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Summary:

They’re just throwing darts at a wall. Or worse… “Oh, Look! Mr. Peepers just picked the very same [startups] your investment software did!” OK, venture capital may be slightly more sophisticated than this — but I have trouble with VCs who nobly claim that their business […]

They’re just throwing darts at a wall. Or worse…

peeper.jpg

“Oh, Look! Mr. Peepers just picked the very same [startups] your investment software did!”

OK, venture capital may be slightly more sophisticated than this — but I have trouble with VCs who nobly claim that their business has more risk than any other, and in the very next breath hammer you with their big-brained analytics for consistently discovering winners. At least the honest VCs admit they often have “no idea” what will succeed and what won’t.

Consider what Fred Wilson had to say yesterday in response to Silicon Alley Insider’s attempt to handicap the 25 most valuable Internet startups. Fred wrote:

… the idea of trying to determine the most valuable startups is an exercise in futility. Yes, it’s clear that Skype, YouTube, Facebook created a lot of value for their founders and investors… Here’s what is certain, many of the companies they put on their SA25 list will be busts. Many of the companies that don’t make the list will create hundreds of millions if not billions for their founders and investors. [Henry Blodget, editor of SIA] asked me to nominate some of my companies. So I nominated all of them. I have no idea which ones will make us a lot of money and which ones won’t.

Fred admits that if he’d been asked to handicap his firm’s “most-likely-to-make-the-fund” portfolio companies before the last bust — he’d have gotten it dead wrong.

“I certainly would not have picked Mercado Libre. Our whole foray into latin america was turning into a disaster … But here we are, MELI is worth $1.6bn.” Meanwhile, other investments that looked like “sure things” went bust.

I love it that Fred, and other VCs like Josh Kopelman are willing to say they have no idea which of their portfolio companies are most likely to succeed. “Uncertainty is the hallmark of the venture capital business,” Fred concludes. Keep his words in mind the next time you get rejected, or discouraged.

No one knows how these things will turn out, and in that truism lies a font for optimism — if not opportunity.

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  1. You make an important point, not just for business analysts but intelligence analysts as well, which I pointed out at my blog. And I love the cartoon.

  2. Good job on the cartoon caption.

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