VCWatch: VCs Increasingly OK With Founders Taking Early Liquidity
Paris: There was a fascinating VC panel at Le Web moderated by Travis Kalanick, an angel investor; with Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC, one of SIlicon Valley's most successful VCs; Philippe Botteri from Besssemer Venture Partners; Bernard Liautaud from Balderton Capital; and Barry Silbert, CEO and founder of SecondMarket.
Here are some of my notes from the panel:
- Mr Silbert's company runs a secondary market in shares in private companies. The shares are sourced from angel investors, founders, and employees. SecondShare plays an important role in creating liquidity in private companies in the absence of an IPO market.
- It can take up to ten years for a startup to have an exit and that's too long to expect founders and employees to wait.
- Traditionally, VCs have been against founders taking money off the table because they have less "skin in the game" and thus less motivated to create a successful company. But this attitude has changed significantly over the past two years and now it is considered OK for founders to reduce their stake by about 20 per cent.
- Mr Silbert said that public markets are broken and that the IPO has been dying for many years but not many realized it was dead. There used to be 400 to 500 IPOs per year but now there about 100.
- Liquidity for founders when raising successive rounds of capital used to be a rarity -- now it is much more common. It is often discussed and built into the structure of financing rounds.
- Some say the founder is less committed if they reduce their stake but it is exact opposite. Wives wants to see something from their husbands' 15 hour work days.
- - Jeff Clavier has invested in 90 companies over six years. He said that when entrepreneurs become investors there is a tendency to try to run the company rather than let the founders do it. It can take several years to adjust.
- Mr SIlbert sees himself in a war with Wall Street. He is a "recovering" investment banker and now wants to take on and disrupt the investment banks. The vast majority of startups aren't ever going to IPO. Wall Street cannot innovate, it moves too slowly and makes money of off opacity.
- Choosing a VC should be treated like hiring an employee because they sit on your board.
- SecondShare should do $400m this year, it did about $100m last year.