ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

- VENTURE CAPITAL - ANGEL INVESTMENT -
- ENTREPRENEURSHIP - LATAM - INNOVATION -
- INVESTMENTS - PRIVATE EQUITY - FINANCE -

Rising Trend of Initial Coin Offerings

Nov
09

According to a report by Mangrove Capital, 204 ICOs have made a return of about 1,320 percent.

At the same time, investment banks and hedge funds have shown increasing interest in the digital currency with over 55 crypto-specific hedge funds. Before diving deep into why investors are showing greater interest in cryptocurrency, let’s take a look at what ICO is.

 

What is ICO?

Unlike conventional financial system, ICO or Initial Coin Offering is an alternative and unconventional way of crowdfunding. It has enabled a number of successful firms and projects to get the finance to start their business. New businesses and startups around the globe are getting millions of dollars in funds by issuing digital coins. The rising trend of digital currency has made people both worried and excited.

In ICO, the coins bought by investors are for businesses and marketplaces that are not developed yet. By purchasing these coins, they make a bet that a firm or startup will end up becoming successful and as a result, the coin will increase in value.

In average it takes about six months or a year to raise money with conventional venture capital (VC) system, but it is different when it comes to ICOs. In this token crowdfunding, you get to have a large crowd of engaging supporters who want to see you succeed. Not only do they campaign for you, but they are also your early adopters.

 

Growing Trend of ICO

Startups have raised more than 2 billion dollars since the start of 2017. It is a huge amount of funding, given the fact that not many people knew about it a few years ago. Businesses are making money via this mode of funding faster than usual.

In April this year, Gnosis (prediction market for Ethereum) managed to raise 12 million dollars in just ten minutes. In June, Mozilla’s founder raised 35 million dollars by selling Basic Attention Tokens in under 30 seconds for his new web browser startup called ‘Brave’.

ICOs have become the name of the game as they have left the venture capital market behind and are the biggest source of funding. It is a great option for those companies that are pursuing the application of blockchain technology.

 

Concerns by the Regulators

Despite the increasing trends of ICOs, regulators have shown serious concerns. They are warning investors that it is a high-risk investment.

Although, some coins value has dramatically increased, a very high volatility cannot be ignored. Some have also considered it a ‘speculative boom’, but that did not stop investment banks and hedge funds from showing their interest by making an investment in cryptocurrencies and ICOs.

 

Reason behind the Increasing Interest of Institutional Investors in ICOs

The digital currency market has made massive profits in the past one year or so. Initially, institutional investors were curious about what this is all about, but they started getting a hang of it gradually and became less apprehensive and more interested in this alternative investment. It is a kind of chain reaction that started with the rising interest among venture capitalists and now institutional investors, including mutual funds, investment banks, and hedge funds are following their lead. They have shown growing interest and are making an effort to estimate and grab the opportunities in the cryptocurrency market.

The reason why they are more interested in the new and unconventional currency is that it promises a higher return as compared to market averages. According to a fintech analytics firm, there have been at least 55 cryptocurrency hedge funds and a former manager at Fortress, Mike Novogratz, has recently announced a plan to use 500 million dollars for a new digital currency hedge fund. Blockchain Capital also made an announcement of raising 150 million dollars; a part of this fund will be for cryptocurrencies.

 

Goldman Sachs’ Approval

Goldman Sachs is planning to set up a bitcoin trading desk, as they believe that institutional investors are interested in cryptocurrency more than ever. The firm has reported it to be ‘a major milestone’. They believe that the investors need an over-the-counter brokerage platform where they can sell or buy as much cryptocurrency as they want. Goldman Sachs is of the opinion that it can take up this role, but there will be other issues, including market infrastructure and serious concern by the regulators.

 

If, however, ICOs becomes regulated, it will change the way how businesses raise money and will also impact the venture capital market.

A Useful Funding Tool for Less Segregated and Diverse Communities

Oct
26

Communities with a mixed ethnic background and more diversity are likely to come up with new ideas. According to a study by the Yale School of Management, having people in a community with different backgrounds is beneficial for Venture Capital (VC) firms as it leads to economic development and innovation.

