The Weezy to Ben Horowitz's Drake: Ken Coleman joins Andreessen Horowitz as a special advisor

By Richard Nieva , written on April 11, 2013

From The News Desk

(Pictured above: Neither Ken Coleman nor Ben Horowitz)

When Ben Horowitz left landmark Silicon Valley hardware and software firm Silicon Graphics in 1992 to join a startup called Netlabs, which made network management software, his mentor Ken Coleman told him he was making a big mistake. “He said he knew the company well and told me, ‘You’ll regret it,’” recalls Horowitz.

He did. But Coleman knew it was a mistake Horowitz had to make for himself, and a lesson he needed to learn on his own. “It was probably the worst career decision I’ve ever made in my life,” he says.

Maybe he’d like it if Coleman were a bit pushier this time around, but that’s the kind of foresight that Horowitz hopes Coleman will bring to entrepreneurs at his venture firm Andreessen Horowitz as its newest special advisor, which the company announced today.

Coleman has a storied Silicon Valley pedigree, coming from Hewlett Packard, then Activision, and Silicon Graphics in the late 80s, where he hired a 20-year-old Horowitz. Most recently, Coleman was chairman of the semiconductor design company Mips Technologies and an advisory board member of KMS Software, an on-boarding solutions company. Mips sold to UK company Imagine in February, and KMS sold to SAP earlier this month, freeing up Coleman’s schedule to join the firm. “I have a lot more time now,” he says.

"He comes from the culture that really defined good technology companies," says Horowitz. While at HP during the 1970s, he was employee No. 3 at the division that really propelled the company in the PC category, then went on to hold some of the most senior positions there. He also held some of the top positions at Activision and Silicon Graphics, where he was the company's executive vice president of sales, services, and marketing. Next he founded and ran the IT software company ITM as CEO, and for a time had a consultancy that advised companies through strategic matters.

This is the third special advisor the firm has added, after Larry Summers, the former US Secretary of the Treasury and Harvard President, and Adrian Fenty, former Mayor of Washington, DC. It’s not quite clear how involved Coleman will be, but he says  the founders of A16Z’s portfolio companies can think of him as “a partner, a connector, and a manager,” who can help when needed.

Hororwitz says the move is in line with the firm’s commitment to nurturing technical cofounders, given Coleman’s coveted resume. He also thinks Coleman will provide a good network of support to the entrepreneurs.

And if you were expecting a bigger scoop here, well, here’s the runner-up rap quote Horowitz pondered using in his blog post. He decided not to use it (though the quote he went with is also from Drake):

Is this shit real, should I pinch you? After all the things that we been through, I got you Look what you've done, look what you've done Look what you've done for me now You knew that I was gonna be something We stressed out, and you need some, I got you Look what you've done, look what you've done

--Drake, “Look What You’ve Done”

So, on top of several other achievements, Coleman started off Horowitz's career -- just like rapper Lil Wayne (aka Weezy) did the same for Drake's rap career. Ken Coleman, look what you've done. 

[Image courtesy: Lunchbox LP]