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Netscape's Andreessen Delivers Talk for $50K

By May K. Tse
Associate News Editor

"At the time, the Internet was still considered a toy," said Marc Andreessen, Netscape's 24-year-old co-founder, about the time he was at college and Netscape was just a thought.

Andreessen, along with Jim Clarke, are responsible for founding Netscape, the company that has created the most world's most popular World Wide Web browser. Andreessen spoke about his experiences before a packed audience Thursday in 26-100.

His informal speech, sponsored by the $50K competition's organizing team, centered around the creation and development of the company.

Find a parade and jump in front'

Andreessen talked about how he started out as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and how Clark first contacted him.

"When Jim Clark contacted me, we still didn't know exactly what we were going to do," Andreessen said.

At the time, the Internet was not thought of seriously as an important communications medium.

However, "if you want to be a leader, find a parade and jump in front of it," Andreessen said. "Everyone's on the verge of the same idea at the same time, and that's when someone should start a company."

Andreessen and Clark ended up developing Mosaic, a Web browser that served as the precursor to the current Netscape Navigator model.

Andreessen then talked about the business side of starting the company, finding good management teams, and coming up with enough capital in order to launch an idea into a successful business.

That is the stage when the company can be made or broken, Andreessen said.

Next, the company needs to find a person who has the "experience, right attitude, and inclination to work with the company" to be the president and CEO, Andreessen said. Netscape chose James Barkdale, the company's current head, with those criteria in mind.

Competition for a Netscape, like Microsoft's version of the Web browser Internet Explorer, is generally good for the company, Andreessen said.

"Competition gives you a sense of urgency. You can direct your company against it. It scares everyone in the company," Andreessen said. As a result, people will be more efficient in getting a product out the door.

"After all, Netscape grew from around six people to about 1,500 now," he said.

Student positive about talk

Most students enjoyed Andreessen's talk.

Andreessen was a good speaker for the topic of starting a company, said Eve M. Phillips '98, a member of the $50K organizing team. "He took an idea and made a lot of money out of it, and that's what a lot of people out there want to do."

"Iwent because I wanted to hear how a big business like [Netscape] comes about and develops over the years and how the founders have the intuition to do things like that,"said Madhusudan Sarda '00.

Most agreed that Andreessen was a good choice for a speaker for the $50K competition. "Ithink a lot of people at MIT can relate to him more than just any CEO because he was an engineer and a computer scientist, and that's where they're coming from,"Phillips said.

Andreessen's "presence and what he has done have been inspiring for a lot of people out there," she said.