In various countries around the globe, communities, universities, and businesses are pursuing diversification. Apart from the immediate benefit of getting fairness, having multiple points of view and diversity of experience is very useful for the overall performance of these sectors.

 

Effect of VC on Integrated Communities

The study also revealed that VC investment is more beneficial for ethnically integrated communities as compared to segregated communities. The effect of VC on the integrated communities was 30 percent higher as compared to segregated ones, especially in terms of creating more wealth, jobs, entrepreneurship opportunities, and facilitating innovative activities. The startup businesses create more value and job opportunities that eventually lead to economic growth.

In a diverse community, you get to interact with people having diverse backgrounds, which leads to getting access to more resources and information as compared to segregated communities. In the past, studies have shown that economic vitality is enhanced as a result of social interaction within a community.

 

Implications of Social Interaction for Venture Capital

The purpose of the study in question was to identify whether a social structure is vital for economic development or not. The VC was the focus of this study, given the fact that it is a useful financial tool for high growth businesses.

It was revealed that such relationships have significant implications when it comes to VC investments. VC investors put their money in new businesses that are in the close vicinity. They tend to rely on professional relationships and friendships for leads and information that cannot be received via cold calls or internet search.

VC investments were compared to aggregate income, employment, new businesses, and a number of patents. It was found that VC performed much better in less segregated and diverse areas, resulting in more patents, more jobs, and created more value.

Social interaction has benefited various communities. One of the many factors that led to high level of innovation in the United States is the increasing number of immigrants that bring diverse culture. When they interact with one another, it creates room for transferring valuable information and ideas, which leads to better economic outcomes. Besides, when people from different ethnic backgrounds live close to one another, it brings about healthy relationships and effective interactions that is favorable for the wider economy.

 

Diversity Leads to Innovative Thinking

Diversity is also very useful to promote innovative thinking that leads to success in the venture capital market. Any sector that does not have diversity or mixed race is very limited in innovative mindset and thought process. This results in similar thinking with not many innovative ideas. In addition to that, there is gender bias in the VC sector that restricts the overall growth prospects. It is a widely known fact that female founders represent the rapidly growing entrepreneurial group in the United States and their firm’s experience growth 1.5 times faster than the average growth rate in the market.

 

Providing Solution to Promote Innovative Decision Making

Despite the lack of diversity, it is quite likely that change is taking place gradually. An increasing number of entrepreneurs with diverse background are entering into the market. They are focused on providing a solution to the problem and make a profit in the process.

It has become really important to promote diversity in the communities and in societies at large so as to promote economic development and prosperity. Not only will it be beneficial for the venture capital industry, but it is also going to help the masses in getting equal opportunities in every sector.

 

The venture capital market has also derived benefits from diverse communities in terms of innovative thinking and plethora of useful information. To continue moving in the right direction, countries around the globe should embrace diversity in order to have successful businesses and create more job opportunities that will eventually bring economic prosperity in the long run.

Struggles of Entrepreneurs Based on Investors’ Perception

Oct
12

The first quarter of 2017 was closed with a total financing of $27 billion worldwide and the hot sectors in the world of Venture Capital (VC) have been fintech and technology. Despite the booming industry, VC has its own ups and downs.

 

Overlooking Entrepreneurs

Innovation has always been at the heart of the United States and the country has always encouraged entrepreneurship, yet, the ideas are often overlooked when it comes to immigrants and women in the sector.

Jerry Nemorin, the founder of LendStreet, is a fine example of that case. He initiated a company to support individuals who find it difficult to pay off their debt. He looks for people who are struggling with loan repayments, buy and consolidate their debt and refinance it at a fair rate of interest. Despite such a brilliant idea, he struggled with raising funds. According to him, investors recognize a defined pattern and the chances of funding the idea of a black person who is out to solve poor people’s problem are very low.

However, he is not alone. There are a large number of entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas who have been struggling with raising funds. Less than 1% investment in new startups goes to people of color, whereas, 10% investment goes to female entrepreneurs. Only 15% of the Unicorns that are making over $200 billion have made it to the real-world industries for day to day dealings.

