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The great generational shift within venture capital

September 24, 2021, 3:19 PM UTC
Larry Busacca—Getty Images for The New York Times

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Over the course of the past week, three venture capitalists have announced plans to step back from their investing roles at their respective firms.

Lightspeed’s Jeremy Liew, known well for his early bet on Snap, made his news public last Friday. Six days later, Spark Capital co-founder and general partner Bijan Sabet announced he too was stepping back, as did IA Ventures’ Roger Ehrenberg. 

Liew will continue to work with portfolio companies and with “developing the next generation of [Lightspeed’s] team.” Sabet noted he would continue to be active in portfolio companies, but that he would also turn his focus to investing alongside his wife in companies tackling climate change. Ehrenberg in a somber note wrote of his personal difficulties in the past 18 months, including the death of his mother, and said he will pare back most of his board responsibilities. “All of this… caused me to reassess how I want to spend the next 20+ years of my life,” Ehrenberg wrote.

Their motivations for stepping back diverge, but there is good reason to think this is not just a coincidence, and that more exits from venture capital firms will come due to a whole host of factors. For starters, there is a broader generational shift happening across the industry. Just look to the above three investors: Liew helped build up Lightspeed’s consumer investing reputation after starting his career there 15 years ago. Spark began its formation about 17 years ago, while IA Ventures was launched some 12 years ago. All three of the investors are in their 50s, and are in a sense, now handing off the torch to the next generation, at least from an investing point of view. Notably, Benchmark—one of the biggest names in the VC space—has also been undergoing a generational shift: Bill Gurley, also in his 50s, effectively stepped back last year, after famously writing a piece about the benefits of youth in venture investing several years ago.

As tech valuations balloon, and exits come pouring in seemingly for every fund, the net worth of investors behind the scenes is also growing dramatically—allowing them to move on to other passions. But even as checks and wallets grow, so does the bone-deep exhaustion catalyzed by the surge in competition within venture capital for deals.

The upshot is that as tech companies are battling it out for talent and dealing with resignations, so too are the firms on the investing side of the equation.

It’s also worth mentioning that the venture industry has not always done a good job with transitions historically, with the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers story easily coming to mind. That firm became known for its talented young investors who weren’t given a chance to ascend—and subsequently left. When they departed, what is now known as Kleiner Perkins too lost much of its luster. Its story, along with other high-profile firms’ failures to smoothly pass on the torch, have become cautionary tales in the industry, perhaps driving earlier retirements at other firms.

MORE LOVE FOR SEATTLE: Seattle-based remittances startup Remitly is now valued at about $8 billion after going public on Thursday. Now the name of the game, as it goes up against Western Union, is scale, per my colleague, Rey Mashayekhi.

“‘Ultimately you’ve got to scale out and drive volume. Otherwise, you’re always going to be exposed to pricing competition over time,’ according to Morningstar equity analyst Brett Horn, who covers the payment processing sector. ‘That’s how you win in this industry—you get bigger and drive scale.’” