Shining Light Into the Venture Black Box

Starting With Revealing the 25 Firms With the Highest % of Seed Investments In Unicorns

The venture capital ecosystem is a black box. No one really knows how firms are performing and allocating capital. Try Googling something like “top fintech VCs” or “VCs investing in most diverse founders” and take a look at the results. They may include an article or two with subjective lists or rankings of venture capitalists (VCs), but there is little to be found in terms of quantitatively-derived performance or allocation data. While venture capitalists may prefer to operate in darkness and limited partners (LPs) are fairly knowledgeable about firms’ strategies and performance (more on this shortly), those at the heart of the venture ecosystem — founders — are at sea as a result of the obscurity within it. Founders are forced to rely upon their networks, scant publicly-available information, and VCs themselves (e.g. prior disclosed investments, firm blog posts, and — God forbid — VC Twitter) to identify the right investors for their companies when fundraising. While well-connected and in-the-know founders are often unscathed navigating this process, those without the right networks are almost always at a massive disadvantage.

Today, that changes as Warfa and I launch VCbenchmarks’ investor discovery tool.

Before we go into more depth on what we built, a bit more about what we have observed on why this darkness exists in the ecosystem in the first place.

Context

VCs track their investments and performance in spreadsheets and custom-built software (although some are now using solutions like Quaestor); most have little idea about how they are performing and allocating capital relative to their peers. Limited partners receive bare-bones quarterly updates and track what have long been considered core fund performance metrics (TVPI, IRR, and DPI), which often take years to show meaningful performance data; most have no idea how much of their capital is allocated to specific companies or categories (sector, stage, geography, etc.).

Many VCs don’t mind the lack of transparency in the ecosystem. They can paint themselves in the best possible light and rely on their firms’ brands, personal reputations, and investment highlight reels to source and win deals, and to continue raising capital from LPs. Ultimately, this lack of transparency creates the venture black box.

Founders are forced to navigate this black box when raising capital and identifying the best investors for their companies. Every week, Warfa and I field questions from founders like “Who are the best fintech investors?” and “Which firms invest in the most female-founded companies?” We have seen first hand that for those without deep networks in, and knowledge of, the venture ecosystem, these questions are nearly impossible to answer. So many founders have no idea where to start when raising capital and there are not any tools that help them find the best investors for their businesses.

What We Built

A few months ago, Warfa and I started building VCbenchmarks, a platform we created to aggregate venture fund and company performance data. While VCbenchmarks was initially built to help LPs make better investments, we have realized over time that founders can also benefit from the platform we created and the data we regularly compile. Today, VCbenchmarks tracks 50+ seed-oriented metrics and answers questions like:

What percentage of a firm’s seed-stage portfolio companies have historically gone on to raise Series As and Bs?

What percentage of a firm’s seed investments have hit various valuation thresholds?

What percentage of a firm’s investments are in specific sectors/geographies?

What percentage of a firm’s portfolio companies are founded by non-male-identifying founders and URM-identifying founders?

What percentage of a firm’s investment team is non-male-identifying and URM-identifying?

When combined, these metrics are powerful; they shine light into the venture black box and help founders navigate the venture landscape.

We’re excited to launch VCbenchmarks for founders today and, alongside this launch, we’re publishing a list of 25 firms with the highest percentage of seed investments in unicorns.

If you’re a founder raising a seed round, we’d love to hear from you! We combine our metrics to help you find the best investors for your company.

MBA Candidate @ Stanford GSB | Co-Founder and CEO @ VCbenchmarks