Venturing Along the Capital Trail

Categories: Tax/Finance, Technology


That headline is a cute way of saying "who are the recipients of venture capital?" CB Insights, a New York-based services firm for the financial industry, tried to answer that question in a recent study. You can sign up for free to get the full report, but I found this analysis from the State Science & Technology Institute provided a good overview.

 A CB Insights’ report on the "human capital" of venture-backed Internet companies finds that vast majority of company founders are white. They also tend to be between 35 and 44 years old, male and have MBAs.

When venture capitalists are asked the most important factor in choosing a company for a deal, they often say that the founder or team weighs heaviest in their decisions. CB Insights drills down into this human element by providing data on the founders of Internet companies that received venture capital in the first half of 2010. The study includes data on race, age and experience, the number of founders per company, gender and the educational background/pedigree of the founders. It also provides specific data on deals in California, Massachusetts and New York.

Within the 165 deals tracked in the study, 87 percent of early stage, venture-backed Internet startup founders were white, with 83 percent of entire founding teams being all white. Only 77 percent of the general U.S. population is white. Asian founders represented 12 percent of founders, while making up 4 percent of the U.S. population. The percentage of Asian founders was larger in California, and their companies tended to receive larger investments. Black founders accounted for only 1 percent of company founders, while Native Americans and "other" represented less than one percent.

The founders in the study were overwhelmingly male. Across the country, 92 percent of founders were male and 86 percent of teams were all male. Massachusetts had the highest percentage of female founders with 27 percent. All-male and all-female teams received similar levels of funding, but mixed teams received substantially more.

Almost half of the founding teams had average ages between 35 and 44. Teams in the 26-34 age range, however, tended to receive more capital. Massachusetts favored somewhat older teams, New York favored younger teams, and California teams fell in the middle. Nationally, 51 percent of founders hold a Master’s or PhD, but two-thirds of all teams had at least one person with an advanced degree. In New York, founders with only an undergraduate degree actually tended to raise more capital. Cornell, Stanford and Harvard produced the most founders with undergraduate degrees. Harvard, Stanford and MIT’s graduate programs generated the most founders with advanced degrees. About 37 percent of companies had one founder, 40 percent had two, 19 percent had three, and 4 percent had four partners.

While providing an interesting snapshot of the founders who received funding in the first half of 2010, there are limits on the conclusions that can be drawn from the CB Insights report. It focuses exclusively on venture-backed Internet companies, and, since it is the first in a series of reports, no trend data is yet available. Also, without data on who is seeking for venture funding, the report does not reveal much about the preferences of venture firms. It is clear, however, that the population of venture-backed founders included in the study does not reflect the diversity of the U.S. population.

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