Do venture capitalists collude?

March 28, 2011, 6:32 PM UTC

Here’s one of my favorite questions to ask entrepreneurs-turned-VCs: What do you now know about venture capital that you wish you had known as an entrepreneur?

The answers often are about the “business” end of venture capital, such as limited partner relationships or general partnership dynamics. A few weeks back, however, someone mentioned that he wished he had known that VCs like to collude on deals.

Not organized collusion, mind you, such as a dinner where everyone sets pricing limits (I kid, I kid). Instead, he was talking about scenarios in which one VC will call another and say: “Hey, I hear we’re both working on the same deal. Why don’t we team up, rather than bid against each other?”

This is particular true, he added, among VCs working in the same geographic market. Or among VCs in a relatively narrow industry vertical.

Most other VCs I’ve since spoken with about such collusion have strongly disagreed with its existence, saying that they only reach out to other firms after discussing possible syndication with the entrepreneur. They add, however, that entrepreneurs would be smart not to identify other firms they’re talking to when meeting with VCs.

In other words: “VCs don’t go out of their way to collude… well, unless they’re given a paint-by-numbers on how to do it.”