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If Founders Don’t Want to Stick it Out, Don’t Take VC

From left Jason Hoffman of Ericsson, Charles Beeler of Rally Ventures and Rachel Chalmers of Ignition Partners. From left Jason Hoffman of Ericsson, Charles Beeler of Rally Ventures and Rachel Chalmers of Ignition Partners.
From left Jason Hoffman of Ericsson, Charles Beeler of Rally Ventures and Rachel Chalmers of Ignition Partners. Phillip Van Nostrand/Structure 2015

Even venture firms that invest in enterprise technology are facing the challenges of founders who want to build a startup for cheap and then check out when Google or Facebook come calling with a $20 million or $30 million payday after a couple years in. Speaking at the Structure 2015 event Thursday, Rachel Chalmers of Ignition Partners called this mindset a new filter function and said the industry needs to start talking about it.

“If you don’t want to spend 10 years building the startup and are happy to take the $30 million … then maybe don’t take venture capital,” Chalmers said.

The other venture capitalists agreed that economics of building a company were so different now, that in some cases they were changing their model to provide less capital and more expertise to founders whose primary costs of building a business were the amount of money it took to pay the people needed to build the product, according to Charles Beeler of Rally Ventures.

Of course the ease of building an enterprise software product could backfire, since most of these companies start out with one idea that could look more like a feature, and thus could be easily obliterated by one of the cloud giants. Chalmers spoke of her annual ritual of walking the floor after the keynote speech at AWS ReInvent, the Amazon (AMZN) user conference, and seeing “how many people were crying at their booths.”

The sense from the three venture firms onstage (most of whom dealt with enterprise investments in the cloud computing arena) was that it require a lot less capital to build something interesting. Not only that, it was much harder to build something that was interesting to a wide swath of the corporate customer base as the divide widened between those with cloud expertise and those struggling to achieve cloud expertise. It’s no wonder that VCs were frustrated by the gobs money that the giants of Silicon Valley were willing to pay when they backed a great idea that had the potential to go the distance.

It made me wonder if Google (GOOG) or Facebook (FB) has already snatched the next Salesforce or CloudFlare out from under corporate buyers with a fat payday early on.

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