Venture capitalists are investing an ‘unprecedented’ amount of money in tech — but there’s a catch

Venture capitalists are investing an ‘unprecedented’ amount of money in tech — but there’s a catch

Aspect Ventures co-founder Jennifer Fonstad says the money is frequently not going to the entrepreneurs who need it most.

When Jennifer Fonstad became a venture capitalist, joining Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 1997, only 10 percent of the companies funded there had prior investors. And back then, she says, there was really just one angel investor: Ron Conway.

“Cycle forward 20 years and you have incubators, accelerators, seed funds, angel networks, micro-funds,” Fonstad said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “The amount of capital available to get a company started is unprecedented.”

(Read and listen on Recode)

But just because there’s a lot of money floating around doesn’t mean that it’s spread evenly. Fonstad said most VC money is still directed at nascent companies, or successful ones that are scaling up; not enough is being pledged to help companies cross the “chasm” in which so many startups fail, which is one of the ills Aspect is hoping to address.

“That’s still an area where it’s an art, not a science, understanding the patterns of what’s likely to work and not, and how companies navigate that,” she said. “It’s still an area that is, I think, too high-risk for the growth folks. And the seed folks typically try to get all their ownership early on so they don’t want or need to take on that additional risk at that stage.”

On the new podcast, Fonstad also talked about how her job as a venture capitalist is changing now that startups can potentially get money from so many more places, including initial coin offerings. The simple-but-true reality is that VC firms have to provide more than just cash.

“We’re not ‘dumb money’ when you find talented people to help you build a business,” she said. “Entrepreneurs take incredible risks and put an incredible amount of their heart, soul energy and time into building a company, but it still takes a village to build successful companies.”