Andreessen Horowitz is one of the world’s best-known VC firms. Founded by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz in 2009, it has invested in companies including Skype, Twitter, Facebook and Airbnb. It’s been enormously successful, and is counted among one of tech’s top investors. But it’s not immediately apparent why Andreesen Horowitz is called a16z — its website is www.a16z.com, and its Twitter handle is a16z. The reason, though, has its origins in the company’s tech roots.
Why is Andreessen Horowitz called a16z?
A16z is called a16z because there are 16 letters in its full name, Andreessen Horowitz, between the A of Andreessen and the final Z in Horowitz. As such, the name a16z is shorthand for saying Andreessen Horowitz, which can be a bit of a mouthful. The A is the A in Andreessen; the z is the final z in Horowitz, and the 16 is the 16 letters between them, namely n, d, r, e, e, s, s, e, n, H, o, r, o, w, i and t.
This might feel like an unusual naming convention, but there is precedent for naming long words in this manner in computer science. Internationalization, for instance, is called I18N by computer scientists, with the I standing for the first I in the word, 18 for the middle 18 letters, and N for the last letter of Internationalization. Localization is similarly called L10N, with 10 being the number of letters between the first letter L and the last letter N.
The choice of a16z is a bit of a hat-tip at the computer science convention. It’s an appropriate enough name for the company: Marc Andreessen is one of the best-known names in tech and a Silicon Valley legend, and Ben Horowitz had founded Opsware which was acquired by HP. Andreessen Horowitz, for its part, also invests chiefly in tech companies. And with a name that uses an obscure (but useful) naming computer convention, Andreessen Horowitz signals its computer science roots, both to prospective LPs and the startups it invests in.