The Disruption in Venture Capital

In the afternoon today, I went to Future Forward, the conference that Scott Kirsner puts on every year. He had a line-up of speakers, each of whom were given 10 minutes to talk about a weighty topic. A bit like TED Talks.

There were a lot of great speakers. I enjoyed all of them and wanted to highlight one that Rob Go gave about venture capital. In it, Rob talked about how VC has gone from a sleeply industry to one where old rules are broken and VCs have to pivot. In other words, he talked about disruption. “It happens to all industries, but this happens to be ours,” he said.

Rob spoke specifically about the three things VCs do (source investments, pick opportunities, and win them vs. other VCs) and how that has changed from ten years ago to today. If you think about it, he’s right. We used to be an opaque industry where it was hard to get to know VCs.

We’re now at a time when many VCs blog and are extremely accessible due to the Internet. So, if you’re easily found as a VC through a post or a Twitter handle, what is now one’s competitive advantage? It is something about which our partnership thinks a great deal.

I agree with many of Rob’s points, particularly that we are in a “new world,” given the increased transparency and the lowered-friction that now exists in fundraising.

To me, I think being a VC is all about being straight-forward with entrepreneurs, adding value in areas of recruiting, customer contacts and strategic relationships, and getting out of the way. If you’re a control freak, VC is a really tough way to make a living, in my opinion.

I don’t think anyone likes their industry to be disrupted. It is painful to self-criticize. Frankly, it’s very easy to compete with the same rules, the same players and the same strategies year after year. But, those days are over. I think VC is changed forever, and I think all this is better for entrepreneurs.

I think one necessary part of all that is this: VCs now have to be entrepreneurial.

One thought on “The Disruption in Venture Capital

  1. Reaching back into history and looking at the technology IPO market of the 1970s; one clearly realizes it was like a backwater, with less than half a dozen companies going public each year. Despite IPOs from such future industry bellwethers as Intel and Tandem, the average deal size was around $10 million back then. The market started gaining traction, however, with the IPOs of Apple and Genentech in 1980. In that decade, there were 32 technology IPOs a year, followed by more than 100 technology stock market debuts in the first half of the 1990s. From 1996 to 1998 — the years that experienced the first wave of Internet-related IPOs as well as Amazon’s IPO — there were 240 deals annually, which were followed by the “crazy years” of 1999 and 2000, with nearly 400 deals a year.

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