Larry Summers continues his post-Washington buckraking: As Harry Lewis first posted below, the former Harvard president has joined the technology venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
He tells the New York Times:
“It seemed like an ideal connection,” Mr. Summers said in an interview with DealBook on Wednesday. “I expect to be more involved in Silicon Valley, I also have many friends at Stanford, so I look forward to learning about technology and hopefully being able to contribute.”
“Anyone who cares about the performance of market economies has to be deeply interested in the innovations of information technology,” he added.
That is a nice touch there at the end—the suggestion that it would be derelict of him not to “be deeply interested”—i.e., make a lot of money off—information technology.
Anyone know who his friends at Stanford are?
As Richard Thomas noted below, Sheryl Sandberg, a ubiquitous presence in Summers’ life, apparently arranged the introduction to Netscape founder Andreessen.
When Mr. Summers expressed his interest in technology to Ms. Sandberg earlier this year, it was Ms. Sandberg who arranged the meeting with her friend, Mr. Andreessen.
That is an inadvertently amusing line—”when Mr. Summers expressed his interest in technology to Ms. Sandberg.” The two have known each other for 20 years. It just came up now?
A more accurate description would be that Sandberg and Summers have been scratching each other’s backs for many years now—since at least the time when Sandberg worked at Google, and she and Summers had a private meeting in which they committed Harvard, without a single discussion with any other member of the Harvard community, to the Google Books Project.
Perhaps responding to the suggestion on this blog that he is cashing in on his government service, Summers also tells the Times,
“I don’t want to be a Rolodex man or a door opener,” he said. “I am interested in making contributions as a thinker.”
This may actually be true; I can’t see Summers comfortably playing the role of business glad-hander the way that, say, Bob Rubin might. But it is, in my opinion, simultaneously naive/arrogant/wishful thinking on his part to think that his door-opening facility isn’t the primary reason for his being paid whatever huge amount of money Andreessen is paying him. Tons of people think a lot about the Web on a pretty high level. They’re not being snapped up by VC firms because of a mutual friend’s introduction.
I keep coming back to the Stanford remark: Is Summers paving the way for a move to the West Coast? On the one hand, it seems unlikely. He has a pretty good gig at Harvard—probably a half-million dollar salary for no mandatory work, and clearly he’s going to be spending less and less time on campus—and his wife has tenure there.
On the other hand, he does like to play tennis, and he’s taking up golf—two things which are nicer to do in Palo Alto than in Cambridge—and in some ways Stanford seems a better cultural and psychological fit for Summers than Harvard.
Is a dual job offer even now being prepared within John Hennessy’s office?
I’m not sure any current president would really love to have Larry Summers floating around his campus, but…you never know.