Informational Hold-Up and Performance Persistence in Venture Capital
46 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2009 Last revised: 13 Jan 2015
Date Written: December 2011
Why don't successful venture capitalists eliminate excess demand for their follow-on funds by aggressively raising their performance fees? We propose a theory of learning that leads to informational hold-up in the VC market. Investors in a fund learn whether the VC has skill or was lucky, whereas potential outside investors only observe returns. This gives the VC's current investors hold-up power when the VC raises his next fund: Without their backing, he cannot persuade anyone else to fund him, since outside investors would interpret the lack of backing as a sign that his skill is low. This hold-up power diminishes the VC's ability to increase fees in line with performance. The model provides a rationale for the persistence in after-fee returns documented by Kaplan and Schoar (2005) and predicts low expected returns among first-time funds, persistence in investors from fund to fund, and over-subscription in follow-on funds raised by successful VCs. Empirical evidence from a large sample of U.S. VC funds raised between 1980 and 2006 is consistent with these predictions.
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