It would be better to quote some actual data on VC
returns, So, recently we have seen:
(1) As in Fred Wilson's post of
Feb 21, 2013
Venture Capital Returns
(2) As in remarks on venture capital at the Web site
of Peter Theil's The Founders Fund, at
'What Happened to the Future?'
By Bruce Gibney
"Along the way, VC has ceased to be the funder of
the future, and instead has become a funder of
features, widgets, irrelevances. In large part, it
also ceased making money, as the bottom half of
venture produced flat to negative return for the
Wow! Negative return for a decade!
It would be good for the VCs to 'up their game'.
However, I would like to point out that VCs are very important. Without them there will be no SV as we know (I do see how VC landscape is getting disrupted by YCombinator, Start Fund and similar).
And - it is not nice to call people dumb if they are not dumb (at least I wish I'm dumb as the dumbest VC I met).
"The primary scandal erupted in the final weeks of 1989, when after failing to procure short-term financing, the company executives decided to embark upon a fraudulent course of action to bring in the financing unwittingly from their customers. As each unit sold was tracked via serial numbers and also sat uninspected for some weeks inside warehouses in Singapore awaiting use in production, the decision was made to ship pieces of masonry inside the boxes that would normally contain hard drives. After receiving payment, MiniScribe then planned to issue a recall of all the affected serial numbers and then ship actual hard drive units as replacements, using the money received to meet financial obligations in the short term.
However, MiniScribe embarked upon a round of layoffs just before their Christmas shutdown, including several of the employees that were involved in the packaging and shipping of the masonry. These people immediately called the Denver area newspapers...."
Do things ever get more efficient when more people get added to a system?
(1) Money invested provides returns because it's invested in some profit-generating process. Large corporations generate predictable but low returns. Small companies, if the right ones are picked, should be able to do better.
(2) Putting money in the smartest people (technologists) should be a no-brainer winning proposition.
(3) Venture capitalists don't just want to give people money. They want to manage, and they want to take what they see as "the fun work".
This leads to adverse selection. The best entrepreneurs limit VC involvement (they'll raise money, but on their terms) so VC gets stuck with the middle.
The golden rule is, he who has the gold makes
the rules. Well, the people with the gold
are the limited partners, heavily pension funds
and university endowments. At these limited
partner organizations, the people making the
decisions are in the tradition of banking and
finance MBAs. They are not particularly technical
So, they like to look at usual accounting
data and otherwise think much like bankers.
For them, venture capital is a small 'asset class'
for which the limited partners do not want
to make exceptions. So, the limited partners
have the venture partners on short leashes,
that is, constrained. For the
information technology venture partners
(biotech may be quite different), apparently
the main constraints
are, the venture partners will invest only
in the 'themes' they presented to the limited
partners and then only based on near surrogates
for accounting measures. The main surrogates
are the parts of 'traction' -- for a Series A,
usage, 'monetizable' in a large 'space',
significant and growing rapidly.
With this guessing about rules,
one issue is 'bubbles': Without some
constraints, the venture partners may be
able to blow bubbles. Then we could hear
again "Never be between a VC and the door
when the lockup period is over.". Likely
then the limited partners could be losers
when a bubble bursts. So the limited
partners want to hold down on bubbles.
(2) The limited partners like to see
venture partners of a certain kind.
So, if look at the Web sites of the
venture firms, apparently someone
up there doesn't like venture partners
to hold Ph.D. degrees, not even in
STEM fields. Instead, the 'vanilla'
background of a venture partner is
an Ivy League non-technical Bachelor's,
a Harvard or Stanford MBA, a few years
in management consulting, and some time
in a successful start up in a non-technical
slot, say, sales, marketing, or business
development. There is an assumption:
The 'technology' is just routine
My view is, with this setup, no wonder
on average venture capital is doing
poorly on return on investment. I
wouldn't know what the heck to do to
make money in that situation. It appears
that the smarter venture partners want
(A) to get a lot of publicity so that they
can see the best deals early on, (B) do
a lot of pressing of the flesh, especially
in Silicon Valley, Boston, and maybe NYC,
to hear about the best deals early on,
and then (C) get in the best deals. So, e.g., they
want to recognize and get in on the next
Facebook when it has 1 million users
and is growing at 10% a week or some such.
To me this approach throws out the baby
and drinks the bathwater. Uh, the big
advantage is the technology! We should
push the technology forward and exploit
the technology for more powerful, valuable
solutions. But the venture partners do not
want to have to try to evaluate technology
and, really, want to assume that all the
technology is just routine software. Or,
usage significant and growing rapidly in
a big space is terrific; if there is also
some really advanced technology, then
maybe that is not too bad!
I don't see it; I don't see any hope.
To me the key is to concentrate on
more and more powerful technology,
in a military aviation analogy, to
"push the envelope" on altitude,
speed, rate of climb, turning rate,
etc. So, in that famous one word
answer, what we want is "more".
My guess is that what we need to do
for a 'project'
is to pick a 'big' problem, that is,
one where the first good or a much
better solution will seen as a
'must have' by, say, 1+ billion people
(or a few people each willing to spend
a lot of money). Then use the most
powerful technology we can to get the
most valuable solution we can for this
big problem. But that's not what
venture partners want to do if only
because they want nothing to do
with trying to evaluate advanced
Yes, projects of the kind I believe
are needed arrive in the e-mail
in boxes of the venture partners
far too rarely. But, when they do
arrive, the venture partners do
not see another Facebook and ignore
the contact. The solution is (A)
more projects of the kind that are
needed and (B) venture partners
paying careful attention to such
To get more projects of the kind I
believe are needed will require
work all the way back in the
'high technology supply chain'.
