Before I worked for a venture firm, I had never thought about the question of what a VC should do if they don’t like the deals they’re seeing. Whether individual deals are too expensive, or the market is overheated, or they just don’t find something they love — I assumed they’d sit out and wait for a good one. It turns out, that’s not really how it works.
Typically when you raise money from LPs, you specify an investment period for the fund you’re raising. Sure, the fund may last 10 years, but usually you’ll do all of your new deals in the first 2–4 years, then follow-on and manage the investments until the end. (You’ll raise your next fund so that it’s ready as this fund is fully allocated.) If you don’t like the deals you’re seeing and drag your feet, you’re tripping up your investors’ expectations and your own fund timing.
Of course your LPs don’t want you to do dumb deals. But they do expect you to deliver returns with their money, in a timely fashion. And if you’re not putting their money to work, someone else will (…promise to get them returns in a more timely fashion). The market may be cyclical, but timing those cycles is tricky.
Certainly some investors can slow their pace for a year without issue. If your dealflow is out of phase with your partners, they can pick up the slack (and vice versa). But as an investor, you can’t keep waiting for “just right.” (This is all probably very obvious to poker players.)
So what do you do if you don’t like what you’re seeing? You hunt. If you don’t like the deal terms, you might need to recalibrate to the market, although plenty of investors will cringe at that. But if you don’t adapt and the market is slow to cycle back around, you might miss your window entirely. So you accept the additional risk and seek out new signal. Learn new industries and geographies, dig outside of your typical network, and adapt your thesis to the landscape in front of you. That seems like the only way. (I’m speculating.) This isn’t War Games.