As one of the leading analysts and Web Strategists in the social computing space, Jeremiah Owyang meets with a lot of companies. He has the luxury of talking with big companies and small companies, public companies and private companies, venture-backed startups and bootstrapped companies. He is constantly looking at what makes one company successful and another one less so. Not only is Jeremiah a really smart guy, but he has a ton of data to support the conclusions he draws both in his day job with Forrester and in his role as confidant and advisor to numerous startups.
Given all that, I was thrilled to read Jeremiah's post "Beyond the Money: Some VCs Provide Startups With A Competitive Edge." In his post, Jeremiah asserts that VCs (at least the better VCs) are good for more than just money. What are we good for? Jeremiah lists a number of categories: Thought Leadership, Strategic Guidance, Being Part of the Family (e.g., Keiretsu), Ancillary Services (marketing, recruiting, etc.), Umbrella Branding (e.g., "an August Capital company"), and Networking. I would probably add to this high level list Recruiting and Capital Raising, both of which VCs can be very helpful with. Jeremiah concludes that "What [VCs] do beyond the investment makes a different - I can see it."
Thank you, Jeremiah! While I recognize that my job as a Venture Capitalist is to invest other people's money and, if all goes well, turn it into more money, I have a hard time thinking of Venture Capital as a "financial services" job. It is certainly the case that the financial services aspect of the job isn't what gets VCs up in the morning. What gets us up in the morning is the prospect of working with really smart people to build new and exciting businesses. And Jeremiah does a great job of listing the fun parts of our job -- advising, connecting, recruiting, etc.
All too often I fear that VCs are thought of as fungible -- one VC's as good as the next. It is certainly true that our money is fungible -- a dollar from any other VC will buy as much as a dollar from August Capital. But the aggregate value of taking money from another VC will be vastly different from taking money from an August Capital. My partners and I work hard to deliver value to our entrepreneurs on all the fronts Jeremiah describes. And those efforts can have a big impact for a company. VCs don't build companies, entrepreneurs do. But good VCs can do a whole lot more than simply write a check.