Most folks reading this will know that many startups were built in part with the help of venture capital. Most attention goes to tech companies ranging from Google to Genentech, but some non-tech companies like FedEx and Starbucks also raised VC early in their lives.
However, many folks probably don’t think about exactly where those VC dollars that help fund startups actually come from. So I wanted to dive a little deeper into what I call the startup capital supply chain. I’ve had a version of this post in my “drafts” folder for some time, but the confluence of three unconnected things (more on these later) prompted me to finally finish and publish it.
So where did that dollar that a given VC invested in a startup ultimately originate? Well it may be useful to illuminate this discussion with a chart.
(Click the image to view a larger version.)
Most of the dollars a VC firm invests come from outside limited partner investors (LPs). The actual partners of a VC firm (GPs) will typically invest a minimum of 1% of the total size of their fund,* though frequently this percentage is substantially higher (especially in many of the best funds).
The nature of LP investors can vary widely, but the bulk of the capital in the VC ecosystem comes from large institutions like pension funds, endowments of universities and hospitals, charitable foundations, insurance companies, very wealthy families (aka family offices), and corporations. A smaller portion of the total capital in the VC ecosystem comes from high net worth individuals. Very small funds may not have any large institutions as LP investors, just individuals, but even the largest and most established VC funds often have “sidecar” funds to enable a select group of individuals to invest in their funds (typically entrepreneurs the firm knows well).
To better understand VC capital, let’s look more closely at the various types of institutions (LPs) and their raison d’etre:
Defined-benefit (DB) pension funds are the entities which pay a fixed pension amount to retired employees of a particular organization. There remain many corporate pension funds still investing in VC, though a lot of DB pension funds in the private sector are no longer enrolling new employees. Today most corporations have 401(k) style defined contribution programs where employees pay a fixed amount and the performance of their investments determine the amount they have upon retirement.
For public sector roles, such as government employees, teachers, and firefighters, DB pension funds are still the norm, and many public pension funds still invest in VC funds (though some of these are very large entities, making scale an issue, which I’ll discuss more below).
Some VC firms have eschewed taking Continue reading "Where Do Venture Capital Dollars Actually Come From? This Visual Explains"