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Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz on critics of big tech: ‘This whole vilify the CEO thing is just stupid’

Max Zahn

In recent days, billionaires like JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon and hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman have rebuffed their critics for a perceived effort to villainize them. In a newly released interview, venture capitalist Ben Horowitz says the chief executives at large tech companies like Facebook and Twitter don’t deserve that treatment either.

“This whole vilify the CEO thing is just stupid,” says Horowitz, who co-founded venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which has invested in Twitter (TWTR), Facebook (FB), and Lyft (LYFT), among other tech companies. 

Critics who fixate on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg or Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are missing the point, Horowitz told Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in an interview taped on Nov. 5.

“The idea that we're going to do something to Zuckerberg or do something to Dorsey, and it's going to stop social media — like, really?” says Horowitz, who last month released “What You Do Is Who You Are,” a book on how to build an effective company culture.

“You think we're going to turn back the clock? Like, oh, we'll just stop television. We'll just stop social media. We'll break it up,” he adds.

In recent months, conflict between progressive lawmakers and Zuckerberg has escalated.

Last month, Zuckerberg appeared for hours before members of the U.S. House, who criticized Facebook’s handling of political advertisements, its proposed cryptocurrency Libra, and a host of other issues. “Libra is Facebook, and Facebook is you,” Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley told Zuckerberg. “You’ve proven we cannot trust you with our emails, with our phone numbers, so why should we trust you with our hard-earned money?”

Earlier that month, the Verge published leaked audio of Zuckerberg predicting that the potential election of Democratic Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren would result in an unwanted legal battle, since Warren wants to break up large tech companies.

"If she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge," Zuckerberg says in the audio, recorded in July. “And does that still suck for us? Yeah.”

Responding on Twitter, Warren said, “What would really ‘suck’ is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anticompetitive practices.” 

Horowitz made the comments during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

He co-founded the buzzy venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which manages $10 billion in assets. Before that, he co-launched a data storage company called Loudcloud, later renamed Opsware, which sold to Hewlett-Packard (HPE) for $1.6 billion.

In 2014, he released “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers,” a best-selling book on how to run a startup.

Ben Horowitz, author and cofounder of venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, appears on Influences with Andy Serwer.

While Horowitz dismissed such criticism of chief executives, he acknowledged that problems with the major social media platforms “need to be addressed.” 

“We ought to be able to get to a better world,” he says. “And there is definitely no turning back the clock.”

Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Find him on twitter @MaxZahn_.

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