 

Blind Spots – Another Cause Behind the Struggles

In an economy that promotes innovation, a lot of the best ideas are left out of the conversation due to blind spots.

  • Bias

Bias is the first blind spot that they face. Although, investors don’t do that intentionally, yet, it happens. Investors tend to invest in the ideas that come from people like them.

A study was conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research in which it was identified that applications that read ‘Greg’ got more calls as compared to the résumés that had the word ‘Lakisha’. This is not surprising, because only 5 percent of the partners in VC firms are female, whereas, people of colors are significantly lesser than that, i.e., less than 1 percent. Hence, the distribution of funding is largely based on the decision makers who are investors in this case.

  • Availability Bias

This is another blind spot that comes in the way of funding the brilliant ideas. Investors tend to invest in the ideas that are closest to them, or the last good idea they heard, versus the best. Almost 80 percent of the money goes to the firms that are situated within 30 miles of the investors.

  • Two-way Thinking

Lastly, most investors have two-way thinking when it comes to funding the ideas. Many people believe that they should focus on making a profit from a business, regardless of whether it is good or bad for the society at large, while engaging in philanthropy and nonprofit activities for the benefit of the society without paying much heed to financial sustainability.

Jerry’s idea supports this ideology, i.e., making a profit from a business that helps people in paying off their loan.

 

Overcoming the Blind Spots

Although, these blind spots are deep-rooted, yet, people can overcome these obstacles if they make an intentional effort to welcome new ideas. Kapor Capital intentionally invested in LendStreet to support Jerry’s idea. As a result, an initial investment of $500,000 turned into a portfolio of 40 million dollars, which enabled Jerry to refinance the financial statements of thousands of families in the U.S.

 

These ideas are available in abundance, but investors have to look closely and more carefully to fund new startups based on the merit so as to reap substantial benefits.

Interest Rates and Venture Capital

Oct
02

The Venture Capital market has experienced a massive growth in the last two decades. Startups prefer to get venture capital funding instead of raising debt. However, when it comes to economic growth, interest rates and Venture Capital (VC) go hand in hand. VC boost entrepreneurial activities and interest rates are helpful when it comes to risk-taking activities for the wellbeing of the economy.

If the interest rate is low, it serves as a fuel for VC investment, but at the same time, it discourages venture capitalists to put their money in riskier startups that are young, in other countries and in less popular industries.

Typically, VC firms invest their money after comparing the profits they achieve with profits that are available to the investors somewhere else. However, the relationship between interest rate and risk-taking can change based on which investor’s point of view is considered.

 

Effect of Interest Rate on non-traditional Capital

When we talk about short to medium term variations in the interest rate, it usually affects non-traditional capital source, including hedge funds and mutual funds. Unlike conventional Venture Capital investors, who keep their money invested for 10 years or so, unconventional investors can put their cash in different baskets and spread it across different assets classes. They can quickly decide where they should put their money in order to reduce the impact of interest rate variation.

 

Changing Effect of Interest Rate on VC Investments

Over the last three decades, federal rates have changed from as high as 16% in the early 80s to as low as 0.09%. However, VC has evolved from a small industry into a $100 billion per year asset class. Venture capitalists are investing a massive amount of money every year. Therefore, it is important to understand the changing effect of interest rate on VC investments.

Between the year 2000 and 2009, the federal fund rates and VC investments were parallel to each other. When the technology bubble was burst, the Federal Reserve adopted the strategy of decreasing interest rates so as to promote the economic growth. For venture capitalists, the environment was not as attractive as it was before and limited partners invested less in venture capital. The VC decreased with the decline in interest rates.

After the introduction of quantitative easing, this relationship between VC and interest rates ceased to exist and they became inversely proportional to each other.

 

Moreover, after the credit crunch, near-zero interest rate policy enabled financial institutions and brokerages to renew their balance sheets, settle their toxic assets, and revitalize their financial health. It also allowed the U.S. economy to recover from the after-effects of the crisis and enabled businesses to borrow capital at reasonable rates. During this phase of cheap money, technology sector, VC firms, and startups took advantage of the friendly valuation environment.

