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Why Andreessen Solves Facebook's Board Problem

Facebook has a board problem. Only it's a problem that any control-freak entrepreneur [ok, that's redundant] would love to have. As Kara and others have reported, the sum total of Facebook's board is Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel and Jim Breyer. What is less well known is that there are actually five seats, Mark just controls three of them.

This has been nothing but a positive for Mark, and so far, for Facebook. I'm not supposed to divulge much until my book comes out, but had this board arrangement been different, so many pivotal moments in the young company's history would have turned out drastically different. The News Feed debacle, turning down Yahoo's overtures, even -- arguably-- Mark's lock on the CEO slot. Mark knows this. Smart -- and previously burned-- people advised him well when he was starting Facebook. It's not an accident the company has this structure.

But Facebook is growing up and if it does intend to go public in a year or two, it needs to start structuring itself like a grown up company. Filling out the management team with a CFO like Gideon Yu and a sales, organization-scaling expert like Sheryl Sandberg are some of those moves. The board is another very necessary one. And one that Facebook has not taken lightly. After all, a fourth board member shifts the balance of power. Zuckerberg does not have automatic veto anymore.

IMHO, Andreessen is the perfect fit.

As Kara points out, he was the Zuckerberg before Zuckerberg was Zuckerberg. As someone who has spent a lot of time with each of them over the last year, I completely agree. Frequently, when I'm doing interviews about the book I'll start talking about Marc, and finish a point by talking about Mark, confusing everyone. If only you could hear the difference between Marc with a "c" and Mark with a "k." Zuckerberg actually has more in common with someone like Andreessen than another Web 2.0 poster child like Kevin Rose. In addition, Andreessen is one of the few people who has been through what Mark is going through now. Facebook is also a very academic company, and Marc reads everything in sight and loves to analyze it whether in treatises or IM chats, as you probably know if you read his blog.

And both Marc and Mark are insanely bullish on their own companies. The most important thing in this pivotal fourth board member is that someone share Mark's gut belief that Facebook is a rare chance to build something big that will change the world, or at the very least trust Mark's gut belief, and not rush to sell or replace him. Because as it moves towards the tricky monetization phase of its business, Facebook will have some rough times ahead, false starts and no doubt more controversy.

Like Peter Thiel, Andreessen is a big believer in founders as CEOs and early on, before Web 2.0 was even sexy, he was the guy trying to convince a lot of Web 2.0 companies not to sell. Frequently, they didn't listened. In that respect, Marc and Mark may just be made for each other.

Comments

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Interesting, the organization reflects character (Mark's in this case)...

@andy: indeed! that was one of the biggest things that struck me researching my book. you could blindfold me and drop me off at facebook, slide, yelp, digg etc and i'd know which one i was in because they're such outgrowths of strong founders.

Great post Lacy ... it's great to hear some of the insight you have to how each of these individuals' personalities shine through. This is truly one aspect I don't know about each of these individuals.

thanks nick! i love that you said that because i always felt like these people come off so two dimensionally even though they're written about *all* the time. that was a big reason why i wrote my boo. to show who they really are-- both the great parts that don't get reported and the vulnerable, human parts

Sarah,

Interesting analysis of the Facebook situation. I always enjoy reading and watching your work.

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"Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky" puts a well-deserved spotlight on the fascinating entrepreneurs working in some of the most overlooked places on Earth. This book reminds us that when entrepreneurial opportunity is enabled and embraced locally, the economic and social benefits have the power to transform us all.
Brilliant. Crazy. Cocky.

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An unforgettable portrait of the emerging world's entrepreneurial dynamos Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky is the story about that top 1% of people who do more to change their worlds through greed and ambition than politicians, NGOs and nonprofits ever can. This new breed of self-starter is taking local turmoil and turning it into opportunities, making millions, creating thousands of jobs and changing the face of modern entrepreneurship at the same time. To tell this story, Lacy spent forty weeks traveling through Asia, South America and Africa hunting down the most impressive up-and-comers the developed world has never heard of....yet.

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Srah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is an award-winning reporter who has covered high-growth entrepreneurship for more than fifteen years. She is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of PandoDaily.com, the site-of-record for the startup ecosystem. She lives in San Francisco.

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