Tim O'Reilly on VC

From Austin Storm
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Immensely gratifying to see Tim O'Reilly talk about the insular nature of VC-funded tech companies.

The typical VC model is looking for this high-growth company with exit potential, because it’s looking for this big financial return from an IPO or acquisition, and that selects for a certain type of founder. My partner Bryce decided two funds ago [to] look for companies that are kind of disparaged as lifestyle companies that are trying to build sustainable businesses with cash flow and profits. They’re the kind of small businesses, and small business entrepreneurs, that have vanished from America, partly because of the VC myth, which is really about creating financial instruments for the wealthy. He came up with a version of a SAFE note that allows the founders to buy out the VC at a predetermined amount if they ever become sufficiently profitable, but also gives them the optionality, because periodically, some of them do end up becoming a rocket ship. But the founder is not on the treadmill of: You have to get out.


As I said, I’ve been really disillusioned with Silicon Valley investing for a long time. It reminds me of Wall Street going up to 2008. The idea was, ‘As long as someone wants to buy this [collateralized debt obligation], we’re good.’ Nobody is thinking about: Is this a good product? So many things that VCs have created are really financial instruments like those CDOs. They aren’t really thinking about whether this is a company that could survive on revenue from its customers. Deals are designed entirely around an exit. As long as you can get some sucker to take them, [you’re good]. So many acquisitions fail, for example, but the VCs are happy because — guess what? — they got their exit.

-Tim O’Reilly makes a persuasive case for why venture capital is starting to do more harm than good [1]