Posts Tagged ‘Mark Heesen’

Regulating Venture Capital: Off the Hook Now But “Very Far From the Finish Line”

October 21, 2009

Earlier this year, Silicon Valley freaked out when U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Congress that large venture capital firms should be declared as systemic risks and put under tight restrictions as part of the broader re-regulation of financial firms.

Such regulations would force VCs to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and submit regular reports on their investors and portfolios, costing firms up to $1 million. Data collected by the SEC would then be shared with a new risk regulator to ensure that VCs aren’t “a threat to financial stability.”

But techies breathed a sigh of relief earlier this month when Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank proposed draft legislation rejecting the Treasury plan, carving out an exemption for VCs from the “Private Fund Investment Advisers Registration Act of 2009.” (see draft below)

That was good news for innovation. VCs do not pose a systemic risk to the economy, as Gordon Crovitz pointed out in this astute column in the Wall Street Journal. The venture capital industry is small compared to other capital markets. VCs do not use debt, so that sharply limits their risk. And they are not tightly interconnected with other financial firms, like AIG or Lehman Brothers.

But they do represent an incredibly important part of the economy that helps generate significant wealth and job creation–a unique economic pillar the Treasury Dept. should be strengthening, not weakening.

But National Venture Capital Association President Mark Heesen says the VC industry is not out of the woods yet. “We are very far from the finish line, but in a better place than many expected at this point,” Heesen wrote me in an email. “There is still no House or Senate bill, but House Chairman Frank’s comments certainly are encouraging.”

Financial reform hinges on, you guessed it, the passage of health care reform. “Many Senators sit on both Committees of jurisdiction so can’t focus of financial reform until they see how health care proceeds,” added Heesen.

To make sure VC regulation does not reappear in future versions of financial reform legislation, Heesen says the NVCA is continuing to work with the Administration and members of the House and Senate “to make certain Venture capitalists do not have to register under the 40 Act while giving the government the assurances they need to understand we do not pose a systemic risk to the economy.”

Discussion Draft of the Private Fund Investment Advisors Registration Act

Venture Capital Funding Enters Deep Freeze

January 20, 2009

It’s official: The venture capital market is freezing up. And don’t expect the market to warm up any time soon.

In the fourth quarter of 2008, venture capitalists raised only $3.37 billion, down a staggering 71% from the year-ago quarter, when VCs raised $11.67 billion, according to a January 20 release by Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association. This is the smallest amount of money raised since the second quarter of 2004, when VCs raised $3.3 billion.

The size of the average fund and the number of funds able to scare up capital is also rapidly shrinking. In the fourth quarter, 43 funds accounted for that $3.37 billion, down from 84 funds in the year-ago period. That is the smallest amount of funds raised since the third quarter of 2003, when 33 funds raised $1.8 billion.

The shrinking amount of capital means that fewer new companies will get financing, and that older startups without market traction are likely to wither away.

“With some notable exceptions, we can expect this slower pace to continue well into 2009,” said Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA in the press release.

After years of waiting for an industry shakeout that never happened, many VCs now expect the industry to shrink significantly since some institutional investors are pulling back from the venture capital asset class. “There are likely to be fewer firms over the next few years,” says Ira Ehrenpreis, general partner with Technology Partners, a firm based in Palo Alto, CA. “And that’s a good thing. A pruned tree will be healthier.” Ehrenpreis believes the industry could shrink by as much as 20%.

Another silver lining: The largest and most successful VC firms continue to be able to raise large war chests. Two of the three largest funds raised in the fourth quarter were by Accel Partners, a well-established firm that has invested in Facebook, JBoss, MetroPCs and many other prominent startups.

Accel raised an Accel Growth Fund with $480 million to invest in more mature new companies. It also raised Accel London III with $525 million to invest in young European startups.

Going to California

September 17, 2008

Tomorrow I am headed to California to moderate/host the National Venture Capital Association’s 35th anniversary event. It is being held at Microsoft’s research campus in Mountain View. The NVCA will be showcasing three innovative startups: human organ maker Tengion, facial recognition technology provider Digital Signal Corp., and electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors.

After presentations from the companies, I will moderate a discussion with NVCA president Mark Heesen and NVCA chairman and venture capitalist Dixon Doll titled “What Washington Must Do to Keep Innovation Alive.” We’ll be talking about all the policies that need to be created or tweaked to help keep America at the forefront of innovation for the next 35 years.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions on this topic, please post a comment or send them to me and I will try to work them into the discussion.

Frankly, I am looking forward to getting out of New York for a few days. This financial meltdown is really depressing, and seems to be getting worse by the day. I know it smacks of escapism but sometime an escape is just what the doctor ordered.

The Worst IPO Year on Record?

July 2, 2008

This year is shaping up to be the worst year for initial public offerings in perhaps 20 years.

In the second quarter of 2008, there were no venture-backed IPOs. Zero. Nada. Nothing.

I spoke to a bunch of big investors, venture capitalists, investment bankers and limited partners who invest in VC funds to find out what’s going on. Check out my story here that ran on BusinessWeek online.

In addition, I shot a video with DCM co-founder Dixon Doll and National Venture Capital Association President Mark Heesen. Check it out here.


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