’t hold back in the piece — VCs work mainly on referrals and most only write a few checks per year.

He mentions a few paths:

I would add two more:

  • Just start building something interesting and talk about it online

  • Befriend founders the investors you want have previously invested in and eventually ask for an intro

The Only Thing That Really Matters

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