VCs Outside the Valley Play a Different Game

, the founder of Benchmark Capital and Wealthfront, has a new article up titled Demystifying Venture Capital Economics, Part 3. The main point of the post, which isn’t well understood, is that many technology markets are winner-take-all such that most of the venture capital returns flow to the firms that invest in the market winners — most other investments result in a loss or modest gain. Here are a few choice quotes from the article:

  • In fact, first to market seldom matters. Rather, first to product/market fit is almost always the long-term winner.
  • The premier venture capital firms compete vigorously to back the Gorilla because they know the market leader is ultimately worth more than all the Chimps and Monkeys combined.
  • Every market appears overfunded, but the ultimate value of the Gorilla consistently swamps the total capital invested in the space.
  • Not only will that Gorilla generate huge returns for its investors but its ultimate market value will be far greater than all the money you feared had been invested in a bubble.

So, the name-brand VCs in the Valley are looking for the Gorillas/Unicorns (billion dollar companies) and rarely do billion dollar startups emerge outside the Valley, VCs outside the Valley must be playing a different game. That is, VCs outside the Valley aren’t looking to have one investment return the fund. Rather, the goal is to generate a 15-20% rate of return each year by investing in startups that exit for significantly less than a billion dollars at much lower initial investment valuations.

When people talk about recruiting top-tier VCs to open an office in their city, they likely don’t understand their city doesn’t play the same type of VC game as the Valley. Now, one type isn’t necessary better than the other — they just have different priorities.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the idea that VCs outside the Valley play a different investing game?

2 thoughts on “VCs Outside the Valley Play a Different Game

  1. Nice post….I largely agree (although I believe most VCs, even non-Valley VCs, would say their annualized return goal is higher than the 15-20% range). Another correlation to note is the size of venture fund…larger funds (I’ll define as >$250MM, but particularly true for funds >$500MM) generally have to swing for the fences in order to drive the return profile demanded by their LPs. Smaller funds are more able to play “money ball” – driving solid returns with smaller exits.

  2. Seems that this over generalizes the VC market and SV firms as many of these are also in NYC, Boston, etc. My experience is that there were different tiers of VCs in each market and I would bite them as tier 1, 2, and 3 depending on size of funds, investment size, and desired outcomes. My best recommendation to ATL companies is to just say NO VC! Bootstrap your way like a true entrepreneur. No reason to have to report to others when you can run by your own rules.

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