The underlying feeling seems to be that VCs are setting the bar to investment so high that it’s unattainable. That’s frustrating, especially when you hear those VCs talking about embracing innovation and backing disruptive ideas. As one of the comments on our article put it, ‘If a young company or entrepreneur meets the specified criteria he doesn’t need a VC – he deserves a medal’.
Of course, VCs have their own problems at the moment and are generally more risk-averse than ever. So it’s not the best time to go in search of funding, whether from investors, banks or anyone else.
But if you do start polishing off the Powerpoint presentation, it might be as well to remember the words of Jon Moulton, the outspoken founder of private equity firm Alchemy. He flatly contradicts the popular perception that there are thousands of high-quality companies out there unable to progress their growth plans only because of a lack of venture capital funding.
‘If that were true,’ Moulton remarks, ‘you would have spectacular rates of return in VC funds, and you absolutely don’t have it. The average returns reported by the BVCA [British Venture Capital Association] or the [European Venture Capital Association] show that over any reasonable period you’d be better off with a Northern Rock deposit.’
To follow Moulton’s logic to its conclusion, either VCs have been extraordinarily inept at picking winners – letting the really high-growth companies slip through their fingers – or there haven’t been enough winners to pick. With this sort of track record, you can’t blame them for being a bit cautious and skeptical about prospective investments.