domingo, 16 de noviembre de 2014

The Future of Venture Capital – A White Paper | Rubicon Venture Capital

 Author's key views:

  • VCs must create and structure their investment firms to add value to the startup far beyond the cash invested. The old model of just invest and join the board is not enough anymore. Rest in Peace (RIP) old VC model.
  • The big VCs got much bigger, the mid-sized VCs died out and a large group of new VCs showed up to invest at the earliest stage followed by a just now emerging new group of funds addressing the mid sized fund market again.
  • The old VCs must demonstrate plans for succession or face a rapid decline in their brands. Look at Boston…last one out turn off the lights (for tech not biotech)! If they do not take great care the junior partners they have been grooming to become general partners for the past 10 years will jump ship and start their own funds or become CEOs.
  • Startups themselves got cheaper to start and there are a ton more of them. At the same time it is becoming more expensive to house a startup, recruit and maintain a top-notch team in SF, New York or London. We kind of went in a circle with the cash cost to fund an 18 month runway for a startup, going from expensive to cheap to more expensive, but not as bad as 10 years ago.
  • San Francisco / Silicon Valley, New York and London have and will attract the best startups…the true Hollywood of startups. BTW, I am bullish on LA / Santa Monica too as I am Scandinavia, but they do lack well developed ecosystems.
  • The gravitational center of the Silicon Valley is moving up to San Francisco. More money is now being deployed into startups in SF than on the San Francisco Peninsula, which historically has been referred to as the Silicon Valley. The Valley now officially includes SF and VCs are moving from Sand Hill Road to Soma and other parts of SF in the city to get closer to the entrepreneurs. Our SF office is in mid-Market which is kind of a dump, but the new center of startups with Twitter a few buildings down from us. In NY we are in the Meatpacking District.
  • Most of the buyers are in Silicon Valley. Nothing comes close. Nothing ever will. The list of big balance sheet tech titans is just more than I wish to list here. You will never see another region in the world ever come close. I suppose something like this may happen in China, but the Silicon Valley has 5 decades of momentum and it was 85 degrees (29 Celsius) yesterday with no pollution or humidity and tomorrow is Halloween
  • Huge opportunities exist to start companies and fund companies outside of the Valley, NY and London, but they need to be hotwired and networked into the Valley from day one and tap into the most evolved ecosystems as well as key centers of commerce globally. For a many reasons startups outside of the Valley are happening with increased chances for survival. The best ones will have hyper connected VCs from the Valley and NY. (Hint, a Silicon Valley-only VC is not enough to support a startup with global ambitions).
  • Lower valuations, cheaper salaries, more stable teams with lower attrition levels, access to other regional pools of talent such as universities and local industry corporates (like P&G) make investing and entrepreneurship in provincial locations attractive.
  • The secondary market has evolved. Investors and founders can sell some equity before the final exit. Ignoring this is foolish. Angels and VCs at all stages should increase the buying and selling activity while still privately held. Startups should migrate their shareholder base from small angels to the Fidelities of the world prior to an IPO. Liquidity has been historically lacking and it is a good thing it is here now for privately held high growth startups. If you disagree with me I say that you are in a cave.
  • Silicon Valley has gone global. Get ready for a very international situation. A good VC is an international person and is comfortable raising capital and doing business on all continents. Many markets will develop ecosystems, but the most robust ecosystems thrive in three locations.
  • Despite clashing with western politicians in recent years, Russia will always be a super power. India and China will play a larger role in the global economy. Japan quietly remains the 3rd largest economy in the world after the US and China. We are proud to have Japanese investors in Rubicon.
  • Regardless of bad news about Hamas and the IDF clashing in the Middle East Israel will remain a magic innovation hub to benefit all of humanity (and they have some world class restaurants!)
  • Despite my love affair with Scandinavia and commitment to funding their best deals, Silicon Valley, New York and London will dominate for many years to come, but the big opportunities will increasingly appear in many other markets despite the top buyers being in Silicon Valley.
  • The true rock stars of this industry are the entrepreneurs not the VCs. A good VC knows how to seduce them.
The Future of Venture Capital – A White Paper | Rubicon Venture Capital

In sum, the lower cost to start a startup and get customers, the explosion of accelerators, the proliferation of angel investing, the increase in real crowdfunding and adoption of Angel List have created a combined effect of funding larger volumes of startups than ever before taking on early risk creating more startups that a VC fund can chose from, which will increase the performance of the VC asset class.

