Skip to main content

Why founder sales are actually a good idea

Venture capitalists never like deals where their money is used to buy the shares owned by founders and other early investors. They like their money to go "into building the company" - ie, towards hiring people, building a product, etc. Unless, that is, they are desparate to get in on the deal.

Gary Rivlin of The New York Times reports that such "founder sales" deals are now becoming more common in the US. Companies like eHarmony, Webroot Software, Fastclick, etc., have witnessed the founders "using venture deals to cash out some of their equity without the bother of a public offering or an acquisition".

If the VCs are so hungry for the deal, why then do the founders want to cash out early? Are they not as confident as the VCs about the success of their businesses?

The reason, as Woodside Fund partner Thomas Shields explains in the NYT article, is because a founder is typically "stock rich but cash poor". Shields feels such a situation is actually bad for the company as a whole since such a founder "might be overly conservative in his or her business decisions for fear of losing everything."

"If you can give these guys a little bit of liquidity so they're comfortable taking more risk, but not so much that they're not hungry anymore, then it can be a very good thing."

What Shields says makes a lot of sense. So much so that I think it might be a good idea for VCs to actually insist on "limited founder sales" when they invest in a company. I think this will help reduce the all-too-famailiar clashes between founders and their VC backers post the initial honeymoon period. Letting the founders take "a little bit off the table" reduces their risk in doing what VCs what companies all their investee companies to do: grow faster.

Popular posts from this blog

VC Interview: Shailendra Singh of Sequoia Capital India

In a recent interview to Venture Intelligence, Shailendra Singh discussed some of the firm’s newer investments in the early stage segment including in the online payments space, the progress at a few existing portfolio companies and the active role the firm is playing in helping its portfolio companies scale and succeed in India and globally. Prior to joining the firm in 2006, Singh was a strategy consultant at Bain & Company in New York and before that, an entrepreneur in the digital media industry.

Venture Intelligence: How does Sequoia go about identifying potential early stage investments in India? Is there anything different you are doing today than, say, a couple of years back?

Shailendra Singh: There is a lot more focus on technology investing and early stage investing. In general, as you might remember a few years ago, we were doing primarily growth investing but in the past 18-odd months, we have had a very strong focus on early stage and that’s continuing. In terms of how…

PE investments in 2018 crosses $33-B to set new all-time high

Big Ticket investments in consumer apps Swiggy & Byju’s dominates year-end activity, even as investments in Core Sectors slow down
Private Equity (PE) investments in India rose to their highest ever figure of $33.1 billion in 2018 (across 720 transactions), according to data from Venture Intelligence (http://www.ventureintelligence.com), a research service focused on private company financials, transactions and their valuations. While PE investments have already surpassed the previous high - $24.3 Billion across 734 deals in 2017 - in the first nine months of 2018, the mega investments in Consumer Internet & Mobile startups such as Swiggy and Byjus towards the year-end, helped the 2018 total vault by 36% year-on-year. (Note: These figures include Venture Capital investments, but exclude PE investments in Real Estate.) The year witnessed 81 PE investments worth $100 million or more (accounting for 77% of the total investment value during the period), compared to 47 such transac…

KPMG Tops League Table for Financial Advisor to Private Equity Transactions in H1 2018

The transaction advisory unit of KPMG claimed the top position in the Venture Intelligence League Table for Transaction Advisor to Private Equity deals in the first half of 2018, advising deals worth $1.7 Billion. KPMG acted as the financial advisor to NHAI in the $1.5 Billion investment by Macquarie to operate 9 highway projects under the toll-operate-transfer (TOT) model. Ernst &  Young (which advised the $730 million asset sale by Indiabulls Real Estate to Blackstone) and Kotak (which advised the Vishal Megamart - Partners Group deal) accounted for the second and third spots respectively.
The Venture Intelligence League Tables, the first such initiative exclusively tracking transactions involving India-based companies, are based on value of PE and M&A transactions advised by Transaction and Legal Advisory firms.
Arpwood Capital (which advised the $760 million investment by Temasek in the $2.1 Billion Schneider Electric buyout of L&;T Electrical and Automation business) …