How to do that? The US did that
in a big hurry once Sputnik went
up, on TV, in middle schools,
in high schools, in summer programs,
in colleges, in the best research
universities, with lots of grant money
in STEM fields, and, during the Cold
War and the Space Race, a product of
that supply chain in two weeks going
on seven interviews and getting five
offers, each for an annual salary
six times what a new, high end Camaro
cost. It can be done. At the very
least, venture capital will have to
reach out and encourage much more in
advanced technology. Then venture
capital will have to learn to
evaluate such projects.
In the meanwhile, venture capital
will look for new ways for teenage
girls to gossip and look for boys!
The '80s were very exciting, all sorts of hardware ventures got funding, and we're largely living on the fruits of that period ... including the FPGA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field-programmable_gate_array).
What besides, say, GPUs can anyone think of that's getting attention right now?
Low power high performance seems to be the focus of mainstream chip design right now. Display tech is finally getting awesome again (IZGO, IPS-on-reasonable-devices, etc.)
CCD/CMOS, very proper. I mean, cheap 30MP cameras?
Lots of great stuff in virtualization (sw and hw features), cloud, and SDN. Arista alone makes up for approximtely 2000-2008.
HSMs, smartcards, tamper resistance, etc. have kind of stagnated :(
The cloud, yes (and a classic disruptive innovation). SDN and virtualization, I'm not so sure. Or at least the latter was just applying old concepts (it's been a long time since IBM's main OS could boot on raw hardware) to a different platform. Radio I don't follow at that level. Low power/high performance eventually equals a qualitative difference which I gather we've reached, so yes, but I quibble that was semi-inevitable, driven by demand and specifically enabled by Moore's Law and the savvy of ARM Holdings et. al. Camera sensors even more of that, plus also enabled by low power infrastructure.
ADDED: no breakthroughs in batteries, but some incremental improvement?
SSDs are in part a classic disruptive technology, a repackaging of something new and at least originally not quite ready for prime time that's eating away at various disk drive niches, some lower end.
On the other hand they're at least a bit of a sustaining technology, just another mass storage technology (well, at least until people start using them as other than drop in replacements for disk drives and use them with their advantages and limitations). Funding them as a class of technology is not a hard decision for VCs, they're not as much a new thing as FPGAs, and there's e.g. Intel validating the concept.
Good for her. If he's 75 minutes late the very first meeting, that signals you're not a priority and could suffer in the future when you most need it.
I don't care how "big" you are....if you want people to respect you, respect their time.
The whole article reeks of sense of entitlement: I guess it's easier for the article author to feel a lot smarter than an industry when he's already persuaded it to part with >$70million to try to get his company to profitability, but he'd be in a stronger position to lecture the dumb VCs if and when he actually produces the return that proves his superb judgement negated the need for their suggestions and everybody that hesitated to offer terms should have called him earlier.
Of course, this information could just be omitted from the article.
Totally agree. Common courtesy would dictate that he should take 1 minute to pick up the phone and say "Hey, my wife is in labor...gotta reschedule".
Calling someone dumb is unprofessional only if the person is not. Otherwise is just impolite. And if we wasted time negotiating with the VC fund he has some opportunity costs.
Maybe the 'dumb vc' thinks you have what it takes to be successful as a person with the right product and that's why he/she wants to talk to you without knowing the product. If he/she reads this article you probably lost a fan.
Maybe he/she honestly just wanted to give good advice, if you think the advice sucks then you are the stupid one to meet 6 times with the VC..
If I say, "<Venture Capitalist X> had sex with a woman not his wife", then I'm being unprofessional because I'm taking someone's private matter and exposing it to the public, quite possibly maliciously. On the other hand, that's not what we're talking about. If I say, "<Venture Capitalist X> screwed me and damaged my career", I'm helping everyone else out there make better decisions. How is that a bad thing? How is that "unprofessional"? Relevant information should be shared. (It's the embarrassing but less relevant "dirty laundry" that shouldn't be exposed.)
If companies can damage our reputations by, for example, firing us after 3 months because we refused to commit perjury to save an imperiled executive's ass, then I think we should be allowed to fight back. They don't act like they're entitled to protect our reputations, so why do we have to protect theirs?
In OP's case, he's not even naming anyone; just pointing out sub-optimal behaviors.
If you've got a board member or advisor (be it from a VC or elsewhere) with strong experience, then it's crazy not to talk to them about the problems you're having.
It's not just about product strategy, it's about building a company. If you've never had to scale a sales organization, if you've never had to open offices in foreign countries, etc. then it makes a huge amount of sense to speak to someone who's not only done it but has sat on half a dozen boards of companies who've had to go through the same set of problems you'll face.
What you should however take away from the article that it's important to do due diligence on your investors. You want an investor whose advice you'd want even if they weren't invested in you (this applies both to the VC firm and to the VC partner you'll be dealing with).
Why would anyone chose a top-tier VC over another VC - it's not because they offer the best terms of investments. It's because their value-add in terms of expertise, etc. is higher than everyone-else.
There's no point in going after a top-tier VC if all you want is money.
I genuinely feel like there is an incredible market out there that is waiting to be tapped: No Bullshit VC's. Give entrepreneurs a commitment: Once you get to the stage where they want to meet with you, they meet with you once, have an agreed upon time period for research, and at the end of the time period, they give you a term sheet or a refusal. Extra points if they give straight-forward valuations without the salesmanship bullshit of trying to quantify intangibles like the value of their advice or connections. And extra extra points if they avoid meddling.
All VC's (unlike whiny articles on medium.com) are not created equal. If you're going to go out and write a piece like this anyway you might as well go all the way and name the party, as it is it's an unverifiable one-sided ploy for attention.
(Go to the link, then click back, and again to see what I mean).
Even if he has a good business.