 

Federal Reserve’s Decision to Raise Interest Rates

By the end of this year, Fed plans to raise the interest rates. If the plan materializes, it will be  the first time in the past nine years that the U.S. will experience the increase in rates, which will bring the era of zero interest rate to an end.

Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, indicated that the increase in interest rates will not be rapid.

It will be a gradual increase, which will not change the valuation environment of a startup and technology sector instantly. However, it will change along with a valuation environment of the stock market. The reason is simple; valuation multiples are indirectly correlated to interest rates, where in, the multiples decrease with the increase in rates.

 

It is important to observe the next move of the Fed and market reaction to changing interest rates, because it may affect the Venture Capital market.

Evolution of the Venture Capital Sector

Jul
06

Venture capital (VC) industry is highly volatile. It is constantly evolving and has undergone massive changes in the past ten years due to the growth of the software sector. The shift toward the IT industry will continue to persist until one of the two situations occur:

  • Either the software market starts experiencing saturation as a result of huge inflow of money in the industry or
  • There is a manifestation of a new industry that shows higher profits, hence catching the attention of investors.

There are some analysts in the financial sector who are also anticipating another bubble bust that will be similar to the dotcom bubble in the 90s.

 

Rise and Fall in the VC Sector During the Past 5 Years

In 2015, VC investment around the globe experienced a growth of 19 percent. The total funding was between $128.5 billion and $130 billion, which has been the highest in the last 5 years. However, the investment continued to grow in the U.S. from $58.8 billion in 2015 to $69.1 billion in 2016.

As far as the rise of unicorn companies on a global level is concerned, it gradually declined after 2015 when the total number of startups that reached unicorn status were 71. The number reduced to 40 in 2016. On the other hand, a decline was also observed in seed funding as it dropped by 25 percent and touched the lowest point since 2012. The late and early stage investments also went down by 14 percent and 5 percent respectively.

 

Opportunities for VC Investors

Although, a large number of high profile investors pursue seed stage deals, they usually have sufficient funds to invest in the most attractive startup companies, which has subsequently strengthened Series A and Series B rounds.

Moreover, seed stage investments performed really well in 2014 and 2015, indicating the fact that investors who made those investments will be continuing in 2017. It will give rise to a great opportunity for investors who are seeking to make an investment at a later stage.

The momentum in the IPO will also increase, because the public sector tends to grow when valuations in the private sector are higher. It is quite likely that the IPO market backed by VC investors will outperform in 2017 as compared to 2016. For example, it has been reported that Snap Inc. is expected to offer its share at about $20 billion. If the offer materializes, it will be one of the largest VC backed IPO deal. In addition to that, Spotify, Pinterest, Dropbox and Uber are some of the names creating buzz in the IPO sector.

 

Rising Trends and Acquisitions

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have grabbed a lot of attention between 2015 and 2016, and they are likely to secure more investment in 2017 as well. There were more than 300 businesses that managed to raise early and seed stage funding in 2016, yet, approximately dozen secure funds at a later stage.

Moreover, a number of healthy acquisitions have also taken place recently. The examples include the acquisition of Movidius by Intel for $350 million and acquisition of virtual assistant developer Viv by Samsung.

 

Economics and Investors’ Behavior

There is a major role play of economics when it comes to VC investments. Since economics follow a cyclical pattern, it is highly likely that history will not be repeated nor will the unpredictable happen. Also, economics involves study of human behavior that contains an element of irrationality. This element enables us to anticipate the shifts in behavior of VC investors only to an extent of its repetition and history, but it cannot be predicted with full certainty.

VC investments change with the passage of time. As the inflow of funds increases in the software sector, it gives rise to increasing competition in the market, which eventually reduce the overall returns as several firms compete to maintain a customer base. It might also cause a shift in venture capitalist behavior in times to come if other sectors seem more viable.

