- Marc Andreessen joined the board of Facebook, now called Meta, more than a decade ago.
- Since Peter Thiel left the board in February, Andreessen has been its longest-serving director.
- Outsiders say competing investments by Andreessen and comments targeting Facebook could threaten his seat on the board.
Another of Facebook’s best-known and most influential boosters may soon follow the company’s board of directors, Peter Thiel.
Marc Andreessen’s position as the longest-serving board member of Facebook, now called Meta, is the subject of growing speculation among those close to the company. Andreessen’s interest and investment in the emerging Web3 space – a catch-all term for cryptocurrency, blockchain technology and digital assets known as NFTs – is a cause for consternation, said a source close to Facebook. Andreessen is a founding partner of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which has its tentacles across the category through investments in startups, crypto-focused funds, and digital assets.
Meanwhile, Facebook is trying to build a number of Web3 projects, alongside the “metaverse,” or a fully immersive digital experience captured through AR and VR devices. Having one of the most influential VCs in the world investing billions of dollars in competing projects is not considered helpful.
Andreessen’s days on the board may well be numbered given those investments, another source said, asking not to be identified due to personal connections.
If Facebook’s first investor steps down from the board in the coming months, “it wouldn’t even come as a surprise to me,” another source said. Facebook’s nine-member board, or Meta, is up for re-election in May.
Andreessen was an early adviser and cheerleader to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. While they may not be as close as they once were, another source said, the two are not believed to have personally fallen out.
In the venture capital world, investing in a startup competing with a holding company is considered a faux pas. In 2020, powerful venture capital firm Sequoia Capital walked away from a $21 million investment in a payments startup that rivals holding company Stripe, citing a conflict of interest.
While boards are often full of current and former executives who operate in similar or competing industries, any board member is expected to act “in the best interest of the company and not your own interest.” said Parthiban David, a corporate governance expert. and Associate Dean at the American University School of Business.
“Any decision you make, any advice you provide, anything you do in this meeting room is supposed to be selfless and not self-serving,” David added.
There is no prescriptive law saying that a board member can only work in a way that benefits the company they are advising, and conflicts of interest between board members administration are common, David said. But such conflicts can come to be seen as “glaring” if they evolve to include the poaching of employees, for example.
Andreessen Horowitz may have done just that last fall. Two of Facebook’s top crypto engineers have defected to join the venture capital firm’s crypto team. A few weeks later, the firm invested in the blockchain startup Mysten Labs, founded by four other Facebook engineers.
At the time of the investment in Mysten, Arianna Simpson, general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, told CNBC that Facebook had done “an incredible job of recruiting top talent over the past few years.” Some of them Andreessen took for his own business.
It’s not uncommon for venture capitalists to back founders who have left a holding company to build something new. It’s a wise investment. Investors leverage their relationship with a portfolio company to gain early insight into startups emerging from a portfolio company’s alumni network and to vet former employees turned founders.
Other high profile employees, like David Marcus and Morgan Beller, fled the company after working on crypto projects and did not jump to Andreessen. Facebook’s attempt to get into crypto has so far failed and what will happen to its investment in the metaverse remains to be seen. Still, Facebook’s work in the space is likely not done, a source with knowledge of the company said. Having a working payment system is considered “crucial” to its ambitious plans for the Metaverse. Currently, his Novi digital wallet has been launched and he has partnered with Paxos to make his stablecoin available in the Novi wallet.
Beyond competition over projects and talent, Chris Dixon, a top lieutenant and rainmaker at Andreessen Horowitz and one of Marc Andreessen’s closest aides, recently took a direct swipe at Facebook and its attempts to operate on the Web3.
Dixon told The Verge that companies like Yuga Labs, the creator of Bored Ape NFT, are “an important counterweight to companies like Meta.” Andreessen Horowitz has led a new $450 million seed round in Yuga Labs as it kicks off its own metaverse project, putting it in direct competition with Facebook and its metaverse efforts.
“There’s a dystopian future where Meta is this kind of dominant digital experience provider, and all the money and control goes to that company,” Dixon added.
Asked about Andreessen’s departure from the board, a spokesperson for the venture capital firm told Insider: “If he were to step down, he doesn’t know. So no, it’s not going to happen. . At least not now.”
A Facebook spokesperson simply said, “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”