Around this time last year, we co-produced the inaugural RAISE summit, an event conceived by Akkadian Ventures and Core Ventures Group, and primarily developed to help foster venture fund entrepreneurship.

With over 100 venture capital fund managers and 50 venture focused Limited Partners (LP’s) in attendance, the follow things became clear during the conference:

  • An extraordinary amount of managers were raising first time funds, with an overwhelming number doing so without prior institutional venture investing experience.
  • Most faced the same issues around raising a fund.
  • The LP’s expressed intrigue into the Micro-VC class, but very few had really taken an active role in allocating.

A year later, the Micro-VC market has evolved distinctly as I’ve covered in my recent writings.  As we near closer to the 2nd RAISE summit on May 10th, we decided to pre-emptively gauge the temperature of LP’s today toward Micro-VC.

As such, we conducted a survey with a subset of LP’s that we know have invested into Micro-VC/seed venture funds in the past.  The sample size here was ~50 LP’s.

The breakdown of the LP’s in the study was the following:

 

Below are a few of the questions that were posed in the survey:

Takeaway:  It was surprising to see the high % that indicated they have an active mandate. This may be a result of the large concentration of Fund of Funds in the sample. Also, the term mandate may have left some room for interpretation. Interestingly, <40% of Endowments responded they had an active mandate for new Micro-VC allocations.

Takeaway: 2016 was not an aggressive year for institutional allocations to first time funds. Only 4% of respondents indicated they had done at least 3 Fund I Micro-VC allocations in 2016 and 40% said they didn’t do any.   There a few reasons that likely drove this:

  • Driven by fear of long winter, many large venture fund managers contracted their fundraising cycles and came back to market earlier. This flood of brand firms coming to market in the first half of 2016 exhausted many venture allocation buckets, and many new funds were pushed down the priority stack.
  • The respondents in this study were primarily institutional investors, which generally tend to have reduced appetites for first time funds (many of which are raised by first time managers).

The LP’s in the data set appear to be poised to be far more aggressive in 2017, with less than 10% indicating they’d do no first time fund investment during the year.

Takeaway:  Historically, institutional LP’s haven’t incredibly excited about first time manager allocations as questions around both institutional investing acumen and operational firm management typically represent too great of risk.  That being said, I have had several conversations over the last few months with LP’s that are willing to make bets on first time managers if true differentiation exists.

Takeaway:  In the past, LP’s generally were split on whether to invest in solo GP’s funds, an opinion that has clearly shifted. While the number is a bit eye-opening it’s not entirely astonishing given the success of many solo GP’s (i.e. Chris Sacca, Steve Anderson, Manu Kumar) and the ability of many solo GP’s to later attract great talent (Jeff Clavier, Mike Maples, etc.).

Takeaway: The big takeaway here is the great interest in funds that have a distinct sector focus.  While most first generation Micro-VC’s were generalist tech investors, it’s clear that the abundance of seed funds in market requires clear differentiation of some type, with clear domain expertise being the leading differentiator.

Additionally the survey expressed that LA and non-core markets are substantially more attractive to LP’s than they were just 18-24 months ago.

While it’s too early to tell how the Micro-VC fundraising market will end up in 2017, it seems to be shaping up for another busy new fund formation year.

Leave a Reply