Venture Capitalists are Best Kept at a Distance

There is amusing (in an admittedly academic sense) new paper out seemingly showing that venture capitalists obtain a significant portion of their performance by investing in deals outside their local area. That, of course, runs contrary to the usual VC mantra that they only invest in their local area.

A cynic (or an entrepreneur) would like say the answer is obvious. Venture capitalists are meddlesome sorts who get in the way of running a company, so startups will do best to the extent that they can keep VCs a few timezones and/or flights away.

For some reason the paper’s author don’t proffer the above explanation. Instead, they argue it is a combination of higher hurdle rate forcing VCs into making better investments, plus some geographic arbitrage. While both are possible, even if geographic arbitrage in venture is mostly a loser strategy, I’d also bet there is a reputational effect going on. In short, the “smart money” from out of town gets to do deals in the hinterlands at better valuations than does a local fund.


Buy Local?  The Geography of Successful and Unsuccessful Venture Capital Expansion
Henry Chen*, Paul Gompers**, Anna Kovner***, and Josh Lerner**