Venture Capital Funds – How the Math Works

Why the Size of Venture Capital Funds Matters to Angels and Entrepreneurs

My previous post was titled Venture Capital Firms Are Too Big. That post provides one important piece of data necessary to answer the really important question of why the size of venture capital funds matters to angel investors and entrepreneurs. This post describes the second key element.

Venture Capital Fund Math

Peter Rip of Leapfrog Ventures describes some of the math behind venture capital funds in a fascinating post titled ‘Traditional Venture Capital Sure Seems Broken – It’s About Time.’ It provides some outstanding insight into how the math behind venture capital funds affects the way venture capital fund managers make investments and how they behave after they invest.

This post is a high level summary of how the math works for a typical venture capital fund.

In a Typical Fund the Returns are From 20% of the Investments

In a typical VC portfolio, most of the returns are from 20% of the investments. This is just a statistical fact – a law of nature. Statistically, if a VC makes ten investments, two will be winners and create most of the gains in the fund.

The Minimum Respectable Return on a VC Fund is 20% per year

A minimum ‘respectable’ return for a VC fund is 20% per year. This is set by the expectations of the investors in VC funds, the relative risk levels compared to other investment classes and the performance achieved by other venture capital fund managers.

What this Means for Angels and Entrepreneurs

This minimum acceptable return has profound implications for entrepreneurs and angel investors. It means that if company has venture capital fund investors, they will almost certainly block an opportunity to sell the company unless the price gives the VCs a 10 to 30x return.

The rest of this post explains more of the math behind venture capital funds.