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Tesla's cars are either the next iPhone — or a 90's Mac, VC Marc Andreessen says

  • Tesla's detail-oriented style is similar to Apple's, according to famous technology investor Marc Andreessen.
  • But it's an open question whether Tesla is at the beginning of a huge growth cycle, or if competitors will crush them with more efficient approaches to the market.
Elon Musk speaks at SolarCity's Inside Energy Summit in New York.
Rashid Umar Abbasi | Reuters
Elon Musk speaks at SolarCity's Inside Energy Summit in New York.

Tesla's detail-oriented style is similar to Apple's, according to famous technology investor Marc Andreessen.

But the company is at a tipping point, the Andreessen Horowitz venture capitalist told Bloomberg View columnist Barry Ritholtz.

"If you squint at Tesla one way, it looks like Apple circa 2007, 2008 — where they've released the iPhone, they just haven't sold many yet. But they're going to sell a ton," Andreessen said.

"Another way of looking at Tesla is they're Apple in 1992 with the MacIntosh. Yes, their integrated hardware-software is good, but other people are going to come up with software as well .... And I think that's the big question on Tesla — which way does it tip?"

The two scenarios outlined by Andreessen illustrate two drastically different trajectories for Tesla's electric car business, led by boss Elon Musk.

The iPhone catapulted Apple to the world's most valuable public company — shares have risen about 849 percent in the past decade to a split-adjusted price of about $153, according to FactSet. Compare that to the decade from 1987 to 1997, when Apple's shares fell more than 53 percent to less than $1.

So far, Tesla's seen a meteoric rise, with shares climbing nearly 2,192 percent since hitting the public market. Still, even Musk himself has handicapped those gains, stating in a recent interview that "this market cap is higher than we have any right to deserve."

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Andreessen's remarks.

Andreessen, whose firm invests in self-driving car companies like Comma.ai and DeepMap, said that he thinks Tesla has a lead at the moment when it comes to autonomous vehicles. But, Andreessen noted, there are dozens, soon to be hundreds, of competitors cropping up in Silicon Valley, not to mention existing car makers, who are increasingly turning to Andreessen firm and other Silicon Valley luminaries for advice.

Nonetheless, Andreessen said he had few criticisms of Musk, who is also known as a co-founder of PayPal and credited as one of the brains behind businesses like SpaceX, HyperLoop and SolarCity.

"Elon is deservedly a legend," Andreessen said.

The full podcast — which includes tips on pitching Andreessen — is at Bloomberg.com.

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