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The risk and return of venture capital

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  • Cochrane, John H.

Abstract

This paper measures the mean, standard deviation, alpha and beta of venture capital investments, using a maximum likelihood estimate that corrects for selection bias. Since Þrms go public when they have achieved a good return, estimates that do not correct for selection bias are optimistic. The selection bias correction neatly accounts for log returns. Without a selection bias correction, I Þnd a mean log return of about 100% and a log CAPM intercept of about 90%. With the selection bias correction, I Þnd a mean log return of about 5% with a -2% intercept. However, returns are very volatile, with standard deviation near 100%. Therefore, arithmetic average returns and intercepts are much higher than geometric averages. The selection bias correction attenuates but does not eliminate high arithmetic average returns. Without a selection bias correction, I Þnd an arith- metic average return of around 700% and a CAPM alpha of nearly 500%. With the selection bias correction, I Þnd arithmetic average returns of about 57% and CAPM alpha of about 45%. Second, third, and fourth rounds of Þnancing are less risky. They have progres- sively lower volatility, and therefore lower arithmetic average returns. The betas of successive rounds also decline dramatically from near 1 for the Þrst round to near zero for fourth rounds. The maximum likelihood estimate matches many features of the data, in particular the pattern of IPO and exit as a function of project age, and the fact that return distributions are stable across horizons.
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Suggested Citation

  • Cochrane, John H., 2005. "The risk and return of venture capital," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 3-52, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:75:y:2005:i:1:p:3-52
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    1. Alexander Ljungqvist & Matthew Richardson, 2003. "The cash flow, return and risk characteristics of private equity," NBER Working Papers 9454, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Liang Peng, 2001. "Building A Venture Capital Index," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm221, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Oct 2001.
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    9. Lerner, Joshua, 1994. "Venture capitalists and the decision to go public," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 293-316, June.
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    • G0 - Financial Economics - - General

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