- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

Marc Andreessen spent most of his 20s reveling in the Internet mania he helped set off a decade ago with a Web browser called Mosaic. He is preparing to devote his 30s to something more mundane: sifting through the high-tech wasteland created by the ensuing investment meltdown.
"We helped create the problem by introducing the technology, and we're hoping to help clean it up now," says Mr. Andreessen, 31.
His current venture, a sputtering software firm called Opsware, is designed to automate the management of all the technology required to run Web sites.
A tedious task, it is, compared with the technologist's exhilarating journey after the April 1993 release of Mosaic, which he and other engineers invented at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications.
Among other innovations, Mosaic enabled the display of text and images on the same Web page for the first time. It also enabled the retrieval of online documents by clicking on a link instead of typing a series of numbers.
Mosaic's breakthrough made it easier and more appealing to navigate the World Wide Web then an Internet backwater and laid the groundwork for Netscape Communications, which Mr. Andreessen co-founded in mid-1994.
It all came as a surprise to Mr. Andreessen.
"The Internet was viewed as a toy, an academic playground, something that would never, ever be real," Mr. Andreessen says. "It was hard to imagine that it would become mainstream."
As it turned out, Mosaic, then Netscape, became cyberspace's Big Bang, triggering an online revolution that altered corporate America's landscape. Huge fortunes were made and lost on Netscape and all the Internet companies its browser spawned.
The browser also created new demands on businesses expected to provide around-the-clock access to customers and suppliers.
The whirlwind experience transformed Mr. Andreessen from a geek who stayed up all night writing code to an entrepreneur with the clout and connections to start his own business.
"Marc was smart to stop spending all this time writing code and become a businessman," says Aleks Totic, who worked with him on Mosaic. "You can have more influence in this world as a businessman than you can coding software."
Mr. Andreessen still is trying to prove he is more than a one-hit wonder.
"I think he is relishing the challenge," says Mike McCue, a former Netscape executive. "Netscape happened so quickly and occurred amid so much craziness that Marc wants to prove that he can build a business from scratch, the old-fashioned way."
He appears to have his work cut out for him.
Opsware, originally known as Loudcloud when created in 1999, had accumulated nearly $500 million in losses in three years before the company shifted gears in August by selling a big chunk of its business to EDS for $63.5 million.
Despite the EDS deal, Opsware remains unprofitable. The Sunnyvale-based company suffered a $5.3 million loss in its most recent quarter ended Jan. 31.
Netscape, by contrast, was making money within two years.
Mr. Andreessen is counting on a three-year, $52 million licensing agreement with EDS to make Opsware profitable. To conserve cash, Opsware has trimmed payroll to about 100 workers, down from 628 two years ago.
With its troubled history, Opsware was not mesmerizing investors the way Netscape had. The company went public at $6 per share in February 2001. It now is trading at about $2 per share.
Nevertheless, Opsware remains one of Mr. Andreessen's better investments in recent years. He says he paid an average of $1.56 per share for his Opsware stake a $16.4 million investment worth about $21 million now.
His other investments are tied to venture capital funds that have suffered heavy losses, and the setbacks have diminished Mr. Andreessen's estimated wealth from $500 million two years ago to $218 million today.
Mr. Andreessen is still rich enough to leave behind the Silicon Valley grind and join other former Netscape employees in taking it easy after cashing in on that company's $10 billion sale to America Online in March 1999.
He left AOL six months after the Netscape takeover.
Skeptics don't faze him.
To succeed, Mr. Andreessen reasons, entrepreneurs must focus on "something not taken seriously, something that people would never think of if they were thinking normally."
Opsware's early adversity probably will help Mr. Andreessen make better decisions in the years ahead, predicts Jon Mittelhauser, who worked with him on Mosaic and Netscape.
"The failures that Marc has had recently are going to be just as important as his success," Mr. Mittelhauser says.
"If nothing else, the failures help frame the reasons that Netscape succeeded."
Mr. Andreessen doesn't sound disheartened.
Even in dreary times like this, he can still envision a day, perhaps in 10 years, when Opsware will be even bigger than Netscape. He credits his Protestant upbringing in Wisconsin's farm country for helping him keep things in perspective.
In farming, "every conceivable thing that could go wrong has gone wrong," Mr. Andreessen says. Farmers "have dealt with locusts, they have dealt with plague, they have dealt with floods. But people in the Midwest are still farming.
"I learned that you don't quit, you just stay at it. The good news in high tech is that things eventually turn around. It's not clear that will ever happen in farming."

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