British born investor Ben Horowitz, co-founder of investors Andreessen-Horowitz which has funds of $2.7bn invested, is looking for ‘really bad ideas’.
“We invest in college drop-outs with insane ideas going after tiny markets with no way to monetise,” says Horowitz.
A few examples of bad ideas he gives are programming languages for PCs (Microsoft) mobile payment system (PayPal) search (Google) and podcast software (Twitter).
The idea has to be a breakthrough and the problem with breakthroughs is, says Horowitz: “By definition they are not obvious. In fact they seem insane. If they didn’t seem insane at the time, they wouldn’t be breakthroughs.”
The key thing to look for is, says Horowitz: “An incredibly brilliant entrepreneur with a seemingly berserk idea.” A Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, or Ellison.
Another key thing to look for, says Horowitz, is courage because, when the going gets tough, it’s courage that keeps you going. So that’s why he likes college drop-outs (Gates, Jobs) because it takes courage to drop out of college.
So Andreessen Horowitz pro-actively seeks brilliant drop-outs.
Horowitz says college drop-outs can show all three key characteristics – brilliance, courage and breakthrough ideas because it takes a great idea to make someone want to leave college.