As a firm, Mangrove Capital Partners was fortunate to have been one of the first investors in Skype. It was an amazing company to have been involved with and, when it was sold to eBay, it delivered great returns for our investors.
However, for our firm’s very first investment, which we made fourteen years ago, the story is a bit different. In fact, we invested in four separate funding rounds in IT security company Lumension and it was only this week that we were able to sell the business giving the investors in our first fund an additional bonus.
The common perception is that VCs walk away from the companies that don’t become overnight successes. The reality is, we’re often happy to show patience.
Indeed, the venture capital industry is sitting on hundreds, if not thousands, of companies that have not yet been bought. Many make a tidy profit and would be considered great businesses outside of the venture capital industry.
Then, of course, there are the VC firms stuck in a state of paralysis because they have so many companies they can’t sell. Known as ‘the walking dead’, these firms are unable to deliver a return to their investors and unable to close their next fundraising.
According to CB Insights, the top 15 tech exits in 2013 created $18.5 billion of value on investment of only $471 million. In the same year, $29.4 billion was invested in 3,995 deals, according to a PWC report. Only a small handful of these will be remembered as great deals, like our early investments in Skype and WIX.
For the vast majority, success doesn’t come overnight and it may take time and perseverance to generate a healthy return. While stories like Instagram dominate the headlines, 9 out of ten venture-backed businesses are sold rather than bought.
In the case of Lumension, we stuck with it because we believed in the business and I’m happy to say that it can pay off to be a patient investor. Clearly, it wasn’t the dream scenario but, with a sigh of relief, I am delighted to finally see it leave our portfolio.