Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Meet Andreessen Horowitz’s Newest Partner: Mark Cranney

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has named Mark Cranney–a veteran tech executive with more than 20 years of experience in senior positions at Hewlett-Packard, Opsware and Parametric Technology–as its newest partner today. He’s been entrepreneur-in-residence at the firm for about seven months.

His role will be a little different from that of most other VC partners. As AH’s partner for “market development,” rather than evaluate new deals he’ll spend his time on developing the sales and go-to-market strategies of companies that the firm has already invested in.

AH co-founder Ben Horowitz said it’s all part of the firm’s preference for founders becoming CEOs. “The thing that’s most difficult, especially for a technical founder, the most difficult thing to learn is sales. It’s the most difficult thing to learn operationally,” Horowitz told me. “If you don’t have experience with sales, it can cause you to fail as a founding CEO.”

It turns out that Cranney knows a thing or two about sales, and his history with Horowitz and AH’s other co-founder Marc Andreessen runs deep. Cranney spent four years as vice president of worldwide field operations at Opsware, which Andreessen and Horowitz sold to HP in 2007 for $1.65 billion. During that time Cranney’s team grew from 10 to 350 and sales grew from $18 million to $150 million. Horowitz wrote last year about how he came to hire Cranney at Opsware and how he possesses what Horowitz calls “the right kind of ambition.”

Cranney said that sometimes new companies get so focused on selling their new product or service that they forget to consider the larger backdrop of what’s going on inside a potential customer’s operations. “You want to help them avoid looking like a hammer in search of a nail,” Cranney told me. “There’s a systematic way of helping companies identify what’s going on in particular industries and companies and how they can tie what they do to projects already underway.” He’s also building out a network of contacts at large companies–including the Walt Disney Company, FedEx and JPMorgan Chase–that could become potential customers of the companies in the AH portfolio.

He’ll be focused on helping companies in the AH portfolio build their sales talent, and help them grapple with tricky issues like moving from “freemium” to premium business models, working with partners, identifying customers and responding to competitors.

One company he’s already worked with is Apptio, which helps companies manage their IT costs. It’s also notable for being the first investment that AH made. “They’ve had explosive growth in the last year and have been staffing up their sales teams,” Cranney said. “They had been a little concerned that these teams weren’t ramping up fast enough,” he said. Cranney helped Apptio develop a sales training program.

Besides Opsware, Cranney’s prior jobs include time at Aster Data, where he was executive VP of worldwide field operations, and a position as vice president for the Americas at Hewlett-Packard’s software and solutions business. He was also a vice president at Parametric Technology.

It’s another sign of growth at Andreessen Horowitz, which debuted in 2009 with a $300 million fund, then raised a bigger one of $650 million in November. It has recently taken positions at Groupon and Facebook on the consumer side. Its enterprise investments besides Apptio have included stakes in Okta and Fusion-io.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus