Want To Try Venture Investing? It Isn’t As Easy As You Might Think

Concentric
4 min readMar 15, 2024

22.09.2023

Venture investing might seem like a straightforward way of achieving bumper returns. But there is more to it than some family offices realise, demanding the right balance of skills, experience, and resources.

In recent years, family offices have grown in absolute numbers and amassed substantial wealth, affording them the opportunity to explore new investment avenues beyond traditional assets. One area that has captured their interest is venture capital investing. With abundant and patient capital, family offices are drawn to the allure of investing directly in start-ups, on the promise of high returns. However, while venture investing may seem appealing on the surface, the reality is that it comes with its fair share of challenges and potential pitfalls.

The allure of venture capital

Venture capital presents an attractive prospect for family offices looking to diversify their investment portfolios and participate in the dynamic world of entrepreneurship. By targeting early-stage start-ups, they can access innovative ideas and disruptive technologies that have the potential to generate substantial returns over the long term. Many family offices are also attracted to the potential impact that these investments could have in solving challenges in traditional sectors, and therefore society. By taking a direct approach, they also hope to avoid the fees charged by traditional VC funds, potentially enhancing their overall returns.

The illusion of ease

However, venture investing is far from “easy”. While it may seem tempting to jump into the start-up world, family offices should not underestimate the complexities and the risk involved. Unlike passive investments, venture capital requires active participation and significant expertise to navigate the unique challenges inherent in this asset class. Becoming successful involves perfecting a variety of different activities and skills:

  • Deal Flow: Identifying promising start-ups can be a time-consuming process. Successful venture investors must source a continuous stream of high-quality investment opportunities to build a robust portfolio. According to the Harvard Business Review, only around 0.5% of venture deal flow ends up as investee companies. Investors must therefore filter out tens or hundreds of potential deals based on their strategy, areas of interest and the quality of the opportunity. Doing this demands a dedicated team with the experience and expertise to make the right calls.
  • Due Diligence: Assessing startup businesses, which invariably don’t have an extensive track record is a specialist skill. It demands expertise in evaluating the market, technology, and business model, as well as spending time with the team to understand their motivations and if they have what it takes to withstand the ups and downs of growing a business. At a more personal level, you also need to check whether there is a chemistry fit. Can you work effectively with these people for the next five or more years?
  • Industry Networking: You can’t underestimate the time that venture investors spend networking. And not only for meeting promising startups founders, but also other investors to partner with, sourcing follow up deals, expertise that can help their growth, or generally expanding their knowledge of the market. There aren’t any short-cuts; the key is to get out there to meet and engage with as many people as possible, particularly for family offices who may not have pre-existing relationships.
  • Portfolio Management: Venture portfolio companies require a great deal more support, guidance, and oversight than might be the case with larger companies. Success only comes from actively engaging with investee companies, gaining their trust, and nurturing those relationships, while taking an active role in supporting the growth of portfolio companies, through utilising your networks and experience. The risk and uncertainty involved mean that venture rarely works if investors are hands-off, and family offices often underestimate the amount of work required.
  • Exit Planning: Finally, venture returns can only be realised upon a successful exit, through mergers, acquisitions, or initial public offerings (IPOs), all of which can be challenging and unpredictable. Getting it right requires close collaboration with startup founders, a detailed assessment of the options and the best timing, and then negotiating a deal. Taking your eye off the ball can mean losing out on significant value.

Venture capital investing may offer family offices exciting opportunities, but it comes with inherent challenges and risks that require significant planning and dedication to overcome. While the prospect of direct investments and potentially higher returns is enticing, family offices must be aware of the complexities involved and avoid underestimating the time, resources and effort required to be successful.

Before allocating capital into this asset class, family offices should think through the entire venture capital investment process. Seeking advice from experienced venture investors, engaging with professional service providers, and thoroughly researching potential investments are crucial steps to mitigate risks and maximise the chances of success. By finding the right structure and model, family offices can unlock the true potential of this dynamic asset class and capitalise on the growth opportunities it offers.

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Concentric

Founded in 2013 by Kjartan Rist and Denis Shafranik, Concentric invests into software-driven technology businesses that are solving real problems