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Over the last ten years the venture ecosystem has had an extreme makeover. Founder expectations and VC offerings have both evolved – but are they on the same page anymore? This report aims to find out what attributes founders really look for in their investors, and how these change depending on the founder profile, from geography to gender and experience.
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On both the supply and demand side, the global venture capital market has changed dramatically in the past decade.
Where capital was once hard to come-by, and venture funds hard to find, the cup now runneth over.
According to PitchBook Data, Inc., back in 2011, there were 9,202 venture capital funds that deployed a combined $61b of capital. By 2021, that figure had grown to 44,894 funds that deployed more than $699b globally.
And whilst the number of startups seeking investment has expanded alongside this, the number of high-quality opportunities* has not grown at a proportional rate, leaving investors skirmishing to get in on the hottest Seed rounds (and saddled with an ever present sense of FOMO).
In addition to an increase in the number of early-stage VCs, competition in startup funding has been compounded by later-stage investors moving further upstream, and offering fledgling founders larger sums of capital at more attractive valuations.
The result is a new era of venture characterised by volatile valuations, investor infighting, and ragtag term sheets.
The funding free-for-all reached its peak in 2021, and has since slackened under the weight of rapidly-falling public tech stocks.
But even as deal pace slows and valuation multiples contract,
venture funds have plenty of dry powder to put to work (with an estimated $230b sat on the sidelines). It may take a little longer than before, but that capital will be deployed over the coming quarters.
Driven by this increasing competition, VCs have been directing more of their management fees towards differentiated support for their portfolio companies, commonly known as the “platform model” of venture capital.
Platform VC encapsulates any kind of support or resources that go beyond funding and 1-1 advice from partners. This could include anything from pitch deck templates, to portfolio Slack channels, workshops on diversity and inclusion, to plug-in marketing teams.
Each fund will develop its own form of “value-add” to help their existing portfolio and (perhaps most importantly) attract high-quality deal flow.
And whilst these offerings once came at an extra cost to founders, having a free platform has become essential for VCs in such a cutthroat market.
As a result of these trends, alongside macro-economic shifts, founder expectations have evolved too. In the past two years alone, we’ve experienced a global pandemic, record levels of venture funding, a major downturn in the public tech markets, sky-rocketing inflation, and the outbreak of war in Europe.
Simply put, the landscape has become more treacherous – and founders need a higher level of support to navigate it.
Indeed, the list of qualities that founders look for in VCs has grown far beyond “having cash in the bank”. But what those qualities are, and the extent to which founders value them, is ever-changing and hard to measure.
Without directly asking what founders are looking for from funds, the venture community risks building an arsenal of productised support that founders have no real use for.
Inspired by research conducted by a team of VCs from Creandum (Carl Fritjofsson), University of Chicago (Owen Reynolds) and Newfund (Henri Deshays), we took a snapshot of what founders currently look for in investors, by surveying over 200 entrepreneurs.
As a thank you to those who took the time to participate in this research, Frontline Ventures has donated £1030 to the Irish Red Cross’s Ukraine Crisis Appeal. Our friends at Martinsen Mayer kindly matched this donation, for a total of £2060.
Now, we’ve gathered the responses, crunched the numbers, and are ready to deliver the final results to you.