Home > For Entrepreneurs > Do VCs Perform Better Just by Being in Silicon Valley? A CIV Sponsored Research Inquires - Does it Matter Where a Venture Capitalist Is?

Do VCs Perform Better Just by Being in Silicon Valley? A CIV Sponsored Research Inquires - Does it Matter Where a Venture Capitalist Is?

A scene from "Silicon Valley" TV Series

风投项目只要落地硅谷就能表现更好吗?Does it matter where a venture capitalist is? Or could he operate from anywhere in the world and still see the same results? This is a question for policy makers, across the US and around the world, interested in promoting a vibrant entrepreneurial environment.

There is some evidence that location matters for VCs, both in terms of proximity to entrepreneurs as well as to other VCs. This can be explained by business practices:

  • VCs actively manage firms in partnership with entrepreneurs, so being close by is helpful.
  • VCs also co-invest in start-ups with other VCs, so physical proximity to other VCs can facilitate the flow of that type of information, as well.

This tendency toward geographic concentration, or “agglomeration”, means that if a VC cluster can but get started, it may enter a virtuous cycle and grow into a thriving economic engine. However, in addition to the problem of promoting venture capital investing, policy makers also face the less-understood issue of what type of venture investing to promote.

We suggest that there is variation in VC behavior that may significantly affect performance at the cluster level. This geographical variation in VC “styles” has previously only been hinted at in the literature, but is beginning to attract more scholarly attention.

Our research attempts to make inroads into understanding how and why VCs differ geographically. Specifically, we look at contracts between VCs and entrepreneurs and find enormous differences between Silicon Valley and the rest of the world. Our research suggests that the differences between short Silicon Valley contracts and lengthy non-Silicon Valley contracts are more than superficial. Rather, they reflect differences in the VC-entrepreneur relationship and in VCs’ approach to entrepreneurship.

The shorter contracts, written in ordinary, non-legal language, reflect a closer, more collaborative, relationship between parties; a relationship that is conducive to the type of joint problem solving that is so instrumental to creating novel products and markets. This relationship is expressed, not just in the written word but also in the process of negotiating and executing the contract.

Our research focuses narrowly on contracts, which is a formal, tangible document. But we believe that contracts are just the first step in understanding the behavioral underpinnings of VC performance and variation, and that a careful analysis of VC variation can inform policy makers as they strategize how best to attract and promote venture capital investing.

Dr. Jennifer Kuan

Dr. Jennifer Kuan received her PhD from the University of California-Haas School of Business and is currently at the Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research at Stanford University. Her work applies economic theory and empirical analysis to understand the hidden logic of how industries and firms are organized. Studies have examined innovation inside small- to medium-sized firms and the role of hierarchy in technology adoption and economic development. The incentives of nonprofit organizations have also been studied in a variety of industries including performing arts, stock exchanges, hospitals and software, with implications for firm governance, strategy and performance. Current research on venture capital explores network organization of investors and the emergence of the network in its early days.

Dr. Kuan is the winner of the Strategic Management Society’s dissertation award, a finalist of the Academy of Management Business, Policy and Strategy dissertation award, and was a Sloan Foundation Industry Studies Fellow. The above is a summary of her research in progress, winner of the CIV 2015 Research Grant.

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