Dear SaaStr: What Will Venture Capitalists Do if Our Startup is a Loss?

Move on.  Especially, if you’ve only raise one VC round or so.

This is telling article re: Bill Gurley, one of the best VC investors of all time:

“I give Bill a lot of credit because Bill said, ‘I understand, this happens,’” Tolia recalled. “[Bill said] ‘most startups do fail, so the odds were that Fanbase would fail, not succeed. But you have a great team, and I feel that you guys have a lot of talent. Would you be willing to take a few months to see if you could come up with another idea?’

When Nextdoor CEO Nirav Tolia stumbled, Benchmark’s Bill Gurley gave him this poem


Let’s back up.

  • A VC fund will typically do 30-ish investments per fund.


  • And it will only start with say 1%-1.5% of the fund, on average, per investment.

So, if you “fail” after the first check, it’s really not the end of the world.  Especially if you truly gave it 110%.  And didn’t hide things.  

If a VC has say a $200m fund, their job is to turn that into $600m (3x) or better. If they invest say $2m into your start-up and it fails, that’s a bummer. But not the end of the world. It’s not really going to materially impact if they turn $200m into $600m. It’s just one “at bat” that didn’t pan out. It’s OK as long as a bunch of the others do pan out.  The fund will make $598m gross instead of $600m after the $2m loss on your start-up.

But as the loss gets bigger, after more rounds go by, and the loss approaches 10% of the fund size — here $20m in this scenario — it starts to create a lot of stress.  Or if it’s one of an individual VC partner’s biggest investments.

Typically, though, that’s over 3–4 rounds of investment.  The early stage VCs at least get a chance to decide whether to play another card here, or not.

So losing the “first check”? Most VCs will be bummed, shrug. But writing off a third-check investment? A VC could lose their job there.

More here: Don’t Worry About Losing All Your Investors’ Money

Don’t Worry About Losing All Your Investors’ Money


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