Follow me @samir kaji for my random, sometimes relevant musings about the venture capital world.
Last week, we were fortunate enough to serve as one of the co-producers ofRAISE in the Presidio, a 1-day summit focused on helping emerging fund managers build lasting venture franchises. Much credit for the event goes to Akkadian Ventures and Core Ventures Group, who spearheaded the event along with fellow co-producers Top Tier Capital and Weathergage Capital.
To ensure candid and open conversation, attendees of the event were asked not to share sound bites or any specifics on social media. While I won’t share exact specifics, I do want to want to share some of my main takeaways from the event.
LP’s are really busy
A few factors are driving this. The first is that the fundraising cycle for venture firms has significantly truncated over the last few years. Instead of a new fund every 3–4 years, firms are now coming back to market every 2–2.5 years. Recently, this phenomenon can be explained by venture capitalists wanting to secure dry powder during what appears to be the start of a declining valuation environment (before market factors force LP’s to retract significantly). Irrespective of the current market, it’s clear that firms are pulling on LP purse strings more frequently than we’ve historically seen. Next, first and second time funds continue to flood the market (according to my data, there are 350+ firms in the US that can be considered Micro-VC firms). A few LP’s shared with me that they see between 5–10 new managers every week! Add in Opportunity funds and Special Purpose Vehicles, and it translates to an incredibly chaotic time for venture allocators.
Market downturn isn’t a deterrent to new managers, but fundraising is incredibly difficult
At the event, there were over 100 general partners, and over half of them were in process of raising their first institutional fund (or first fund of any kind). While the market reset is certainly dominating venture headlines, it doesn’t appear to be stopping new managers from raising funds.
That said, very few institutional investors expressed that they were currently investing in first time funds unless it included a manager who had previous experience and success managing third party capital. Reliant on family offices and individuals for capital, most new fund entrants face the market reality of longer fundraising cycles and rolling closes (the average new fund has 3+ closes during a fundraise).
Differentiated strategies abound
Unlike 4–5 years ago when most Micro-VC firms were generalists by nature, the majority of managers present at the summit were thematically precise with respect to investment thesis (i.e. Government tech, fintech, materials, hardware, marketing tech, media tech, cleantech). This is great news for entrepreneurs as vertical domain expertise is available across the board within the institutional seed market.
Projections of consolidation
Although new entrant pace doesn’t appear to be slowing as of yet, most GP’s and LP’s still believe significant consolidation of the market will occur within 24–36 months. Several people I talked to felt that the majority of contraction will occur in late 2017 & 2018 when the majority of fund I managers come back to market for a 2nd fund (and unlike institutional LP’s that commit to at least 2 funds per manager, non-institutional LP’s remain unpredictable). This tacitly assumes that new first time fund formation will slow at some point in 2016.
While diversity, or lack thereof, has been major point of contention within venture circles, I observed much more diversity with respect to gender, age, and ethnicity. Nearly 1 out of 5 GP’s at the event were female (as opposed to the industry average of 6%); we still have a long way to go before we can eradicate diversity as an issue, but it was nonetheless encouraging to see.
In summary, the new venture fund manager universe continues to be very active and fluid. More importantly to note though is that new venture investors today are more similar to the entrepreneurs they invest in than ever before. We’re excited to support this generation in part by making this summit a recurring one.