VC debate: Does spray and pray work?

Bambi Francisco Roizen · March 6, 2011 · Short URL:

AngelPad, August Capital, BullPen, First Round and Shasta at Vator Splash

(Note: We apologize for the lighting during the first few minutes of the video)

What do you get when you serve wine to venture capitalits and angel investors for a couple hours and put them onstage at 9:30 pm? You get a feisty bunch. 

At Vator Splash, Thomas Korte (AngelPad), Tod Francis (Shasta Ventures), David Hornik (August Capital), and Rob Hayes (First Round Capital), participated in our first-ever panel on the changing dynamics of the venture industry. Moderating was Duncan Davidson (Bullpen Capital).

There was some great discussion throughout. Check out VatorNews' Ronny Kerr's more comprehensive coverage, titled Angels, bubbles and core tech.

Some highlights include Rob's observation that the only innovation happening in the venture industry is the fees VCs charge. "Biggest innovation in VC over the last 15 years has been raising carried interest from 20% to 30%," he said.

But the most entertaining discourse had to be around 17 minutes in when Thomas and David disagreed about investment strategies. Thomas defended the strategy of investing in a lot of companies at the early stage (often referred to as a spray-and-pray strategy) in order to get a return on investment. "If you invest in 30 companies, you're likely to make your money back," he said.

This statement compelled David to respond with an incredulous, "Really?" 

Thomas: Yah

David: Really?

Thomas: Yah

David: OK. (pause) Really?

Thomas: Yah. Absolutely... Take 43 Y Combinator companies and they'll return that for you.

David: Really? Let’s say you put that money in, but you don’t have capacity to continue investing. So then every future financing dilutes you over some period of time. You’re convinced that if you put money into 40 arbitrary startups, you’ll make money.”

Thomas: “There’s a much higher chance.” 

David: “Oh, there’s a higher chance. I’ve been in the venture business for 10 years, I’ve decided it’s really hard. Things are super risky. Stupid things that end up making it. This idea that you put money into 40 and woof that’s it."

Thomas: There are a lot of exits.

David: Really, really? There are?

Thomas: Do the math...

... and so on.

You'll have to watch the rest to really absorb the drama. Let us know who you agree with.

(See below: Tod holding back David from giving Thomas a friendly bonk) 

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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Duncan Davidson

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Duncan is a serial entrepreneur turned venture capitalist who co-founded Bullpen Capital, a seed fund which focuses on the "post seed" round to get to a Super-Sized A round

David Hornik

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Rob Hayes

Joined Vator on


Tod Francis

Joined Vator on

Tod Francis is with Shasta Ventures. He focuses his investing activity on early stage companies that leverage technology to improve consumer experiences.

Thomas Korte

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