These guys raised so much money so fast for their oversized funds that they decided to invest a sizable percentage of their management fee into infrastructure to help their portfolio companies. They hired HR directors like other VCs before them, but they went further putting in place another core 4 business areas of resources to help their startups including technical development, pubic relations (PR), business development and investment banking. Another VC to create a candy store for entrepreneurs is Google Ventures. When I look at the resources that startups get from a16z and Google Ventures I think twice about investing in startups that compete directly with their portfolio companies. These guys are the true professional athletes of the game. This is an advantage of the mega fund. Their management fees support their investment into things that bring value to their portfolio companies. When I began my career as a fundraising CEO in the 90’s I was just trying to find VCs that would not destroy value after providing the capital I needed. Now it’s all about real value creation from your investors.

Another key change in the landscape is the lower cost of starting a startup. Today $1m funding (I used to say $500k, but now it’s more expensive) achieves what required $5m of funding 10 to 15 years ago, but remember most VC funds raised larger not smaller funds post 2000 and 2008 economic crashes. Let’s look at what really changed.

  • 3bn people online, proliferation of mobile web via smartphones
  • Women are online and make up 70%+ time on Facebook and other social networks and casual gaming (Proctor & Gamble has announced they will stop advertising during soap operas because the new moms are reading about their friends on Facebook on their smart phones while their kids play on the jungle gym – no more day time TV for today’s full time moms)
  • Amazon AWS hosting – no need to buy servers & Oracle licenses. Rackspace, IBM and Microsoft making scaling issues a commodity (my own investments into NodePrime and NephoScale are further driving this)
  • OpenSource code & lower cost offshore development, developers everywhere
  • The technical founder. Now that founders do the coding themselves that took a big bite out of the cost to get to a minimal viable product or prototype
  • Lean Startup dynamics (cheaper, faster, 3-90 day product development cycles, measure, learn, iterate, pivot)
  • Platforms to acquire users cheaply & quickly (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Android, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, etc)
  • Proliferation of 1,000’s of accelerators like Y Combinator & TechStars seeding startup experiments, active angels, seed funds & Angel List invest first $500k
  • Many micro-VC or super angel funds have appeared investing in seed rounds. Rubicon cherry picks investing in the best ones often showing product-market-fit and ready to scale
  • Crowdfunding platforms are funding some unfundable or toping up other startups with higher valuations. Crowdfunding often validates market demand when investors may not have been so clairvoyant (If the SEC ever changes this may actually deliver on the initial promise of what was signed in the Rose Garden of the White House April 8, 2012)
  • It has never been easier or cheaper to launch a startup
  • Accelerators now moving later along the continuum from seed to later stage
  • Now it’s not all cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. Some of this startup business is getting increasingly and painfully expensive. Here’s what’s changing on that side of the scale. 
In sum, it might be cheaper to create a startup than before, but seed financing rounds are changing from $500k and $750k to $1.5k or $2.5m followed by another $1.5m angel round before VCs invest.

Keeping your startup in Berlin is like keeping your startup in New Orleans. After you run through the accelerator and local government backed funds there is no ecosystem to support you. So move to one of the well-developed ecosystems.

You do not need to move to the Valley where I live. However, I urge you to visit and develop your network here. Consider opening an office here. Connect to the network. Plug in and do not remain isolated or complain about the Valley. Just work with us from a distance and visit frequently.

I concluded that YC was only admitting companies that had product or services offerings fully built and were ready to begin with customer traction on day one and possibly even line up customers and game the system so they could show the obligatory YC demo day slide with revenues or usage metrics flying off the chart up and to the right. Originally these accelerators spent the first month of a 3-month program brainstorming and challenging the idea of the startup – not blowing up revenues on day one.

Helping fellow entrepreneurs and investors is the magic dust that creates relationships that make things happen. Try to speed up the time it takes to make things happen. Ideas are everywhere. Ideas without people executing the idea and strategy are worthless. As IBM’s boss Lou Gerstner once said, “It’s all about the people.” The world is an expensive place to reside in. People cost money. And so startups need capital. Ideas + people + value added capital = success.

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