Ben Horowitz on Github’s mistakes and startup company culture

Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz offered insight into the awkward transition of “baby” to “teenager” life stages of startups at Airbnb’s OpenAir conference in San Francisco on Thursday — including the recent sexism drama with Github. Horowitz didn’t review the details of what happened Github, which is funded by Andreessen Horowitz, but said that the problems were the result of unregulated company culture.

“The more diversity of people you have, the bigger the company gets, the less people know each other, you have to protect people against each other,” Horowitz said.

Horowitz said that Github didn’t expect the blowback from the press to be so strong, and that it was a sign that Github had moved out of the young startup phase and into the awkward growing phase, when companies are likely to be put under the microscope. He mentioned the similar situation Airbnb was in when a host’s home was ransacked back in 2011.

“You’ve got to be careful of making assumptions that the outside world sees you as a baby,” Horowitz said.

When asked about ideal company culture, Horowitz said that it is up to employees on the ground floor to preserve the company culture — Amazon, he felt, remains an ideal mix of culture and growth. But in preserving culture, Horowitz added that it’s important to recognize when manager positions need to exist to keep employees focused on the company.

“You’re running an organization where people are there to work. It’s great to have social stuff, but the social stuff can’t overwhelm the work or make somebody uncomfortable.”