Introduction to Venture Capital

Concept of Venture Capital

The term venture capital comprises of two words that is, “Venture” and “Capital”. Venture is a course of processing, the outcome of which is uncertain but to which is attended the risk or danger of “loss”. “Capital” means resources to start an enterprise. To connote the risk and adventure of such a fund, the generic name Venture Capital was coined.

Venture capital is considered as financing of high and new technology based enterprises. It is said that Venture capital involves investment in new or relatively untried technology, initiated by relatively new and professionally or technically qualified entrepreneurs with inadequate funds. The conventional financiers, unlike Venture capitals, mainly finance proven technologies and established markets. However, high technology need not be pre-requisite for venture capital.

Venture capital has also been described as ‘unsecured risk financing’. The relatively high risk of venture capital is compensated by the possibility of high returns usually through substantial capital gains in the medium term. Venture capital in broader sense is not solely an injection of funds into a new firm, it is also an input of skills needed to set up the firm, design its marketing strategy, organize and manage it. Thus it is a long term association with successive stages of company’s development under highly risk investment conditions, with distinctive type of financing appropriate to each stage of development. Investors join the entrepreneurs as co-partners and support the project with finance and business skills to exploit the market opportunities.

Venture capital is not a passive finance. It may be at any stage of business/production cycle, that is, start up, expansion or to improve a product or process, which are associated with both risk and reward. The Venture capital makes higher capital gains through appreciation in the value of such investments when the new technology succeeds. Thus the primary return sought by the investor is essentially capital gain rather than steady interest income or dividend yield.

The most flexible definition of Venture capital is-

“The support by investors of entrepreneurial talent with finance and business skills to exploit market opportunities and thus obtain capital gains.”

Venture capital commonly describes not only the provision of start up finance or ‘seed corn’ capital but also development capital for later stages of business. A long term commitment of funds is involved in the form of equity investments, with the aim of eventual capital gains rather than income and active involvement in the management of customer’s business.

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Features of Venture Capital

High Risk

By definition the Venture capital financing is highly risky and chances of failure are high as it provides long term start up capital to high risk-high reward ventures. Venture capital assumes four types of risks, these are:

  • Management risk – Inability of management teams to work together.
  • Market risk – Product may fail in the market.
  • Product risk – Product may not be commercially viable.
  • Operation risk – Operations may not be cost effective resulting in increased cost decreased gross margins.

High Tech

As opportunities in the low technology area tend to be few of lower order, and hi-tech projects generally offer higher returns than projects in more traditional areas, venture capital investments are made in high tech. areas using new technologies or producing innovative goods by using new technology. Not just high technology, any high risk ventures where the entrepreneur has conviction but little capital gets venture finance. Venture capital is available for expansion of existing business or diversification to a high risk area. Thus technology financing had never been the primary objective but incidental to venture capital.

Equity Participation & Capital Gains

Investments are generally in equity and quasi equity participation through direct purchase of shares, options, convertible debentures where the debt holder has the option to convert the loan instruments into stock of the borrower or a debt with warrants to equity investment. The funds in the form of equity help to raise term loans that are cheaper source of funds. In the early stage of business, because dividends can be delayed, equity investment implies that investors bear the risk of venture and would earn a return commensurate with success in the form of capital gains.

Participation In Management

Venture capital provides value addition by managerial support, monitoring and follow up assistance. It monitors physical and financial progress as well as market development initiative. It helps by identifying key resource person. They want one seat on the company’s board of directors and involvement, for better or worse, in the major decision affecting the direction of company. This is a unique philosophy of “hands on management” where Venture capitalist acts as complementary to the entrepreneurs. Based upon the experience other companies, a venture capitalist advise the promoters on project planning, monitoring, financial management, including working capital and public issue. Venture capital investor cannot interfere in day today management of the enterprise but keeps a close contact with the promoters or entrepreneurs to protect his investment.

Length of Investment

Venture capitalist help companies grow, but they eventually seek to exit the investment in three to seven years. An early stage investment may take seven to ten years to mature, while most of the later stage investment takes only a few years. The process of having significant returns takes several years and calls on the capacity and talent of venture capitalist and entrepreneurs to reach fruition.

Illiquid Investment

Venture capital investments are illiquid, that is, not subject to repayment on demand or following a repayment schedule. Investors seek return ultimately by means of capital gains when the investment is sold at market place. The investment is realized only on enlistment of security or it is lost if enterprise is liquidated for unsuccessful working. It may take several years before the first investment starts to locked for seven to ten years. Venture capitalist understands this illiquidity and factors this in his investment decisions.

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