Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs

What Is a Venture Capitalist?

what is a venture capitalist

A Venture Capitalist purchases a stake in an entrepreneur’s startup and helps fund and cultivate the company into a successful corporation.

Venture Capitalists invest in burgeoning industries that are on a clear upswing, such as tech, SEO and biotech companies. They tend to invest in companies in the middle stages—after the shaky, risky early phase yet before the soaring, competitive phase.

An entrepreneur with a growing, robust company is most likely to attract a solid Venture Capitalist. Loans can only get an entrepreneur and a company so far, and the plethora of risks in a startup means high interest rates.

“Venture capital fills the void between sources of funds for innovation (chiefly corporations, government bodies, and the entrepreneur’s friends and family) and traditional, lower-cost sources of capital available to ongoing concerns. Filling that void successfully requires the venture capital industry to provide a sufficient return on capital to attract private equity funds, attractive returns for its own participants, and sufficient upside potential to entrepreneurs to attract high-quality ideas that will generate high returns. Put simply, the challenge is to earn a consistently superior return on investments in inherently risky business ventures.”

- Bob Zider

Venture Capital investors are usually large financial firms, university endowments and insurance companies. A small amount of these companies’ overall funds are put into high-risk Venture Capital investments, with an expected return of 25% - 35% annually over the course of the investment.

However, Venture Capitalists seek more than a mere investment on paper; they want to invest in smart, engaging entrepreneurs with a solid team behind them; an experienced, capable Board of Directors and a young but successful, growing company. 

Entrepreneurs who have a proven track record as startup founders are more likely to attract experienced Venture Capitalists, since typically they prefer to invest in skilled, effective people.

How Do Venture Capitalists Make Money?

To a certain extent, Venture Capitalists invest in a company’s management as much as in the company itself; that is, since they tend to invest in industries with superior growth rates, the risk is attached to the Board of Directors and its ability to steer the company toward continued success and progress.

how do venture capitalists make money

Venture Capitalists tend to take their profits and exit a company while it’s on top, before it gets too big, so they earn excellent returns and find another industry and company in which to invest.

If the company does extraordinarily well earlier than expected, Venture Capitalists can often increase their investment, at the earlier, below-market price, and thereby reap even greater rewards.

Venture Capitalists can also choose to pair up with other Venture Capitalists, thus hedging their bets. Usually one will be the lead investor and the other (or others) will follow along.

Top Venture Capital Firms in 2019 (according to CB Insights)

Source: Zider, Bob. “How Venture Capitalism Works.” Harvard Business Review. November/December 1998.

Next: Is Venture Capital Right for Your Business?


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There are 2 comments left for Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs

James Richard said: Friday, February 9, 2024

Insightful blog! It captures the symbiotic relationship between venture capitalists and entrepreneurs perfectly. The emphasis on collaboration and shared objectives highlights the key factors for a successful partnership.

HBS Staff replied: Friday, February 9, 2024

Thank you for reading our blog. We are glad you found this blog helpful.

Lily Bridgers said: Friday, March 10, 2023

It seems logical that venture capitalists prefer to invest in talented, interesting entrepreneurs that have a strong team behind them rather than only a paper investment. My sister will be informed of this, I promise. She is an aspiring businesswoman who needs funding to launch her software development company. Nonetheless, I'm confident that she will attract venture funding for female founders once they learn about her goals and plan.

HBS Staff replied: Friday, March 10, 2023

Hi Lily,

Thank you for reading our blog. We are so glad you found it information you needed for your sister and will be passing this information off to her. If you have any questions we offer free lifetime support.

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