Venture Capital
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Venture capital is a type of private equity capital typically provided by professional, institutionally-backed outside investors to new, growth businesses. Generally made as cash in exchange for shares in the investee company, venture capital investments are usually high risk, but offer the potential for above-average returns. A venture capitalist (VC) is a person who makes such investments. A venture capital fund is a pooled investment vehicle (often a partnership) that primarily invests the financial capital of third-party investors in enterprises that are too risky for the standard capital markets or bank loans. Venture capital can also include managerial and technical expertise. Most venture capital comes from a group of wealthy investors, investment banks and other financial institutions that pool such investments or partnerships. This form of raising capital is popular among new companies, or ventures, with limited operating history, who cannot raise funds through a debt issue. The downside for entrepreneurs is that venture capitalists usually get a say in company decisions, in addition to a portion of the equity.

Beginnings of modern venture capital

Although many other similar investment mechanisms have existed in the past, General Georges Doriot is considered to be the father of the modern venture capital industry.

In 1946, Doriot founded American Research and Development Corporation (AR&D), whose biggest success was Digital Equipment Corporation. When Digital Equipment went public in 1968 it provided AR&D with 101% annualized Return on Investment (ROI). ARD's $70,000 USD investment in Digital Corporation in 1959 had a market value of $37 million USD in 1968. It is commonly accepted that the first venture-backed startup is Fairchild Semiconductor, funded in 1959 by Venrock Associates. Venture capital investments, before World War II, were primarily the sphere of influence of wealthy individuals and families. One of the first steps toward a professionally-managed venture capital industry was the passage of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958. The 1958 Act officially allowed the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to license private "Small Business Investment Companies" (SBICs) to help the financing and management of the small entrepreneurial businesses in the United States. Passage of the Act addressed concerns raised in a Federal Reserve Board report to Congress that concluded that a major gap existed in the capital markets for long-term funding for growth-oriented small businesses. Facilitating the flow of capital through the economy up to the pioneering small concerns in order to stimulate the U.S. economy was and still is the main goal of the SBIC program today. Generally, venture capital is closely associated with the technologically innovative ventures and mostly in the United States. Due to structural restrictions imposed on American banks in the 1930s there was no private merchant banking industry in the United States, a situation that was quite unique in developed nations. As late as the 1980s Lester Thurow, a noted economist, decried the inability of the USA's financial regulation framework to support any merchant bank other than one that is run by the United States Congress in the form of federally funded projects. These, he argued, were massive in scale, but also politically motivated, too focused on defense, housing and such specialized technologies as space exploration, agriculture, and aerospace. US investment banks were confined to handling large M&A transactions, the issue of equity and debt securities, and, often, the breakup of industrial concerns to access their pension fund surplus or sell off infrastructural capital for big gains.

Not only was the lax regulation of this situation very heavily criticized at the time, this industrial policy differed from that of other industrialized rivals—notably Germany and Japan—which at that time were gaining ground in automotive and consumer electronics markets globally. However, those nations were also becoming somewhat more dependent on central bank and elite academic judgment, rather than the more diffuse way that priorities were set by government and private investors in the United States.

Seeking Venture Capital

Raising substantial venture capital

Venture capital is not generally suitable for all entrepreneurs. Venture capitalists are typically very selective in deciding what to invest in; as a rule of thumb, a fund may invest in as few as one in four hundred opportunities presented to it. Funds are most interested in ventures with exceptionally high growth potential, as only such opportunities are likely capable of providing the financial returns and successful exit event within the required timeframe (typically 3-7 years) that venture capitalists expect.

This need for high returns makes venture funding an expensive capital source for companies, and most suitable for businesses having large up-front capital requirements which cannot be financed by cheaper alternatives such as debt. That is most commonly the case for intangible assets such as software, and other intellectual property, whose value is unproven. In turn this explains why venture capital is most prevalent in the fast-growing technology and life sciences or biotechnology fields.

If a company does have the qualities venture capitalists seek such as a solid business plan, a good management team, investment and passion from the founders, a good potential to exit the investment before the end of their funding cycle, and target minimum returns in excess of 40% per year, it will find it easier to raise venture capital.

Variety is the Key to Success

Main alternatives to venture capital

Because of the strict requirements venture capitalists have for potential investments, many entrepreneurs seek initial funding from angel investors, who may be more willing to invest in highly speculative opportunities, or may have a prior relationship with the entrepreneur.

Furthermore, many venture capital firms will only seriously evaluate an investment in a start-up otherwise unknown to them if the company can prove at least some of its claims about the technology and/or market potential for its product or services. To achieve this, or even just to avoid the dilutive effects of receiving funding before such claims are proven, many start-ups seek to self-finance until they reach a point where they can credibly approach outside capital providers such as VCs or angels. This practice is called "bootstrapping".

