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The new risk capital reality: What’s happened to VC?

This is the second article in a continuing series that examines the state of the ecosystem necessary to successfully bring technology to market. Based on dozens of interviews with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, business leaders, academics, tech-transfer experts and policy makers, this series looks at what is working and what can be improved in the go-to-market ecosystem in the United States, Canada and Britain. We invite your feedback.

By Francis Moran and Leo Valiquette

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Sean Parker, the entrepreneur behind Napster and Facebook and himself a venture capital investor, provided a rather gloomy assessment of the VC industry and the future of U.S. innovation in general.

“The risk-reward doesn’t work out in favor of putting money into venture capital anymore,” he said.

And yes, again, to confirm, Parker is himself a VC investor. He went on to say that the contraction of the U.S. VC market means that “innovation could gradually grind to a halt or at least become less effective,” a trend that could serve to erode the ambition and vision of entrepreneurs.

“Ten years ago, venture capitalists would ask the question: Do you want to build a company and flip it or do you want to build a company and IPO it? It’s a trick question. The correct answer was always, ‘I want to build an incredibly valuable stand-alone business and maybe we get bought, maybe we go public but we’re going to build an incredibly valuable company,’” Parker said. “Now it’s actually not clear that that’s the right answer. There’s a lot of venture firms that are clearly interested in building something and selling it either to Facebook, Google, Microsoft.”

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What does it take to bring technology to market?

This is the first in a continuing series of articles that examine the state of the ecosystem necessary to successfully bring technology to market. Based on dozens of interviews with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, business leaders, academics, tech-transfer experts and policy makers, this series looks at what is working and what can be improved in the go-to-market ecosystem in the United States, Canada and Britain. We invite your feedback.

By Francis Moran and Leo Valiquette

“Companies that can’t clearly articulate their customer and market are not real serious companies, they are research projects … Engineering and marketing need to work together from the get go.”

So said Ronald Weissman in a recent interview. And Weissman should know. He is chair of the Software Special Industry Group at Band of Angels, Silicon Valley’s oldest angel investment organization. The Band has seeded over 200 companies in the past 16 years, yielding more than 40 profitable exits via acquisition and nine via initial public offerings on Nasdaq.

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