In a recent survey, researchers asked a group of institutional limited partners which sector of venture capital they found most attractive. The most popular answer, cited by 39% of respondents, was: “I don’t invest in venture.”
“That really shows where things are going,” said Kelly DePonte, a partner at Probitas Partners, the private equity placement agent that published the survey. The firm says the percentage of LPs who state they do not invest in venture has more than doubled since 2007. Only a quarter of LPs said they were enthusiastic about early stage venture, which has historically produced the largest returns. Just over a fifth considered late stage venture attractive.
Limited partners’ diminished esteem for the asset class shows up in the venture fundraising totals. As of mid-September, U.S. venture funds had raised just over $13 billion in 2013, according to Thomson Reuters (publisher of VCJ). That’s fairly close to the total for the same period a year ago, and looks like a bit of an improvement from 2010 and 2011. Yet venture fundraising levels remain far below where they were five years ago, and the asset class still brings in a small fraction of the fat totals of the dot-com boom years.
Large, established VCs continue to get most of LPs’ capital, in what DePonte describes as a “two-tier market for venture fundraising.” Firms with a top-tier track record close funds quickly, even quite large ones. Emerging managers and VCs who don’t rank in the top 10% struggle to bring investors on board. If they do manage to close, it’s not unusual for the process to take well over a year and for the fund to come in under target.
The result is that venture industry consolidation remains alive and well. In the first quarter, the top five venture capital funds accounted for 57% percent of total fundraising, according to the National Venture Capital Association. In the second quarter, the top five VCs accounted for 55% of total fundraising.
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