The chase for venture capital has always been a “chicken vs. egg” debate. But what if it’s really chicken (capital) vs. egg (ideas) vs. hatchery (VCs)?
Can you have a productive venture capital-sparked startup community like Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley without top-drawer VCs?
This is just a question, not a commendation of the VCs over the years who have called the Triangle and North Carolina home.
But I will let you check out the latest “Midas List” from Forbes and see what this compilation of the top venture capitalists based on deals, IPOs, mergers and acquisitions.
The Midas Touch …
To get you started, here is the top 10:
1. James Goetz – Sequoia Capital (WhatsApp, Palo Alto Networks, Nimble Storage)
2. Marc Andreessen – Andreessen Horowitz (Facebook, Twitter, Fusion-io)
3. Peter Fenton – Benchmark Capital (Twitter, Yelp!, New Relic)
4. Peter Thiel – Founders Fund (Facebook, Stripe, Palantir)
5. Jim Breyer – Accel Partners (Facebook, Spotify, Legendary Entertainment)
6. Douglas Leone – Sequoia Capital (FireEye, ServiceNow, Meraki)
7. Reid Hoffman – Greylock Partners (Facebook, Airbnb)
8. Steve Anderson – Baseline Ventures (Twitter, ExactTarget, Tremor Video)
9. Paul Madera – Meritech Capital Partners (Facebook, 21Vianet, Fusion-io)
10. Scott Sandell – New Enterprise Associates (Workday, Bloom Energy, Data Domain)
Forbes also notes the top outfits: “The top firms with the most partners on the list include Sequoia Capital (9), Accel Partners (8), and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (5). For the second year in a row, Facebook accounted for five investors in the top ten; Twitter accounted for three investors and Groupon put two investors in the top ten.”
The lack of investment capital in the Triangle and in North Carolina is a complaint dating back to before the “dot com” boom of nearly two decades ago.
But there have been times when the state cracked the national “top 10” lists, and there have been some big deals over the years such as Red Hat. The biggest was Quintiles, but the big Q going public at close to $1 billion last year really doesn’t count since the company had gone public, gone private, and then went public again to help investors cash out some of their shares.
Yes, the Triangle has produced a spate of IPOs over the past year. But another big one – CommScope – was another public-private-public cash out deal.
ChannelAdvisor did well as an ecommerce play.
And Square 1 Bank goes public at any time at around $115 million.
But the other IPOs were biotechs at smaller dollars – and those aren’t exits as much as revenue generators designed to get new products to market.
Yes, there have been some nice acquisitions, too, such as Digitalsmiths. And let’s not forget Epic Games’ whopping sale of a minority interest for megabucks to Tencent.
Yes, some big VC firms have made plays in the Triangle.
Questions, Questions …
However, the bottom line remains this: The Triangle is an also-ran when it comes to VC, despite what regional pride insists to the contrary.
Where are the big VC-backed home runs that really could put the Triangle on the investment map?
Where, for that matter, are the big VC funds raised by the VCs traveling the country convincing limited partners that they can deliver the big exit by investing in NC and the southeast?
Does location really matter that much in these days of Skype and webconferencing? We even have direct flights to the Valley now.
Is it the technology?
Does the Triangle not have a Mark Zuckerberg? (I would argue it does, but I’ll keep my opinions on who those people are to myself.)
Or is it the lack of VCs like an Andreessen or a Thiel or a Goetz who screen the deals, make the play and then create syndicates for even bigger deals? (Someday, I would argue, we could have a couple because there are a few VCs out there who really do work hard, have a national reputation already, and could take a startup to Facebook nirvana. But do you share that view?)
Or is it a combination?
We’ll probably never know.
Most VCs in the Triangle are focused on early stage deals anyway – and startups are vital. After all, Facebook, Google and Apple all had to incubate and launch somewhere.
But having some heavy-hitter, high-profile VCs – or some execs who cash out from Google and Facebook – resident in the Triangle at some point sure couldn’t hurt.
(Disagree? Agree? Feel free to email me: email@example.com)