Startup Index,  Startups

Zombie VC Post – The Bug Report

What’s this? I usually pick a song I feel goes with the post and expresses my mood writing it. Enjoy, I hope it will enhance your reading experience.

I’d like to address some bugs from Yesterday’s Zombie VCs post, which provided a list of investors who were inactive in Series A deals in the past 6 months according to Crunchbase, a self-reported database of deals updated by startups and their investors as follow-up to a post about helping founders find active investors during the Series A crunch and avoiding taking meetings that are a waste of time.

I would like to express my appreciation to O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, MMC Ventures, Lightbank, Kepha Partners, Paladin Capital Group, Mercury Fund, Neu Venture Capital, Shasta Ventures, Genesis Partners, Magma Venture Partners, Kima Ventures, Greylock Ventures Israel, Softbank Capital, Carmel Ventures and Emergence Capital for reaching out to provide data and help me confirm they are currently actively doing Series A deals in recent months. Big thank you also goes to Shira Abel, who has been reaching out to Israeli VCs to get them updated and on the active list.

This index can be improved, but I will not stop publishing it monthly and even with flaws it helps entrepreneurs focus their efforts on the most active firms.

The Data Is Crap

I used data from Crunchbase, which is much less accurate than I thought it would be. I did expect some errors, but mistakenly thought the 6 month window was big enough to limit that and didn’t take the time to validate the list or contact the companies on it. I also limited the list to funds who participated in Series A deals in the past, but it turns out many of those were one-off deals from growth capital firms or follow-on from funds who primarily focus on seed. I should have taken more time to research this data, cross check with other sources, and at the very least reach out to some very obviously active firms like Shasta to find out more info before publishing.

I am still a huge advocate for Crunchbase, which I think is a treasure in the startup community, and encourage investors to update their profiles. I have also submitted a feature request to them to allow investors to update activity without revealing the companies, so we’ll see how that goes. Founders aren’t reading paid subscription data services or VC insider newsletters and I don’t think it is realistic to expect them to start.

The Methodology Needs Work

While I believe this first attempt raised some transparency around investor activity, a mea culpa is definitely necessary where methodology is concerned and I wholeheartedly agree with Fred Destin’s suggestions in ZOMBIE VCS TAKE II – HOW TO SPOT AN ACTIVE FIRM which jives well with in-depth methodology feedback I’ve received privately as well. I have included a list of corrections in the original post, and also updated active investors list for March 2013 as needed. Going forward I look forward to offering an updated active investors list, and I will be leveraging additional data sources that have been offered (thank you) and contacting companies.

Listing Inactive Investors is of Little Value to Founders

Creating a list of inactive investors isn’t very constructive, and is of little practical value of founders. What founders want to know is which investors are active, they care much less about who is inactive. I have been working through many ideas around the best ways to track fund performance which are still specific and transparent but are also credible and helpful, and I welcome your input in the comments, via email and on Twitter to help me improve this.

There were several smaller bugs as well, including:

  • The title also turned out to be much more sensational than I would have expected, playing off of my previous “Zombie Startups” post
  • The disclaimers about data quality were not clear enough to many readers
  • The use of the “total deal participation size” number to sort the list was useless (and has since been removed, it is now alphabetical)

As a blogger I believe in offering insight based on experience, a data-driven perspective wherever possible, and actionable details that are useful for founders (like a list of investors who are actively doing deals) whenever possible.

I would also like to acknowledge, though I cannot name, dozens of people who have sent me tips and other info I am following up on, hopped on calls with me to explain their perspective and ideas for how to make this better and more useful for entrepreneurs and the ecosystem as a whole, opened up APIs and other data sources for additional research, and expressed their appreciation and shared personal stories. They bring a huge range of experience across the entire startup community including founders, associates, VCs with names you’d recognize, long admired heroes of venture and tech, quiet “guy behind the guy” types and everything else in between. I’m listening and working to bring their feedback into the content I create in the future. I know I will not win over people who don’t want this information made public, and quite honestly I just don’t care. This one’s for all the founders in the struggle.

Thanks to Fred Wilson for the inspiration on how to craft this post.