Has the time come for us to rethink VC in today’s world? Perhaps take a step back in time to observe how Georges Doriot – the founder of both VC and INSEAD – in 1946, set up a machine to fuel and fund innovation and development. A system that aligns incentives with founders and not funders. Doriot’s philosophy was steeped in a sense of integrity that perhaps deserves a comeback. Business, if treated as a force for good, can only create a system that generates returns in an ethical, balanced way.
The term “impact investing” has only been around for about 20 years. However, the concepts of good business practice and social responsibility have been with us for centuries. The Covid-19 pandemic represents one of the greatest challenges yet faced by this new-old sector.
COVID-19 has accelerated many long-brewing developments in the business world, such as the ascent into respectability of working from home. Private equity (PE) has not been immune to this trend. By chilling the deal-making process for the time being, the pandemic has brought greater focus to PE's involvement in active ownership of portfolio companies, and an emphasis on operational improvements and other forms of long-term value creation. For the moment, PE firms have no choice but to concentrate on keeping their investees afloat, no easy task given the churning waters ahead.
Kamal Hassan, Monisha Varadan, Claudia Zeisberger
Bias within the VC industry is preventing funds from being allocated to the best investment opportunities. This Harvard Business Review article provides insights into the systematic imbalance and institutionalized gender bias in the VC pitch process.
The article elaborates a study on the Europe focused FOs dynamics and how they have been subject to the influence of local institutional environments affected by tumultuous economic and political events, from the global financial crisis to ascendant nationalism and conflictual politics within the European Union. There was surprisingly little information available about cross-national comparisons and the co-evolution of contexts and FOs over time, despite the fact that FOs are often central advisors to families and their businesses in many countries. The dynamics across the three dimensions were examined which comprise institutional environments, according to academic research: Regulative (formal rules and laws), Normative (cultural standards that determine the behaviours and goals that are considered desirable), Cognitive (shaped by prevailing symbolic perceptions and attitudes). The importance of family offices differs across these countries. The UK is the leading centre for financial services in Europe, especially the country’s capital London. In Switzerland (not an EU member), private banking and financial services for international investors are well-established. It has the highest number of family offices in Europe. Europe’s largest economy, Germany, is shaped by traditional, medium-sized family-owned businesses and driven by the expectation of the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next. In France, many families sell their business after its founder’s death and invest the money resulting from the sale via a system of holding companies and family offices because French legislation hampers the transfer of wealth and ownership from one generation to the next.
Women-led businesses are nearly twice as prevalent in earlier funding rounds than in later rounds – almost 12 percent at accelerator and incubator stages, dropping to 8 percent at seed stage. By early-stage VC funding, women represent only 4 percent of investments. Do women find it harder to ask for money or is unconscious bias seeping in? Once women entrepreneurs have mustered the courage to put themselves through a ‘shark tank’-like experience in front of the VC, the numbers are not always encouraging. Women who pitch their venture successfully get less than half the average investment that men receive and the valuations for women-led businesses are far lower than that of men-led ones. To build their businesses with smart capital, women have to work much harder than men.
Last summer, Y Combinator (YC), the original start-up accelerator that has invested in more than 2,000 fledgling firms with a combined value of US$150 billion, sent acceptance emails to 11,000 of 15,000 applicants to its Startup School instead of the estimated 4,000 originally intended. Rather than jettisoning the surplus applicants, the company that nurtured the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit and Quora decided to keep everyone on board. This year, YC will likewise accept all applicants to Startup School, a 10-week, free-of-charge massive open online course (MOOC), supplemented with virtual office hours and access to 15,000 founders worldwide. An unannounced number of those who complete the programme will be given a US$15,000 grant. As YC President Geoff Ralston, an INSEAD alumnus, told in a recent interview, “It's part of our goal to maximise the amount of entrepreneurship and innovation there is in the world.”
Sam Garg, Nathan Furr