Venture capital is money provided by an outside investor to finance a new, growing, or troubled business. The venture capitalist provides the funding knowing that there's a significant risk associated with the company's future profits and cash flow. Capital is invested in exchange for an equity stake in the business rather than given as a loan, and the investor hopes the investment will yield a better-than-average return.
Venture capital is an important source of funding for start-up and other companies that have a limited operating history and don't have access to capital markets. A venture capital firm (VC) typically looks for new and small businesses with a perceived long-term growth potential that will result in a large payout for investors.
A venture capitalist is not necessarily just one wealthy financier. Most VCs are limited partnerships that have a fund of pooled investment capital with which to invest in a number of companies. They vary in size from firms that manage just a few million dollars worth of investments to much larger VCs that may have billions of dollars invested in companies all over the world. VCs may be a small group of investors or an affiliate or subsidiary of a large commercial bank, investment bank, or insurance company that makes investments on behalf clients of the parent company or outside investors. In any case, the VC aims to use its business knowledge, experience and expertise to fund and nurture companies that will yield a substantial return on the VC's investment, generally within three to seven years.
Not all VC investments pay off. The failure rate can be quite high, and in fact, anywhere from 20 percent to 90 percent of portfolio companies may fail to return on the VC's investment. On the other hand, if a VC does well, a fund can offer returns of 300 to 1,000 percent.
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