There has been some debate since the dot com boom that a "funding gap" has developed between the friends and family investments typically in the $0 to $250,000 range and the amounts that most Venture Capital Funds prefer to invest between $1 to $2m. This funding gap may be accentuated by the fact that some successful Venture Capital funds have been drawn to raise ever-larger funds, requiring them to search for correspondingly larger investment opportunities. This 'gap' is often filled by angel investors as well as equity investment companies who specialize in investments in startups from the range of $250,000 to $1m. The National Venture Capital association estimates that the latter now invest more than $30 billion a year in the USA in contrast to the $20 billion a year invested by organized Venture Capital funds.

In industries where assets can be securitized effectively because they reliably generate future revenue streams or have a good potential for resale in case of foreclosure, businesses may more cheaply be able to raise debt to finance their growth. Good examples would include asset-intensive extractive industries such as mining, or manufacturing industries. Offshore funding is provided via specialist venture capital trusts which seek to utilize securitization in structuring hybrid multi market transactions via an SPV (special purpose vehicle): a corporate entity that is designed solely for the purpose of the financing.

Websites of the Investors
Angel Investors

Angel Investor

An angel investor (known as a "business angel" in Europe, or simply an "angel") is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for ownership equity. Angels typically invest their own funds, unlike venture capitalists, who manage the pooled money of others in a professionally-managed fund. However, a small but increasing number of angel investors are organizing themselves into angel networks or angel groups to share research and pool their investment capital.

Angel capital fills the gap in start-up financing between the "three F"s (friends, family, and fools) of seed capital, and venture capital. While it is usually difficult to raise more than US$100,000 - US$200,000 from friends and family, most traditional venture capital funds are usually not able to consider investments under US$1 - 2 million. Thus, angel investment is a common second round of financing for high-growth start-ups, and accounts in total for almost as much money invested annually as all venture capital funds combined, but into more than ten times as many companies (US$25.6 billion vs. $26.1 billion in the US in 2006, into 51,000 companies vs. 3,522 companies[1], [2]).

Angel investments bear extremely high risk, and thus require a very high return on investment. Because a large percentage of angel investments are lost completely when early stage companies fail, professional angel investors seek investments that have the potential to return at least 10 or more times their original investment within 5 years, through a defined exit strategy, such as plans for an initial public offering or an acquisition. Current 'best practices' as taught by the Angel Capital Education Foundation in its 'Power of Angel Investing' seminar series suggest that angels might do better setting their sights even higher, looking for companies that will have at least the potential to provide a 20x-30x return over a five- to seven-year holding period. After taking into account the need to cover failed investments and the multi-year holding time for even the successful ones, however, the actual effective internal rate of return for a typical successful portfolio of angel investments might, in reality, be as 'low' as 20-30%. While the investor's need for high rates of return on any given investment can thus make angel financing an expensive source of funds, cheaper sources of capital, such as bank financing, are usually not available for most early-stage ventures.

Angel investors are often retired entrepreneurs or executives, who may be interested in angel investing for other reasons in addition to pure monetary return. These include wanting to keep abreast of current developments in a particular business arena, mentoring another generation of entrepreneurs, and making use of their experience and networks on a less-than-full-time basis. Thus, in addition to funds, angel investors can often provide valuable management advice and important contacts.

According to the University of New Hampshire's Center for Venture Research, there were 234,000 active angel investors in the U.S. in 2006. Beginning in the late 1980s, angels started to coalesce into informal groups with the goal of sharing deal flow and due diligence work, and pooling their funds to make larger investments. Angel groups are generally local organizations made up of 10 to 150 accredited investors interested in early-stage investing. In 1996 there were about 10 angel groups in the U.S.; as of 2007 there are over 250, with a roughly equal number in all other countries combined. The more advanced of these groups have full time, professional staffs; associated investment funds; sophisticated web-based platforms for processing funding applications; and annual operating budgets of well over US$250,000. In January, 2004 the not-for-profit Angel Capital Association, and later the Angel Capital Education Foundation, were formed under the auspices of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, bringing together over 100 of the most active angel groups in the United States. The ACA and ACEF have an annual summit meeting each year in a different city, bringing together the leaders of the different groups to exchange best practices. An equivalent European organization, EBAN, the European Business Angel Network, had been established in 1999 by the European Association of Development Agencies (EURADA) with the support of the European Commission.

In 2004, according to the Center for Venture Research, 18.5% of deals that got through the early screens of angel groups and were presented to investors attracted funding. This was up significantly from 10% in 2003, which is about the historical average. But since this figure discounts the tough initial screening performed by most groups, the percentage of all companies seeking angel financing that actually receive funding is closer to 0.5%-1% (but still higher than the 0.2%-0.25% of applicants who receive funding from venture capitalists). Approximately 51,000 US companies received angel funding in 2006, and on average, each raised about US$500,000. Healthcare services, and medical devices and equipment accounted for the largest share of angel investments, with 21 percent of total angel investments in 2006, followed by software (18 percent) and biotech (18 percent). The remaining investments were approximately equally weighted across high-tech sectors

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