Why Jack Dorsey Went To War With Andreessen Horowitz
“Jack was always a slightly restrained volcano.”
Big Technology is a weekly newsletter dedicated to covering the tech world with honest, nuanced reporting. Join the 12,000+ subscribers who tune into Big Technology for tech news without the spin. Here’s an easy way to subscribe:
For three weeks running, Jack Dorsey has relentlessly attacked the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. Dorsey’s assailed the company’s vision for a new, crypto-powered internet, which it calls Web3. He’s criticized its mission statement (“we invest in software eating the world”), called out its partners, and got himself blocked by its co-founder, Marc Andreessen.
Dorsey’s barrage may seem out of character — “🤔🤔🤔🍿🍿🍿” texted one former Twitter employee as he watched the soft-spoken entrepreneur fire away — but those close to him say we ought to get used to it. “Jack was always a slightly restrained volcano,” said one person who knows him well. But in his capacity as Twitter CEO, “he held back.”
Free from the yoke of Twitter, Dorsey is now unrestrained, and he’s dedicating himself to advancing a vision for crypto — and Bitcoin in particular — that decentralizes power and distributes gains to people, not corporations. “We can’t just see this as an asset we own,” Dorsey said last year. “This is something that has the potential to change everything and make the lives of everyone better.”
To Dorsey, Andreessen Horowitz and its $2.2 billion crypto fund epitomize much of what’s wrong in the crypto movement. By funding companies that enable a new internet built on the blockchain — aka Web3 — Andreessen Horowitz is positioning itself to profit mightily from a system that (if it works) is meant to distribute gains to the users. Funding these companies can also entitle VC firms to tokens they can use to steer governance and take outsized returns, which doesn’t help matters. “You don’t own ‘web3,’“ Dorsey tweeted. “The VCs and their LPs do. It will never escape their incentives. It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label.”
The principle of the fight is one thing, but its intensity is rooted in Dorsey’s November 2019 trip to Africa. On the trip, Dorsey saw Bitcoin’s potential to help people circumvent a failing global financial system and became a true believer. Dorsey frequently mentions problems he saw while abroad, including 10-30% transfer fees for sending money between countries, as the kind he’d like to solve.
“A lot of his views were changed when he went on that trip,” said the person who knows Dorsey. “You have countries with a banking system that just never functioned effectively, so you'd have communities that are adopting Bitcoin as a way for them to build their own financial system outside of the ones centrally controlled by the country.”
Dorsey’s experience in Africa made him a crypto purist of sorts. He’s held firmly onto Bitcoin’s promise since, and the cause has become his life’s driving force. “It's only really rivaled by his beliefs about the detrimental effects of Facebook in business and as a cultural force,” said someone who’s worked closely with Dorsey. “Bitcoin is the most important thing in his life.”
There is some irony in Dorsey’s strong stance against VC firms. He did make a fortune co-creating a social media company that centralized decision-making, though he did try to decentralize it before leaving. He also founded and runs a financial technology company that makes millions from Bitcoin. Bitcoin has also delivered extraordinary wealth to its early adopters. Dorsey did not respond to a DM asking for comment.
For Andreessen Horowitz, the battle with Dorsey doesn’t seem like one the firm wants to let die. After blocking him, Marc Andreessen tweeted a meme portraying Dorsey as a crying woman while a small cat at a dinner table notes that Dorsey invented the block button. Andreessen also started tweeting vigorously from his Twitter account, which he’s largely kept mute in recent years, almost entirely about his joy of blocking people.
For a company obsessed with message discipline, the spat is an odd look for Andreessen Horowitz. But the VC firm has billions of client dollars at stake, the potential to rake in a wealth of governance tokens, and, like Dorsey, doctrinal beliefs about the best way to build on the blockchain. So seeing it go to the mat for its views and money is not entirely surprising.
Ultimately, given how crypto ties belief systems, product dedication, and financial investment together, disputes about it will inevitably get more heated than in other ages of the internet. Dorsey taking on Andreessen Horowitz is just the highest-profile dust-up we’ve seen to date. The meme wars among tech’s most respected names won’t stop here.
