Chris Dixon is not only joining Andreessen Horowitz; he's leaving New York

By Sarah Lacy , written on November 19, 2012

From The News Desk

Chris Dixon has long been one of the most vocal advocates of the New York tech scene.

He's heavily involved with HackNY a program that promises to "keep kids off the street" -- Wall Street that is. When he sold his latest company, Hunch, to eBay one of the big plusses was that eBay was going to build out a huge campus in New York complete with hot-desking options for local entrepreneurs and an auditorium for a speaker series. And when I once suggested to Fred Wilson over lunch that he was the godfather of New York. He replied, "Well, if I'm the Godfather, Chris Dixon is clearly my number two."

Not anymore. Dixon is moving to Menlo Park as a condition of his new-- enviable-- job as the newest general partner at Andreessen Horowitz.

It's not that Andreessen Horowitz doesn't believe in New York-- three of its biggest deals are there in FourSquare, Fab and Quirky. But Andreessen Horowitz and Benchmark Capital are perhaps two of the only mega firms left who avowedly refuse to expand beyond Sand Hill Road. "We are a single office firm," Marc Andreessen says. "We take teamwork really seriously, and it's a big deal to have everyone in the same place."

Dixon is clearly conflicted about it. "You could think of it two ways," he says, trying to avoid just the kind of story I'm writing. "You can think of it as I'm abandoning New York or I'm beginning the process of bringing the best venture firm in the country back to New York. I like to think of it as the latter."

That may be how he likes to think of it, but if I were the New York ecosystem, I wouldn't be holding my breath for a local AH office anytime soon. But no doubt Dixon will be an advocate for New York startups, particularly the ones he's already invested in that may be soon seeking a series A. He has about 50 active companies in his portfolio, and some thirty were new investments made in the last year, he says.

Dixon, personally, will still be spending a good deal of time in New York, and hopes to live there again one day. He emphasizes that he's keeping his apartment in New York and will be back and forth a lot. That said, he also says that he knew he wanted to focus the next phase of his career on investing, not starting another company. And he's long admired Andreessen Horowitz's model of investing. "I'd be nuts not to take this job," he says.

And, he adds, like it or not, the bulk of the activity is still in the Valley. Cheerleading aside, roughly two-thirds of his angel portfolio was already in California. This move will effectively bring him closer to even his existing portfolio. "The reality is New York is doing well and growing but is still significantly smaller than California," he says. "If I was going to start another company, I'd argue I could be anywhere as long as I can hire developers. But if you are going to do venture capital at scale, it's clear to me that California is where you want to be based."

I should disclose that both Andreessen and Dixon are personal investors in PandoDaily, and two of the first calls I make when I need advice. I know from experience that they're remarkably similar in how they approach the business of investing. Both have experience in enterprise and consumer, and both think about deals in terms of big trends playing out in the industry-- not simply getting lathered up about a cool feature or app. I've seen both be vociferous advocates of entrepreneurs even when it puts them at odds with fellow investors.

But similarities aside, Dixon will bring a decidedly new energy, brand and background to Andreessen Horowitz. All of the GPs are operators, but they are currently heavy on sales and public company experience. Sure Ben Horowitz has his edgy blog posts, but there is nary a regular Tweeter among them. None represent the voice of the edgy super angel class or the young entrepreneur. Dixon does both, but has the operational chops and experience so that he's not just that. "I think he's the best of that new breed of angels," Andreessen says. "We already have a number of people who have run big companies employing thousands of people-- we have that covered. If anything Chris has just avoided that emotional scarring."

Case in point: Dixon asked if Andreessen Horowitz had some laptop stickers so he could #humblebrag about his new gig by putting one on his laptop.

"Stickers?" Andreessen literally didn't know what he was talking about.

"Entrepreneurs put them on laptops, and it's great because it looks like they think you're cool," Dixon explains.

"That's an East Coast thing. No one would dare sully Jony Ives' design out here," Andreessen says.

The deal represents another milestone for the firm too: Once-wunderkind Andreessen is no longer the youngest general partner at the firm.

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]

{GIF image source courtesy Joi]