 

All in all, the justification of a VC investors’ behavior can be summed up by saying that venture capitalists tend to go in a direction where the money flows.

What do Venture Capitalists Look for in a Startup?

May
26

Billions of dollars are invested in new startups every year. Therefore, it has become even more important to find the answer to the following question: what do venture capitalists want?

A venture capital firm called Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ Venture Capital) that has injected funds in around 2 dozen unicorns, including Twitter, Tumblr, Skype, and Box. One of its partners, Steve Jurvetson, shared his views on what he looks for in a startup when he plans to make an investment

 

Enthusiastic Founder

Jurvetson said that the first thing he notices is how enthusiastic the owner of a startup is – someone like Elon Musk who can convince that their idea will work. However, he added that it has to be in a sector which will contribute to the rapid growth of an economy during the times of huge disruptive change.

 

Innovation

In today’s rapidly changing world, innovation is a key to success. Products, such as electric cars, rockets, synthetic biology, etc., have proven to be the game changers in the IT sector. They never managed to attract venture capital in the past decades, but are high in demand nowadays. These industries have undergone massive change in the past few years, which is good for startups.

Investing in anything that takes an investor out of his comfort zone is worth it, because it leads to those crazy ideas that can change the world. However, it should be noted that it is those successful ideas that were never considered good in the beginning.

Jurvetson said that if an idea is strongly supported by a few number of people who believe it to be the future of the world, but the majority is against it, then it is a good sign.

 

Respect for the Team rather than Individual

Another factor he looks for is a founder who has respect for the team rather than individuals at work, a trait that contradicts the cult of a one man (in this case, a CEO) running the show. Having the self-confidence to stay humble about the proposals made and respecting the team are some of the additional attributes of a good startup owner.

 

What Sectors to Invest?

When talking about what sectors should venture capitalists invest in, Jurvetson hinted to Moore’s law as to how it’s penetrating into different sectors and turning lousy, low margin businesses into innovative software based businesses. Tesla is a great example that changed the course of different industries. Its contribution in the Planet labs, SpaceX, or automobile industry is a prominent example of the transitions made.

It took decades for these sectors to see entrants who transformed these industries through product enhancement. A number of investments failed during the process, yet, they are all IT based now and have gone through a massive transformation. Innovation has brought so many changes in the IT sector. For example, application of machine learning was considered a geeky subject a few years ago and only a few people at Google and other companies that worked on image recognition were familiar with the concept. But these techniques will now be widely recognized in every industry as they represent a new way of doing engineering.

 

A Way Forward

Remember, it is a two-way street. The world will experience the breakthroughs only if big companies welcome the evolution of technology. Jurvetson said that large companies that embraced innovation were the most exciting ones. A good example of this is Apple and its achievements over the years. Most of the large companies do not welcome meaningful innovations, which represent a connotation of disruption to depict the change. Embracing the change doesn’t mean a mere 10 percent improvement in processes, it shows a wow factor, such as freeing the automobile sector from gasoline consumption.

Similarly, back in the days, going to space was considered a tough job. Only a fighter pilot could qualify for a space mission with lots of training. But it is not going to be the same in future. SpaceX will soon launch a robot spacecraft where an astronaut will sit back and take a ride on the spacecraft. If the company is successful in doing that, space flights will become as frequent as air flights providing the same level of safety and fun.

Therefore, for a new idea to be successful, investors will have to support the change and big companies should embrace it. Not only will it be beneficial for a global economy, but will also make room for game-changing breakthroughs.

Startups Worthy of Investment … or not

May
11

It seems like those days are long gone when venture capitalists used SPRAY and PRAY strategy in the hope that one of the startups in the entire portfolio would make it big.

In other words, it is about time that startup companies show their ability that they are worthy of the venture capital (VC) funds.

 

Decline in the Number of VC Funded Companies

The PitchBook released the first quarter of the 2017 issue in collaboration with the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). The statistics presented in that report were based on the thorough analysis of VC activity in the United States. According to that report, $16.5 billion was raised by 1800 companies alone. PitchBook and NVCA also observed that even though the amount of investment in the Q1 of 2017 was a bit higher than the capital invested in the fourth quarter of 2016, the number of startups has dramatically decreased to its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2011.

