The thing with VCs and early investors

The thing with VCs and early stage investors is: they are gambling!

It is just the way their business model works. Venture Capital is a ‘hits’ based business. Investors will typically invest in about 100 startups, out of which upto 75 of them will return very little or no money and 95 of them will miss their targets – in other words – 95% of them fail. The 2-3 that do succeed will return several orders of magnitude of the initial investment, which basically pays for the entire portfolio.

At the angel stage, the odds are even worse, where funds like 500 Startups, Kima Ventures etc. need to resort to a model of ‘Spray and Pray‘ – which basically means ‘spray money on a bunch of startups, and pray a couple of them succeed.’

What does this mean for the entrepreneur?

If you are one of the companies that has been ‘sprayed’ money on, what does that tell you of your investor’s belief in how well you will do? – Not much!

This applies even to top, highly selective funds like Y Combinator, which has graduated about 1000 startups (“The total value of the companies we’ve funded is around 10 billion, give or take a few. But just two companies, Dropbox and Airbnb, account for about three quarters of it.” – Paul Graham)

For the entrepreneur – the process of getting the investment really does NOT mean anything! It is just an extension of your life-line. If you have traction, then traditional VC investing metrics like strong teams, great products etc. become irrelevant in comparison. So, my belief is don’t focus too much on what Angels or VCs want but rather focus on what your users/customers want – you need to focus on building a viable business that solves a real problem – and less so on building something that investors would like to invest in or something where the VC community is ‘hot’ in.

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