In brief: Most venture funds are closed-end funds, with a certain amount committed up front from LP's, where each dollar can only be invested once. The fund stops making investments after 5-7 years, then closes down entirely after 10 years. After 10 years, the managing partners stop collecting their 2% management fee, and any additional returns aren't typically included in the performance of the fund.
As such, there's a huge incentive for fund managers to invest early, and find an exit within the time horizon of their fund. A VC who pumped a ton of money into an early stage Uber in 2014 in year 6 of their fund, is going to be pretty screwed if Uber decides not to go public for another 5 years from now.
Where this could go sour is that these same fund managers are spending years 9-10 passing the hat to raise money for their next fund. If the typical pool of investors still have a lot of money tied up in previous funds, then they're going to be less likely to ante up for the next fund, since they'd have to double down on VC as a proportion of their portfolio. It's also going to be a tough road show if your story is that you invested millions of dollars in your last fund and it's all still tied up ...
After about 18-24 months they raise the next fund.
With the GP I work with there's almost no overhead, just two GPs and the annual accounting. The annual accounting and tax filings can cause additional capital calls (small amounts, US$1500-2000).
As an LP (and a tiny one at that), one of the problems I'm seeing is that companies are raising ever larger up rounds at ever increasing valuations, giving away massive preferences to the later investors. This boxes the companies into seeking either grandiose exits justifying the valuations, or they wipe out the early investors (and employees) because of the preferences overhang with the finial investors (typically institutional money).
It's been an eye opening experience, I've learned a lot. Unsure how much more money I'll commit to investing this way though.
The funds I'm in don't take board seats, though they do offer access to its network of investors and contacts to the companies it invests in. Different funds are run different ways. The GPs of the funds I'm in do not do this as their primary job, other funds have principals (GPs or other forms of partners) who draw their income from the funds in one way or another.
Other considerations: the funds have a limited lifespan (I believe each of the three I'm in are 10 year limited partnerships with an option to extend by simple majority vote of LPs). Because they're limited partnerships, the returns get reported as income to the IRS, and I'd owe taxes on them, even if they were not distributed, which is another reason not to re-invest returns (if the returns were re–invested, you could potentially pay taxes on income which then gets "lost" when re–invested in a startup which fails).
I commented elsewhere in this thread that so far across three funds we're seeing the 33% fail, 33% break even (modest returns) and 33% either have returned the fund or have potential to do so, which is a pattern I've seen repeated by many venture funds over the years I've been following or investing in them.
What may be painful is not being able to at least return capital by the end of the fund without a WONDERFUL story about coming liquidity.
Current industry average 10 year IRR is 10% according to Cambridge Associates. You've really fucked things up badly if you can't return capital in year 9/10 on a 10% IRR.
Assuming money is put into the fund in year 0, a return of 2.35x capital in year 9 or 2.6x capital in year 10 is required to get a 10% IRR.
Or even better, is that comparative performance, i.e. 10% better than a vanguard index fund?
Depends on what you promised those investors and how the fund is doing. Nobody complains about being in SpaceX or Uber.