Meet Big Technology’s Headline Sponsor: Mediaocean
If you missed the #MediaoceanRetreat that was held virtually during CES, you can register to watch the recording on-demand when it's available next week. Sessions from the 2-day program include speakers from Big Tech platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, Big Brands like Cadillac, P&G, and Pepsi, Big Agencies like Dentsu, Omnicom, Publicis, and WPP, Big Networks like CBS, NBCU, and Univision, and Big Personalities like Bill Wise, Joanna O'Connell, Rishad Tobaccowala, Sir Martin Sorrell, and Yours Truly. Go to www.Mediaocean.com/Retreat and fill out the form to receive links to all the content when it's posted.
First look: Apple smart glasses may revolutionize augmented reality as soon as 2025 (Apple Insider)
The folks at Apple Insider made renderings of what they believe Apple’s augmented reality glasses will look like based on what they’ve heard. This year, Apple may release some form of mixed reality device — with virtual and minimal augmented reality — but the AR glasses portrayed in the renderings are the ‘next-level’ product Apple’s been working toward. The images, however, are underwhelming. Apple glasses seem like a fancier Google Glass — in function and appearance — and you can’t design your way out of that product’s creepiness.
New Instagram test brings back the chronological feed (The Verge)
Instagram is planning to re-release a reverse-chronological feed option sometime “soon.” Few people are likely to opt-in for an unranked feed. That said, it seems we’ll likely see more changes of this nature in Facebook and other social media companies. Letting users choose their experience is something social media are speaking about much more often. This could be the beginning of much more ambitious changes to come.
Together with The Day One Fellowship
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or an early-stage founder, you can’t afford to not take this peer group seriously.
The Day One Fellowship is a shortcut to a network of collaborative, entrepreneurial people united for skill-building, insider knowledge, resources, and partnerships normally reserved for venture-backed founders. Today, it’s a community where hundreds of ambitious people are learning, building, and exploring what’s next together.
Applications for the first cohort of 2022 close January 23rd.
In order to get priority in the selection process and $200 for your program, list Big Technology in your application.
What Else I’m Reading
Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty. The jurors spoke out. Apple hit $3 trillion. TikTok is testing a repost button. Brian Morrissey discusses Web3 and its discontents. Mike Isaac is writing another Facebook book. Wired has a new strategy. A defense of in-person conferences. Sabbaticals are on the rise in the age of burnout and great resignations. A warning from the Fed’s doomsday prophet.
Some Other Stuff
I did some other writing and speaking outside of Big Technology this week. I wrote about Apple’s prospects in 2022, and appeared on CNBC to discuss. I also wrote about JetBlue and American Airlines’ unholy alliance, which I find objectionable.
Quote Of The Week
“There is an enormous difference between trying to build something that never works, or even building something that was probably never going to work - and claiming it IS working, faking results, faking endorsements, and faking contracts.”
- Benedict Evans on why Elizabeth Holmes did not embody ‘Silicon Valley ethos’
Check Out Techmeme's Daily Newsletter (cross-promo)
For over 16 years, technology leaders have depended on Techmeme for an up-to-the-minute executive summary of trending news and commentary relevant to the industry, compiled from both news sites and social media. And they now publish a daily newsletter of all the best stories from the past day, formatted for your inbox. High utility, no clickbait, no annoying ads, and always free.
Advertise with Big Technology?
Big Technology has new ad openings in February and March. To reach this group of 12,000+ plugged-in tech insiders, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Web3 And The Future Of The Internet — With Box CEO Aaron Levie
Aaron Levie is the CEO of Box, a $3.95 billion publicly-traded tech company. He joins Big Technology Podcast to discuss the rise of Web3 — a crypto-based vision for the internet — and where it can go wrong. Levie raises several important questions about where the Web3 theory and promise might slam into obstacles in the real world. Listen and you'll get a more nuanced view of Web3, something that goes beyond "This is the future" or "This will never work."
You can listen on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Thanks again for reading. Sharing Big Technology with friends and colleagues is the primary way the newsletter grows, so please drop it into Slack, forward to a friend, or share it on social media if you find it useful!
Questions? Email me by responding to this email, or by writing email@example.com
News tips? Find me on Signal at 516-695-8680
See you next Thursday!