 

VC Investors and Entrepreneurs Exercising Caution

It looks like the VC sector is facing a gradual decline after experiencing effervescent days of glory back in 2015.

John Gabbert, the CEO of PitchBook, said that during the past few years, the VC activity managed to attain intensified growth in the United States and now it seems to be coming back to earth. He further added that it feels like startup founders and investors have started following a more disciplined approach to investing the funds and taking reasonable caution by adopting measures, such as due diligence. These activities are carried out to secure fair deals on both sides so that each party gets something good out of it.

Ernst & Young, a London based auditing firm, reported that companies in the United States raised about 41.3 billion dollars in 2,802 VC deals in the third quarter of 2016. The San Franciso Bay area represented a total of 916 deals having a value of 16.9 billion dollars.

Jeffrey Grabow, the leader of VC in the U.S. based Ernst & Young, said that VC funding has slowed down and there are various reasons for the declining trend. The prominent reason, however, is the fact that investors want the market to absorb the already distributed capital in the market. Momentum capital has reached a later stage of VC funding and injected capital in almost every that was available in the market. Therefore, it is about time to see how it all turns out.

 

Comparison of the Number of Exits

In spite of the huge funding to a limited number of IT companies, a lot of companies fueled by $9.05 billion worth of venture capital took an exit in the first quarter of 2017. This exceeds the combined value of the IT companies’ exits in 2006, 2008 and 2009. The situation is relatively close to how it was back in 2007. If the same trend and immensity of initial public offerings and acquisitions follow, 2017 will either reach the same figure of 2014, i.e., 39.74 billion dollars, or might exceed it. Only time can tell what is to come next, but it continues to happen at the same pace, it would probably exceed the value of 2014.

IT firms around the world continue to leave behind all other kinds of businesses that are funded by venture capital. According to the NVCA and PitchBook report, Initial Public Offering of Snap and acquisition of AppDynamics by Cisco has been ranked among the top 10 biggest exits of their types during the past 10 years.

 

Investments in VC Activity

California has left behind all other states in the United States in terms of the number and value of VC investments. A total of 560 investments was made in 556 companies, which were worth 8.3 billion dollars. As far as the number of investments was concerned, New York was ranked second with a total of 218 investments. Whereas, Massachusetts was in the second position in terms of investment value as it was slightly higher than 2 billion dollars. Although, there may be a rising trend in the remote work among startup companies, yet, the concentration of venture capital is still high in the Silicon Valley.

Gender Balance in Venture Capital

May
04

Venture Capital has been in existence for a very long time.

However, the sector has experienced growth and massively evolved during the past two decades. From Facebook to Google, organizations supported by venture capital firms have contributed a lot to the economy. Although the industry is still young as compared to other sectors, one in every five public companies in the United States uses this mode of financing. It is basically used by innovative minds that are high risk takers. Not only do venture capital firms provide funds, but also offer network access, strategic guidance, mentorship, etc.

However, despite the continuous growth, the industry still faces a huge gap between genders as men are leading the venture capital market. In other words, the more it changes, the more it stays the same, especially after analyzing the demographics based on gender.

 

Gender-wise Statistics of the Venture Capital Market

According to a survey, the percentage of women as decision makers in the U.S. based venture capital firms is 7 percent and they control only 4.7 percent of the venture capital (VC) invested in the market during the past five years. Moreover, out of 1,019 professionals who take strategic decisions in 227 VC firms in America, the number of females was just 72. Furthermore, 169 of these firms had no females at a strategic level. These firms managed to raise about $153 Billion within a period of four years from 2012 till 2016, and only $9.51 billion of it was controlled by women.

 

Development Over the Year

Another analysis was conducted last year on sample years between 2011 and 2015. According to that analysis, the percentage of female decision makers was just 5.7 percent in the U.S. based VC firms. It shows an increase in the overall number of women in the industry, representing a 17.7 percent increase in female decision makers at a strategic level.

