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The Incentives to Start New Companies: Evidence from Venture Capital

  • Robert E. Hall
  • Susan E. Woodward

The standard venture-capital contract rewards entrepreneurs only for creating successful companies that go public or are acquired on favorable terms. As a result, entrepreneurs receive no help from venture capital in avoiding the huge idiosyncratic risk of the typical venture-backed startup. Entrepreneurs earned an average of $9 million from each company that succeeded in attracting venture funding. But entrepreneurs are generally specialized in their own companies and bear the burden of the idiosyncratic risk. Entrepreneurs with a coefficient of relative risk aversion of two would be willing to sell their interests for less than $1 million at the outset rather than face that risk. The standard financial contract provides entrepreneurs capital supplied by passive investors and rewards entrepreneurs for successful outcomes. We track the division of value for a sample of the great majority of U.S. venture-funded companies over the period form 1987 through 2005. Venture capitalists received an average of $5 million in fee revenue from each company they backed. The outside investors in venture capital received a financial return substantially above that of publicly traded companies, but that the excess is mostly a reward for bearing risk. The pure excess return measured by the alpha of the Capital Asset Pricing Model is positive but may reflect only random variation.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13056.

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Date of creation: Apr 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13056
Note: EFG IO CF AP
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  1. Cochrane, John H., 2005. "The risk and return of venture capital," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 3-52, January.
  2. Mila Getmansky & Andrew W. Lo & Igor Makarov, 2003. "An Econometric Model of Serial Correlation and Illiquidity in Hedge Fund Returns," NBER Working Papers 9571, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Repullo, Rafael & Suarez, Javier, 1999. "Venture Capital Finance: A Security Design Approach," CEPR Discussion Papers 2097, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Michael Ewens & Charles M. Jones & Matthew Rhodes-Kropf, 2013. "The Price of Diversifiable Risk in Venture Capital and Private Equity," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 26(8), pages 1854-1889.
  5. Andrew W. Lo & A. Craig MacKinlay, 1989. "An Econometric Analysis of Nonsynchronous Trading," NBER Working Papers 2960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Kaplan, Steve & Schoar, Antoinette, 2004. "Private Equity Performance: Returns, Persistence and Capital Flows," Working papers 4446-03, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  7. Admati, Anat R & Pfleiderer, Paul, 1994. " Robust Financial Contracting and the Role of Venture Capitalists," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(2), pages 371-402, June.
  8. Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "Convertible Securities and Venture Capital Finance," CEPR Discussion Papers 2317, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. David Geltner, 1989. "Estimating Real Estate's Systematic Risk from Aggregate Level Appraisal-Based Returns," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 17(4), pages 463-481.
  10. Gompers, Paul & Lerner, Josh, 1999. "An analysis of compensation in the U.S. venture capital partnership," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 3-44, January.
  11. Dimson, Elroy, 1979. "Risk measurement when shares are subject to infrequent trading," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 197-226, June.
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