As is argued later in the Startup Roadmap, venture-capital fund-raising is a sales process. You are trying to convince one or more venture firms to purchase an equity share in your company. Given that the venture capitalist (or “VC”) is the customer, it makes sense to understand the customer so you can be a more effective sales person.
The following introduction to venture capital is summarized from the web site of the National Venture Capital Association.
Venture capital is money provided by professionals who invest in young, rapidly growing companies that have the potential to develop into significant economic contributors. Venture capital is an important source of equity for start-up companies.
Professionally managed venture capital firms generally are private partnerships or closely-held corporations funded by private and public pension funds, endowment funds, foundations, corporations, wealthy individuals, foreign investors, and the venture capitalists themselves. Venture capitalists generally:
- Finance new and rapidly growing companies;
- Purchase equity securities;
- Assist in the development of new products or services;
- Add value to the company through active participation;
- Take higher risks with the expectation of higher rewards;
- Have a long-term orientation
When considering an investment, venture capitalists carefully screen the technical and business merits of the proposed company. Venture capitalists only invest in a small percentage of the businesses they review and have a long-term perspective. Going forward, they actively work with the company’s management by contributing their experience and business savvy gained from helping other companies with similar growth challenges.
Venture capitalists mitigate the risk of venture investing by developing a portfolio of young companies in a single venture fund. Many times they will co-invest with other VC firms. In addition, many venture partnership will manage multiple funds simultaneously.
What is a Venture Capitalist?
Venture capital and private equity firms are pools of capital, typically organized as a limited partnership, that invests in companies that represent the opportunity for a high rate of return within five to seven years. The venture capitalist may look at several hundred investment opportunities before investing in only a few selected companies with favorable investment opportunities. Far from being simply passive financiers, venture capitalists foster growth in companies through their involvement in the management, strategic marketing and planning
VCs have to raise funds too
The process that venture firms go through in seeking investment commitments from investors is typically called “fund raising.”
This should not be confused with the actual investment in investee or “portfolio” companies by the venture capital firms, which is also sometimes called “fund raising” in some circles. The commitments of capital are raised from the investors during the formation of the fund. A venture firm will set out prospecting for investors with a target fund size. It will distribute a prospectus to potential investors and may take from several weeks to several months to raise the requisite capital. The fund will seek commitments of capital from institutional investors, endowments, foundations and individuals who seek to invest part of their portfolio in opportunities with a higher risk factor and commensurate opportunity for higher returns.
Because of the risk, length of investment and illiquidity involved in venture investing, and because the minimum commitment requirements are so high, venture capital fund investing is generally out of reach for the average individual. The venture fund will have from a few to almost 100 limited partners depending on the target size of the fund. Once the firm has raised enough commitments, it will start making investments in portfolio companies.
Making investments in portfolio companies requires the venture firm to start “calling” its limited partners commitments. The firm will collect or “call” the needed investment capital from the limited partner in a series of tranches commonly known as “capital calls”. These capital calls from the limited partners to the venture fund are sometimes called “takedowns” or “paid-in capital.” Some years ago, the venture firm would “call” this capital down in three equal installments over a three year period. More recently, venture firms have synchronized their funding cycles and call their capital on an as-needed basis for investment of their investee companies.