 

More Investment in Companies with Male Executives

Furthermore, when it comes to which firm gets the venture capital, male majority takes the lead. According to the CB Insights, organizations with men in executive positions receive 98 percent of the venture investments, which is about $1.88 billion.

All in all, there is a need for a lot to be done especially for women in the VC industry. Megan Quinn, a growth investor at Spark Capital, said that every individual has a role to play in this industry, whether it is an entrepreneur, press, or existing VC firm, and she doesn’t agree with the notion that there are not enough qualified women to be in this sector. A small percentage of women depicts the issue of gender inequality in the VC sector and also in the world of technology.

 

Why Lack of Women in VC Persist?

Ann Miura-Ko, a partner at Floodgate, also share the same thoughts as Quinn’s. She said that there was a time when most of the small firms had female decision makers and firms experienced a small increase in applications from women. She further stated that women feel welcome in places where there are more female colleagues as they usually question whether they can fit into male-dominated organizations or not.

The managing partner of New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Scott Sandell, talked about the reason why the VC firms around the world don’t usually have female partners. He pointed out the fact that some women simply leave the place for personal reasons. He also said that people working at a strategic level are usually promoted from within a firm. They make their way up from an associate level all the way to the top. However, he admits the fact that although there is no conscious bias against women, there is probably an element of unconscious bias, which is represented in the form of a small number of females at a strategic level. NEA is currently holding trainings to remove any sort of unconscious bias that may occur in the VC firms. He further added that this issue can easily be resolved and it has a tendency to sort itself out, but it does require attention.

 

Today, women constitute more than 50 percent of the consumers’ spending power and studies have revealed that the absence of female perspective in the board room will ultimately affect the profits.

How Important is Experience in Venture Capital?

Apr
21

In the world of information and technology, innovation is a key factor that drives the economy. Media is filled with success stories of founders in the Silicon Valley. On the other side of it, however, stands the venture capitalists who help these entrepreneurs materialize their dreams into successful businesses.

The venture capital sector in the United States is considered one of the key sectors that contributed to its economic growth. With the passage of time, the industry has faced massive growth around the globe and there is an increasing competition among investors to make it big. Some of the famous venture capitalists of earlier times are Tom Perkins, Tommy Davis, and Arthur Rock. In addition to the capital, it was their investing knowledge and experience that contributed toward the expansion of a tech industry.

 

Do You Need Talent for Venture Investing?

The venture capital industry has continuously evolved during the past few decades, and with that, some contradictions are brewing in the market. For example, the investors who dominate the market claim that they know how to choose a winner who would experience the same success as Facebook or Twitter did, yet, they expand the horizon of their bets, hoping that at least one of these will make it big.

This gives rise to a question:

Do you need talent for venture investing?

If so, what would it be?

The answer to this is simple; no! You do not need any special talent. Accounting or financial modelling skills are useful for venture capitalists, but it is important to note that early stage companies are not the same as public markets. In fact, they are run by owners who are still paving their way to success. The only thing that counts is the experience and skill of people who have already worked with startups and are ready to do whatever the job demands. Moreover, there is a common perception in the market that venture capitalists with a huge network of proven founders are the right choice, yet, you cannot rule out the fact that proven founders tend to ask for big checks, which reduces the share of a limited partner. New venture capital firms, on the other hand, are hungry to win and have the drive to listen to what startups want.

 

No Transparency in the Venture Capital Market

The venture capital market is not transparent, which is good news for venture capitalists, but not for the general public. Venture capitalists usually put their cash in long term investments, due to which, their outcome is not immediately visible. Therefore, it is difficult to measure the success and failure of any investment in the short run. Only a few estimations are publicly made available to compare the relative performance of one venture capital firm against another.

 

European Investment Fund – Evaluating Venture Capitalists Performance

European Investment Fund (EIF) is one of the very few institutions that have great access to venture capitalist funds for many years. In a recent report by EIF, analysis was conducted on the activities performed by venture capital firms in Europe over the last 20 years. Between 1996 and 2015, there were more than a thousand startups that were fueled by 355 EIF backed funds. According to the report, venture capitalists who were investing for the first time performed equally well as venture capitalists (VCs) with broader knowledge and experience, especially when the economy is booming.

