SAN FRANCISCO -- Marc Andreessen on Tuesday lumped in Warren Buffett with other "old white men crapping on new technology they don't understand."
Yes, that was the headline gift from Andreessen, who was speaking during a Bitcoin conference in San Francisco. But Andreessen, whose venture capital company, Andreessen Horowitz, intends to invest hundreds of millions more dollars in Bitcoin-related businesses -- that's in addition to its existing $50 million in Bitcoin-related startups -- was there to press the point that he often makes on Twitter and in myriad public appearances: Bitcoin is to the early 2000s what the Internet was to the late 1990s.
"We consider ourselves mainstream investors," Andreessen said, adding that his firm invests only in companies that "want to be on the straight and narrow."
Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire-Hathaway, famously dismissed Bitcoin in a recent television interview, where he called it "a mirage."
That proved too much of a softball for Andreessen and his fellow Andreessen Horowitz general partner Balaji Srinivasan, who quipped "Bitcoin has outperformed Berkshire Hathaway by a lot."
The two venture capitalists, who led off the first day of the Coinsummit, were here as the stage-setters, and they lived up to expectations, describing a nascent landscape -- Andreessen termed it "a whole ecosystem" -- with hundreds of high-quality technologists working on various ways to bring Bitcoin into the mainstream. "It runs the full gamut of what you can imagine," he said.
They didn't need to sell hard to this audience. But even with the recent uptick in interest surrounding Bitcoin, there was also a concern that the lukewarm response of many banks and regulators poses a significant obstacle to more mainstream adoption.
"We need more banks," said Micky Malka, of Bibbit Capital. "Overall, we're superearly" in the process of adoption.
"The lack of banks willing to take merchant accounts for Bitcoin companies is a real inhibitor for the ecosystem," added Jeremy Liew, a venture capitalist with Lightspeed Venture Partners. "I think it's something that we can't assume someone is going to take care of for us." He added that "you can't force a bank to work with you by pure force of logic...it takes time. It is relationships."
The roughly 500 people who clogged the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts were here to exchange ideas and learn from myriad Bitcoin-related company speakers sharing their stories.
But it was left to Andreessen -- hard to believe that he's now an industry gray hair (figuratively, as he's a fellow cue-ball) -- to offer the historical comparison.
The co-inventor of the Mosaic Web browser noted that in the 1989 to 1994 era, the Internet industry was made up largely of fringe, sometimes "really odd" types. "It arrived as a fringe technology with fringe politics and arrived with fringe characters...who had these sort of crazy ideas...but it worked. And there was this process of maturation where it worked."