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The bifurcation of the VC industry

By: Jeremy Colless

Here is how we see the venture capital industry diverging over time.

  • Late Stage VCs (Scalable Capital) – Money scales, analysis does not. Traditional Venture Capital firms that have more than $500M funds under management generally make larger, later stage investments. It is now not uncommon for the large US VC firms to make late stage investments of $100M+. In the US in calendar year 2015, there were 74 megadeals (investments of $100 million or more), compared with 50 in 2014. At this end of the financing spectrum, in which companies need cash more than advice, there are lots of new entrants in addition to the mega VCs. Big institutional investors, including pension funds and PE firms (such as Fidelity and TPG) are now providing startups more capital as private companies wait longer to IPO/raise public capital. Such deals are essentially “private IPOs”. For tech firms, these now outnumber public ones, according to CB Insights, a financial-data service. This model was pioneered by DST Global, a Russian fund, which invested more than $500m in Facebook starting in 2009, allowing the social network to postpone its listing.

scaling

  • Early Stage VCs (Scalable Analysis) – Small investments have become big. Sometimes referred to as angel-funding or micro-VC to reflect the push by many traditional venture capital firms into this space, these funding rounds break the lower barrier of the traditional Series A investment, placing more speculative bets with smaller amounts of capital (ranging from $50,000 to $1 million). Many firms now play heavily in this space, which includes accelerators such as YCombinator and Techstars and the hundreds of industry/geography-specific investors who have replicated their approach. Early stage VC firms like 500startups, Kima Ventures, SV Angels and Artesian Venture Partners now have more than five years of experience investing in this space. These firms use a scalable due diligence model that allows them to filter out the un-investable startups. They then employ an option strategy, making lots of small investments in the best of the pre-screened startups to have the right but not the obligation to follow-on in the startups that achieve traction and subsequent later round funding.
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