A read of the Venture Capital pulse

I attended a Private Equity Panel organized by SDForum International SIG today in Menlo Park.  I was there to get a read of the PE and VC scene both in the valley as well as around the world.  Even though I spent most of my time around products, it is important to know where the “smart money” is going.  This information can have real impact on the choice of product and go-to-market strategies.

In the summer of 2009, it does not seem like the panel shares the overt optimism of the stock market of the last 3 months.  A few of the points that I recorded include

  • VCs will probably have another round of shrinkage in the next 3 or 4 years as “VCs die hard”.  They don’t immediately go away even if their investment strategy fails to perform.
  • There are more growth opportunities overseas, including Asia Pacific.  Investors are finding out that they can’t live in the US and invest successfully overseas.  This may lead to the shrinking of the VC presence in the US.
  • Some of the VCs are continuing to invest but startups need to show real monetization of their products and services to attract venture money.
  • Early stage VCs are reducing their risks by investing in later stage companies at attractive valuations in this economy.  Some VCs are seeing competition with later stage Angel investors for good opportunities.
  • Investors do not see what the next big wave is yet.
  • Clean Tech will require a much longer incubation period than software.  Investors may have to have a 10-year horizon to see the return on Clean Tech investments.
  • An advice for startups is to build for the global market first and then optimize for local markets.  The US is no longer the “must have” 1st market for Israeli companies.

This is by no means a comprehensive list and I don’t claim to represent the opinions of the panel.  My personal take-away from the event is that there is still not much visibility into the next big thing (or the next bubble, depending on your perspective).  However, if you are planning to start something, be sure to have a good monetization strategy in your business model.  It is even better if you have real revenues.  Otherwise, you aren’t going to have much luck with securing investments.

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