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Venture capital

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A financing diagram illustrating how start-up companies are typically financed. First, the new firm seeks out "seed capital" and funding from "angel investors" and accelerators. Then, if the firm can survive through the "valley of death"–the period where the firm is trying to develop on a "shoestring" budget–the firm can seek venture capital financing.

Venture capital (VC) is a type of private equity,[1] a form of financing that is provided by firms or funds to small, early-stage, emerging firms that are deemed to have high growth potential, or which have demonstrated high growth (in terms of number of employees, annual revenue, or both). Venture capital firms or funds invest in these early-stage companies in exchange for equity, or an ownership stake, in the companies they invest in. Venture capitalists take on the risk of financing risky start-ups in the hopes that some of the firms they support will become successful. Because startups face high uncertainty,[2] VC investments do have high rates of failure. The start-ups are usually based on an innovative technology or business model and they are usually from the high technology industries, such as information technology (IT), clean technology or biotechnology.

The typical venture capital investment occurs after an initial "seed funding" round. The first round of institutional venture capital to fund growth is called the Series A round. Venture capitalists provide this financing in the interest of generating a return through an eventual "exit" event, such as the company selling shares to the public for the first time in an initial public offering (IPO) or doing a merger and acquisition(also known as a "trade sale") of the company. Alternatively, an exit may come about via the private equity secondary market.

In addition to angel investingequity crowdfunding and other seed funding options, venture capital is attractive for new companies with limited operating history that are too small to raise capital in the public markets and have not reached the point where they are able to secure a bank loan or complete a debt offering. In exchange for the high risk that venture capitalists assume by investing in smaller and early-stage companies, venture capitalists usually get significant control over company decisions, in addition to a significant portion of the companies' ownership (and consequently value). Start-ups like UberAirbnbFlipkartXiaomi & Didi Chuxing are highly valued startups, commonly known as unicorns, where venture capitalists contribute more than financing to these early-stage firms; they also often provide strategic advice to the firm's executives on its business model and marketing strategies.

Venture capital is also a way in which the private and public sectors can construct an institution that systematically creates business networksfor the new firms and industries, so that they can progress and develop. This institution helps identify promising new firms and provide them with finance, technical expertise, mentoring, marketing "know-how", and business models. Once integrated into the business network, these firms are more likely to succeed, as they become "nodes" in the search networks for designing and building products in their domain.[3]However, venture capitalists' decisions are often biased, exhibiting for instance overconfidence and illusion of control, much like entrepreneurial decisions in general.[4]


A startup may be defined as a project prospective converted into a process with an adequate assumed risk and investment. With few exceptions, private equity in the first half of the 20th century was the domain of wealthy individuals and families. The Wallenbergs, Vanderbilts, Whitneys, Rockefellers, and Warburgs were notable investors in private companies in the first half of the century. In 1938, Laurance S. Rockefeller helped finance the creation of both Eastern Air Lines and Douglas Aircraft, and the Rockefeller family had vast holdings in a variety of companies. Eric M. Warburg founded E.M. Warburg & Co. in 1938, which would ultimately become Warburg Pincus, with investments in both leveraged buyouts and venture capital. The Wallenberg family started Investor AB in 1916 in Sweden and were early investors in several Swedish companies such as ABBAtlas CopcoEricsson, etc. in the first half of the 20th century. (History of venture capital)

Origins of modern private equity[edit]

Before World War II (1939–1945), money orders (originally known as "development capital") remained primarily the domain of wealthy individuals and families. Only after 1945 did "true" private equity investments begin to emerge, notably with the founding of the first two venture capital firms in 1946: American Research and Development Corporation (ARDC) and J.H. Whitney & Company.[5][6]

Georges Doriot, the "father of venture capitalism"[7] (and former assistant dean of Harvard Business School), founded the graduate business school INSEAD in 1957. Along with Ralph Flanders and Karl Compton (former president of MIT), Doriot founded ARDC in 1946 to encourage private-sector investment in businesses run by soldiers returning from World War II. ARDC became the first institutional private-equity investment firm to raise capital from sources other than wealthy families, although it had several notable investment successes as well.[8]ARDC is credited[by whom?] with the first trick when its 1957 investment of $70,000 in Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) would be valued at over $355 million after the company's initial public offering in 1968 (representing a return of over 1200 times on its investment and an annualized rate of return of 101%).[9]

Former employees of ARDC went on to establish several prominent venture-capital firms including Greylock Partners (founded in 1965 by Charlie Waite and Bill Elfers) and Morgan, Holland Ventures, the predecessor of Flagship Ventures (founded in 1982 by James Morgan).[10]ARDC continued investing until 1971, when Doriot retired. In 1972 Doriot merged ARDC with Textron after having invested in over 150 companies.

John Hay Whitney (1904–1982) and his partner Benno Schmidt (1913–1999) founded J.H. Whitney & Company in 1946. Whitney had been investing since the 1930s, founding Pioneer Pictures in 1933 and acquiring a 15% interest in Technicolor Corporation with his cousin Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. Florida Foods Corporation proved Whitney's most famous investment. The company developed an innovative method for delivering nutrition to American soldiers, later known as Minute Maid orange juice and was sold to The Coca-Cola Company in 1960. J.H. Whitney & Company continued to make investments in leveraged buyout transactions and raised $750 million for its sixth <a style="text-decoration-line: none; color: #0b0080; background-image: none; background-position: initial; background-size: initial; background-repeat: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial;" title="Institutional investor" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institutional