Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"How venture capital is broken"

Felix Salmon has a long but very pithy post on a new report from the Kauffman Foundation on the state of venture capital. It's a fascinating story with some significant connections to two long-standing areas of concern here at OE (ddulites and growth fetishists). You should definitely take a look.

The whole thing is quotable, but I'll limit myself to what Salmon identifies as the most astonishing part.

What you’re looking at here is the self-reported returns from all 100 of the Kauffman foundation’s funds, plotted on a time zero axis. In theory, if you believe the VC industry’s hype, the returns should look a bit like the green line: negative in early years, as you make investments which won’t pay off for a long time, and then positive by year 10.
In reality, reported returns peak very early on, in month 16 — which just happens to coincide with the point at which the GPs tend to start going out on sales calls, trying to raise their next fund. (The blue line shows total fund returns, while the red line shows returns net of fees — the money which actually goes to LPs.) Of course, at month 16, none of the returns are realized: they’re driven instead by increases in portfolio-company valuations, and those valuations are set by the GPs themselves.
If GPs were incentivized mainly by their 20% performance fee, then you’d expect something like the green line, or at the very least you’d expect the performance to rise over time, as the fund’s illiquidity premium manifested itself. If GPs were incentivized mainly by their 2% management fee, however, then you’d expect something much more like the real-world red and blue lines, where performance figures are used more to raise new funds than to make money.

No comments:

Post a Comment