Stats on Charles River’s QuickStart Program

Charles River started a much-ballyhooed $250,000 venture loan program late last year, and here are the first stats for it:

  • Number of applicants: 1,400
  • Number of funded companies: 6

Interestingly, at least for a smaller and supposedly more democratic program, those are very long odds, worse than the likelihood of getting a traditional venture investment from most venture firms.


  1. So, in other words, it was one heck of a cheap marketing campaign to endear oneself to the tech community.
    Or was it that they applied the same valuation techniques to startups as they do to their usual investments and found the price:risk ratio off the scale?

  2. Paul, one other option is that they received a ton of trash from highly unsuitable chancers with dreadful ideas? Most VCs don’t look at unsolicited pitches, preferring to rely on trusted sources to refer businesses. For such VCs, you would expect the ratios to be significantly better than the CRV one.
    Wouldn’t it be great if all the applications could be posted to an public site for wider scrutiny. If the entrepreneurs consented, it’s possible they could find other firms/angels that are willing to talk to them.
    I suspect most applicants would be terrified by this notion, fearful that their “unique” idea would be stolen. However, as I explained a couple of weeks ago at Barcamp London, ideas are rarely unique and often benefit from “sunlight” (slidedeck is here Moreover, if your idea is so simple to copy and exploit, that in itself may well be a deterrent to investors.

  3. I find it hard to believe that a large portion of their applications would have been “trash.” Well, at they got good publicity even if its unclear what the end game was all about.
    As to John Wilson’s comment, “ideas are rarely unique and often benefit from “sunlight””. I don’t get it. I go to quite a few web software networking events and people quote Paul Graham ad nauseum, that all ideas are free and execution is everything and this above comment is in the same vein. While implementation is key, nothing happens until a workable idea is revealed…am I missing something?
    If I have spent quite a bit of time developing an idea and am looking for partners/capital, I am not going to blurt it out without some sort of protection. Which was one key reason I decided to get the software implemented before I went looking for angel/VC funding.

  4. I’d be very curious to have a more detailed breakdown.
    What percentage of the 1400 get dismissed outright?
    What percentage of the 1400 get a phone call?
    What percentage of the 1400 get a live pitch?
    What percentage of the 1400 get multiple pitches?

  5. I remember a CRV comment that they’d fund a screenshot if it was really good (paraphrase).
    Please tell me one of the six was a screenshot – that would be great! :-)

  6. I talked to the CRV folks after meeting one of them in person at a function; they were actually quite nice and they followed up with email within a day and a half or so. (This is more than I can say for 95% of the VCs I’ve talked with since starting my business six months ago.) Part of CRV’s strategy is to talk to as many people as possible and give a yes/no answer as quickly as possible which I really appreciated.
    Not accepting unsolicited pitches as a matter of policy seems like a lemming-like strategy to me.