 

Experience and Skills Matter

However, the explanation given in the EIF report was quite ordinary as they claimed to have good skills when it comes to choosing venture capital funds. It was further stated in the report that even the new VCs that have their backing perform well. But it did not have the coherence with another conclusion they reached in the same report, i.e., venture capital firms that carry out investments for the first time give a worse performance when markets are not doing well and these are the times when experience plays a vital role in defining the outcome of any investment.

 

This gives rise to another aspect of VC investing that is opposite to the perception of the industry; selecting a winning startup during the times when markets are booming is something newbies do as good as the experienced ones do, yet, the real test lies in avoiding losers and this can only be achieved with experience and the right skills.

Women Still Struggling in the World of Technology and Innovation

Apr
13

Although, it seems as if things are moving in a positive direction for female entrepreneurs, there is yet a lot to be done. Women have made accomplishment in every field, but they are still facing a number of challenges, especially when you talk about the increasing number of female startup owners and their ability to get funding.

David S. Ricketts, the senior innovation scholar at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, said that this is the number one challenge they face when their businesses are experiencing growth.

 

Challenges Faced by Women Entrepreneurs in the IT Sector

Female owners of IT companies have to come across various obstacles when they try to raise capital from venture capital firms. This holds true in case of the Silicon Valley and tech hubs in Amsterdam, Berlin, London. Not only does it adversely affect the progress of women entrepreneurs, but it is also bad for the technology sector, because restraining their leadership and talent hampers the overall growth and impede innovation. Moreover, the gender gap is rapidly increasing around the world, with 90 percent of the venture capital going to male entrepreneurs and only 10 percent retained by female founders. In addition to that, only 10 percent of the strategic level positions in tech companies are occupied by women.

According to the report by the National Women’s Business Council, women invest half the amount of capital invested by men in the startup businesses. It was further mentioned in the report that firms with female founders usually get far less equity financing from venture capitalists and angel investors as compared to companies with male owners, i.e., 14.4 percent vs. 3.6 percent.

Furthermore, only 1.8 percent of the women ask their close family or friends to raise capital as opposed to 9.2 percent men.

 

Female Entrepreneurs in the European Market

A similar trend has been observed in the European market as well, wherein, the IT sector is on the boom, yet the percentage of women leaders is a lot less as compared to men and only a small percentage of venture capital is allocated to startups led by female entrepreneurs. The United Kingdom (UK) is the second biggest startup hub after Berlin. 86 percent of the startups in the UK that receive venture capital funds are owned by men. Whereas, the percentage of angel investment secured by men and women is 56 percent and 44 percent respectively. Unfortunately, even in the IT sector, the distribution of capital is not based on merit.

With such funding constraints, women owned startups in the UK only represent 15 percent of the entire sector. They either revert to self-funding or seek crowdfunding opportunities to survive in the long run.

 

Female Entrepreneurs Generate More Revenue than Male Founders

It is worth noting that female owner companies earn 12 percent more revenue as compared to companies run by men in the IT industry, and their return on investment is 35 percent higher than the firms owned by their male counterparts. If they are given appropriate support, not only do they give better performance, but also make exceptional achievements. This holds true for women living in any part of the world.

 

How Can Female Entrepreneurs Contribute to Better and Sound Economy?

According to one estimate, if women in the UK, who wants to have their own startup companies, get the right support, they can instantly generate more than 300,000 new businesses and create more than 400,000 employment opportunities. Moreover, female-led businesses can contribute to innovation and better quality products with great consumer satisfaction.

 

The U.S. Firms, such as Backstage Capital and Kapor Capital, and the UK firms like Albright are some of the prominent examples of women-led capital firms that have proven to be the game changers in the venture capital (VC) community. To let the innovative and productive ideas flowing in the IT market, VCs should open the doors to give female-led companies a head-start, because it is possible that the owner of the next big unicorn is a female entrepreneur.