Starting up

What Ben Horowitz Taught Me About Entrepreneurship



Ben Horowitz
 is no stranger in the startup world. He’s the co-founder and general partner of the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz. With $4.2 billion under it’s management, the firm has invested in pretty much all the who’s who in the tech startup scene – Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter, Box, and DigitalOcean.

I caught his talk during last year’s Lean Startup Conf at San Francisco where he shared his startup story, struggles all founders face, how putting constrains on resources increases creativity and workplace diversity. (You can watch his talk on the video below.)

But the biggest takeaway I had from the talk was this:

“Your success as a company really depends on how linear a path you walk to the right product.”

This is the advice Ben has for founders who are finding product-market fit. It’s about knowing where you are now, where you want to go, and walk the straightest line possible to reaching your goal.

That got me thinking, how do I know and find the straightest line to reaching my goals? I mean, there’s many ways to go about achieving success in entrepreneurship, how does one find his/her most efficient path and increases his/her odds of success?

I submitted that question to the Q&A app that the conference was using, but my question was not chosen. ?

So I decided that I was going to find Ben and ask him myself. And it wasn’t easy.

Firstly, I wasn’t seated at the main hall where I could grab him as soon as he got off the stage. Secondly, it’s not easy for me to spot a white man amongst all other white men. Thirdly, I had to walk against the crowd exiting the main hall while I was trying to spot Ben.

But as they say, fortune favours the bold.

After gently elbowing some folks away to get closer to him, I asked him, “Ben, how do you figure out what is the straightest path to success? What do you need for that?”

He replied,

“Knowledge. You need deep understanding of the problem and it takes about 5 – 10 years being in that domain to acquire that knowledge.*”

This ties in to what I’ve learned after being in Silicon Valley for 3 months – be in love with the problem, not the solution. Always start with the problem, be obsessed with the problem, not the solution.

It’s a lesson I will remember for my future ventures.


*Slightly paraphrased. I was walking and elbowing people so I couldn’t write it down immediately, haha.

Picture credits: Wired


Elisha Tan is the Founder of TechLadies. TechLadies is a community for women in Asia to connect, learn, and advance as programmers in the tech industry. Elisha is also the Developer Programs Regional Lead for Asia Pacific at Facebook.