Category

Venture Economics

VC Fund Returns Are More Skewed Than You Think

Some of the most popular posts I’ve written over the past couple of years were the two that focused on just how rare outsized returns for an individual deal are in venture capital. You can see the original posts here and here. In those posts I was analyzing data from Correlation Ventures that showed just how skewed venture returns are, specifically that 65% of investment rounds fail to return 1x capital and only 4% return greater than 10x capital. Ian Hathaway, who recently co-authored the second edition of Startup Communities with my partner, Brad, sent me the chart below which highlights how that translates to returns in venture capital as an asset class. I’ve seen versions of this chart before…

Investing in Downturns

TBH, I haven’t been thinking much about new investments at the moment. I’ve been asked many times how I think the Covid-19 crisis will change investor behavior and fundraising for startups. I generally give the kind of answer I think most VCs give and say something about how we all know that down markets are great markets for companies to grow (lots of great companies have been started in downturns), that there’s a lot of capital sitting on the sidelines at the moment and that capital will have to be invested, etc. All true, but I think not entirely well thought through in most cases. For example, I also generally point out that despite most investors saying this, the vast…

The Markets Are Great . . . but Venture Outcomes Haven’t Changed Much

A few years back I blogged about the hard data behind venture outcomes and the challenge of creating a venture portfolio that produces strong returns. That blog post – which turned into one of my most read posts ever – grew out of a study done by Correlation Ventures showing the distribution of outcomes across over 21,000 financings during the years 2004-2013 as well as some of my own observations. The Correlation study produced a lot of interesting data and showed that the typical “1/3, 1/3, 1/3” model that many VCs talk about was significantly more optimistic than the reality of typical venture returns. The vast majority (almost 2/3rds) of venture financings fail to return capital. And only about 4%…

How Well Do Founders Do in Venture-Backed Exits?

A few years ago I wrote two posts – Venture Outcomes are Even More Skewed Than You Think, and Some More Data On Venture Outcomes – that challenged the mythology that only 1/3 of venture-backed deals failed and showed just how rare large (10x and greater) venture returns really are. I think the sharpness of the curve surprised a lot of people and contributed to a bunch of discussion at the time around just how rare “venture outcomes” really were. Not surprisingly, I was looking at the data through the lens of an investor and in so doing was only focused on how well investors fared in company exits (as a side note, I’m hoping to update these data now…

What’s The Optimal Portfolio Strategy for a Venture Fund?

Last year I wrote a few posts (here and here) that talked about how skewed venture returns were. The key take-away graphic from that post is below – outsized returns on venture investments are rare. Much rarer than most people realize. A key question my post didn’t consider was what the ideal venture portfolio might look like in the face of these data.  Steve Crossan took a stab at modeling the answer to that question using the data from my Outcomes post. It’s an interesting read – you can see his full analysis here. Interestingly, we pondered this exact question at the very start of Foundry Group. Nassim Taleb’s book, The Black Swan had just come out and we decided to read the…

You May Have Too Many VCs On Your Board

Those that have followed my blog for any period of time know that I love the data that my friends at Correlation Ventures gather and write about (for example the data behind my post Venture Outcomes are Even More Skewed Than You Think or IPO or M&A). Today they released some data on the correlation between the number of venture board members around the boardroom table and the success of venture funded businesses which I thought was pretty illuminating and which confirmed a long held suspicion of mine. I haven’t counted exactly but I’ve been on dozens and dozens of venture funded boards in the almost 20 years I’ve been a venture investor. Some have been fantastic. Some have been dysfunctional. Most…

The Changing Venture Market In 3 Images

Want to visualize how the venture funding market is changing? Look no further than these 3 slides (from a presentation put together by our friends at Greenspring). I don’t think much commentary is needed here. Average round size at Series A is increasing dramatically. Venture is being increasingly driven by large rounds (especially at the later stages – this is significantly skewing the overall funding numbers that are being reported). IPOs are the new Unicorns (they’re becoming more scarce than their $1BN valued cousins)

Venture Returns by Sector

Readers of this blog know that I love sharing data from Correlation Ventures (they have a pretty extensive database of venture deals and venture outcomes and love to post share trends from time to time) – see two great examples using their data here and here from this blog. A few weeks ago they sent around the chart below which I thought was interesting to share. I’m not surprised at the non-pattern here – as an industry venture is very stochastic. Venture returns are all over the map, really underscoring the need to time diversify venture investing and venture exiting, to the extent to which the latter can be controlled (this graph doesn’t show the date of initial investment, which…

The Profit Imperative

With the markets crashing around us and the sky once again falling I thought it was time to revisit a few fundamentals and perhaps more importantly share some what what we’re now seeing in the private funding markets.   Growing Profitably. Let’s start with what I labeled the Growth Imperative a few months ago in a post, where I pointed out 1) that investors were (over) valuing growth and 2) that when this changed it was going to change quickly (and in a separate post said: “when the growth imperative shifts to a profit focus, companies with high burn and weak operating metrics can get stuck in the lurch.”).  It always amazes me how quickly the markets can shift and how…

Why Companies Fail

I’ve touched on aspects of this topic before, but thought it was worthy of a full post. Companies in the venture business fail all the time. As I wrote last year, the majority of venture rounds fail to return capital. With all the hype one reads in the startup press these days, that fact can be easily lost. So we know that startups fail all the time, but why do they fail? Here are some common pitfalls based on our experiences (and here I’m referring not just to Foundry portfolio companies, although all of these lessons apply there as well, but also our observations of the broader markets). Premature scaling. The number one reason companies fail in my experience is…