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How do Venture Capitalists Handle Risk in High-Technology Ventures? - some preliminary results

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  • Gavin C. Reid
  • Julia A. Smith

Abstract

This paper presents new empirical evidence, obtained by fieldwork methods, on investor risk-handling practice in the UK venture capital industry. Its focus is on high-technology firms and the techniques their venture capital backers use for risk management. The active areas of risk management are explored under the headings of risk premia, investment time horizons, and sensitivity analysis. As an organising framework, risk is divided into ‘agency risk’, ‘business risk’ and ‘innovation risk’. Data were gathered by working through a semi-structured interview agenda in face-to-face meetings with the top venture capital deal-makers in the UK. They were questioned specifically on how they handled risks in high-technology ventures. The interview agenda covered: risk premia, investment time horizon, sensitivity analysis, expected values, cash flow prediction, financial objectives, decision making, and qualitative appraisal. The paper draws on evidence from all eight agenda items, but focuses on the first three. This paper finds that the three categories of risk identified as important, innovation, agency and business risk, have pervasive influences on investor conduct in the UK. Their form of influence was traced under the agenda headings of risk premia, investment time horizon, and sensitivity analysis. It was found that the riskiness of investment types (e.g. seed, MBO etc) could be clearly ranked by investors. These rankings were found to be generally consistent with principles of financial economics. Investors were also asked what factors were most important to their risk appraisals, for given high technology investments. Of a wide range of factors, it was found that the most important to risk appraisal could be directly related to our categories of ‘agency risk’ and ‘business risk’. It was found too that the time profiles of investments and their sensitivity to changed assumptions could be approached using our three risk categories. Of these, ‘innovation risk’ was thought to be particularly high, implying various forms of adaptation by investors, including setting very high hurdle rates of return and deploying radical stress tests of investment models.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Research into Industry, Enterprise, Finance and the Firm in its series CRIEFF Discussion Papers with number 0107.

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Date of creation: Feb 2001
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Handle: RePEc:san:crieff:0107

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Related research

Keywords: Venture Capital; Risk Management; High-Technology; Fieldwork;

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References

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  1. Chan, Yuk-Shee & Siegel, Daniel R & Thakor, Anjan V, 1990. "Learning, Corporate Control and Performance Requirements in Venture Capital Contracts," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 31(2), pages 365-81, May.
  2. Gavin C Reid, 1994. "Fast Growing Small Entrepreneurial Firms and their Venture Capital Backers: an Applied Principal-Agent Analysis," CRIEFF Discussion Papers 9421, Centre for Research into Industry, Enterprise, Finance and the Firm.
  3. Murray, Gordon C. & Lott, Jonathan, 1995. "Have UK venture capitalists a bias against investment in new technology-based firms?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 283-299, March.
  4. Gavin C Reid & Nicholas G Terry & Julia A Smith, 1995. "Risk Management in Venture Capital Investor-Investee Relations," CRIEFF Discussion Papers 9505, Centre for Research into Industry, Enterprise, Finance and the Firm.
  5. Chan, Yuk-Shee, 1983. " On the Positive Role of Financial Intermediation in Allocation of Venture Capital in a Market with Imperfect Information," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 38(5), pages 1543-68, December.
  6. Gavin C Reid, 1998. "The Application of Principal-Agent Methods to Investor-Investee Relations in the UK Venture Capital Industry," CRIEFF Discussion Papers 9810, Centre for Research into Industry, Enterprise, Finance and the Firm.
  7. Ruhnka, John C. & Young, John E., 1991. "Some hypotheses about risk in venture capital investing," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 115-133, March.
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