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By Fred R. Kaen

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At one extreme are the wealthy individuals with no business background who are investing in the business of a friend or relative. At the other end are groups of angels with relevant business or technical backgrounds who have banded together to provide capital and advice to companies in a specific industry. In the latter case, the angel groups look very much like VCs, but the fact that they use their own capital changes the economics of their decisions: Since they can keep all the returns to on their labor, they have a correspondingly lower cost of capital and can invest in deals that would not work for a VC.

Most VC firms keep the same stage focus for all their funds, but some will change focus over time or mix the two strategies at once in a multistage fund. A few firms raise separate early-stage and late-stage funds for overlapping periods and assign different professionals to each fund. There is a wide dispersion in the levels of industry focus, with many generalists (a fund that is willing to invest in both IT and health care is effectively a generalist) and others with a relatively narrow focus on sectors like energy or financial services.

In most years, the total number of funds is about twice as large as the number of firms, indicating that the average firm has two funds alive at any given time. Because of differences in the data collection methods and sample selection, the committed-capital amounts in Exhibit 2-2 are not directly comparable to the investment totals given in Exhibits 1-3 and 1-4. Nevertheless, the general trends are very similar. 5 by 2008. Thus, the main trend has been a gradual scaling up of the dollar amount managed per personnel, while the VC firms themselves stayed relatively lean as organizations.

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