Ranging in age from 7 to 70+, 250 attendees convened for an evening event sponsored by venture capital powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz. Silicon Valley titan Ken Coleman and Essence magazine founder, Ed Lewis, held a fireside chat where attendees gleaned life lessons from the two living legends.
Ben Horowitz, co-founder and partner of the Menlo Park, California-based VC firm, was hired as an intern at Silicon Graphics by Ken Coleman at the start of his career. Horowitz paid homage to his mentor as “the ultimate boss” and launched the chat with genial warmth and frequent grins.
“I am super excited! We always like to bring great entrepreneurs here who have great stories. When you think about it, here we say one out of ten of the guys who get funded by really good people are going to make money; one out of a thousand of those will actually change the world,” said Horowitz.
“And then, maybe one out of the thousand that change the world will last 47 years and as be as important today with over 550, 000 people going to the Essence festival, which is the biggest festival in the U.S. and probably the biggest in the world. That’s how special a guest we have,” Horowitz said.
Lewis as Last Man Standing
Dapper and business casual in a blazer, white jeans and black sneakers, Ed Lewis recounted highlights from his childhood in the Bronx and summers spent on his grandmother’s Virginia farm. “Work ethic was part of my DNA,” Lewis explained to Coleman and the rapt audience, as he shared gems chronicled in The Man from Essence—Lewis’ book written with former Essence Executive Editor Audrey Edwards.
Lewis didn’t shy away from describing the rocky road of partnerships that dissolved as Essence evolved. Citing the title of one chapter in the book, he referred to himself as the “last man standing,” since he was the sole original partner remaining when Essence was sold to Time Warner in 2005.
Launched in May of 1970 with Lewis and co-founders Clarence Smith, Jonathan Blount, and Cecil Hollingsworth, Essence magazine’s celebration of black women is often credited with not only changing black women’s self-perception, but the world’s perception of America’s African American queens.
Lewis opined, “I humbly believe that Essence helped create the atmosphere of changing the perception of how black women are perceived in society.” Learning that the original name considered for the magazine was the provocative “Sapphire” was just one of the many nuggets he shared. According to Lewis, all previous partners declined to be interviewed for the book.