One of the joys of being a researcher is that you get to read widely. Alongside the governance and research methodology material that comes across my screen every day, I see articles about related topics like philosophy, strategic management, start-ups and leadership.
One particular article about start-ups and venture capital caught my eye today. The WSJ correspondent cited new research from Harvard Business School that three out of every four VC-backed companies fail to return their investor's capital. That's right, three out of four. And that's the good news. The failure rate of non-VC-backed companies is worse.
"Venture capitalists make high-risk investments and expect some of them to fail, and entrepreneurs who raise venture capital often draw salaries". Why is this? To my arguably naive mind, expecting a business fail is just plain dumb. Why aren't VCs more discriminating? Surely, some more effort up front, to assess an opportunity more rigorously and ensure a robust strategy is selected, would make sense? Or is that akin to asking an adrenalin junkie to avoid high-risk pursuits? Perhaps it is, but more so, perhaps it's time for the VC community to adopt a less cavalier attitude with what is often other people's money in the first place. I suspect the failure rate associated with pushing unsustainable ideas would decline. And if that happened, we'd all be better off, I'm sure.
Thoughts on corporate purpose, strategy and governance; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.