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End of an era for Venture Capital

Seeing the news last night about John Moulton quitting Alchemy made me reflect on the passing of another of the old guard out of the mainstream.  Of course we’ll still hear about John and likely he’ll still do deals but Alchemy was in many ways a tangible expression of his philosophy and style for venture capital.  Can we forget him trying to do the Rover deal – promising to revive the British sports car – when everyone else thought it too hard (though of course he was thwarted).  Similarly Ronald Cohen at Apax (another house that has morphed from VC to PE).  We will forever associate them with a buccaneering era for the industry – when it was being formed and shaped.  Am I allowed to use the term buccaneer?  Hope the FSA aren’t listening.  Another figure from that era is Michael Stoddart whose Electra was one of the pioneers – he’s still involved at FFP of course.  I ought to mention that Michael was so generous in his help in moving entrepreneurship forward at London Business School – he like Moulton and Cohen had great instincts for seeing opportunities.  So many of the generation they nurtured grew up alongside each other on the BVCA courses or at 3i during its now-abandoned VC phase (another strategic cock-up).  Now who replaces these and other figures from that era?  There seem to be a lot of ‘professionals’ – by which I really mean ‘company men’  who have followed career tracks in banking and accounting.  These were always breeding grounds for VCs but of course banks and accounting practices have developed more homogeneous standards, become machines that feed anonymous executives who can navigate the internal politics.  Gone is the camaraderie of being a young ‘Investment Exec’ at 3i or sitting in those BVCA courses.  I guess you’d expect all this in a maturing industry that is growing out of its cottage-industry roots.  Am I alone though in wondering whether we’ve lost something along the way?  Some flair, a real nose for a deal, an entrepreneurial creativity that sees beyond all that expensive due diligence?  I don’t know the team that John leaves behind at Alchemy but his resignation letter is pretty clear in saying they are unproven.  How can people become so senior in the industry and not be incredibly well-known?  I’m sure the VC industry is bigger and more professional than it used to be but where are the new personalities to inspire us and to figure out where to go next in these desperate times?

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