Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Andreessen Tweets

My brother pointed me to this article on a great exchange of tweets about the origins of Netscape. 

The two highlights, for me at least.  First, Andreessen expressed a philosophy that I believe in, but I don't think most university IP departments do:  in computer tech, the best strategy is for the university to let professors/students/other employees run with their entrpreneurial plans rather than attempt to maximize the university's short-term or nominal value extracted.  He tweeted about how the University of Illinois lost out on the browser/Netscape process, and tweets:

History of Stanford suggests best approach extreme laissez faire-optimize for long-term philanthropy vs short-term gain.
Many billions of dollars of gifts from grateful alumni far outweigh commercial licensing or patent arrangements in long run. 
I agree with the sentiment.  An issue is that this approach may not be best for some situations -- drug development at universities, perhaps (I don't know how that works, but I've heard it's "different" from an IP standpoint) -- although maybe even there a more hands-off approach from overzealous university lawyers would be best in the long run.  (Maybe I'm too optimistic -- after all, I suggested Harvard should be tuition-free and could still come out ahead.)

The other more amusing highlight is Andreessen notes that the Mosiac project applied for more NSF funding and was rejected, which pushed them to start a company.  Which, he suggests, was probably the right decision for the NSF.  Looking at the outcomes, there's a good argument.  Something for me to keep in mind the next time a rejection comes -- even Marc Andreessen had proposals rejected by the NSF, and he ended up doing OK. 

1 comment:

Harry Lewis said...

My worry about this whole line of financial reasoning is that it will distort the value system for academic appointments: the more money generated, directly through grants or indirectly through licenses or gifts, the better. Too much bean counting and appointment and promotion votes start getting biased by the number of zeroes in the dossiers.