Venture Voodoo, all over again…


Exactly a year ago we saw media reports on venture fundraising that contorted themselves, depending if the half they saw was empty or full.  So here we go again, but now it’s not even clear how much water the glass holds.  The WSJ uses data from Dow Jones to report 2010 venture fundraising to date of $7.5 billion — which is up 13.5% YOY — and posits a possible industry rebound, even as they acknowledge 10-year venture fund returns performing like a bad checking account, but without the free toaster. Then a day later came the NVCA report, which detailed just $5.6 billion in venture fundraising, and noted that Q2 had the distinction of being the lowest quarterly total in seven years.

Truth is that rather than try to solve the nearly $2 billion discrepancy, it’s better to worry less about the view from the airplane, and focus more on ground fundamentals: venture is changing, but it is still viable.  Quality companies showing growth or exceptional promise will still get interest — but it will require more time and a broader search, and terms will continue to favor funds, not companies.

Perhaps more interesting than fundraising statistics is the shifting dynamics of the venture industry, particularly the rise of seed funds and the so-called super angels.  Rob Go, who recently left a traditional venture firm to go micro, provides a brief primer on this trend (most of which which should be highly familiar to readers of this newsletter). And the stutteringly named Simeon Simeonov, an EIR at General Catalyst, runs some numbers on angel investing and sees the value of a highly diversified, volume-attentive portfolio approach that somewhat counters the broader belief that traditional venture firms should narrow their focus. All this activity has various implications for the industry overall, with Mark Suster providing a very cogent summary.

Roughly two years into the seismic shifts in the capital markets and it’s apparent that the traditional metrics of venture fundraising are less and less relevant as the industry both consolidates and reinvents itself.  The trends we have been following for some time — increased capital efficiency, faster product cycles, increased network effects, smaller investments — are shaping the new landscape.  And the best view into the venture markets is not from the airplane, it’s from the ground.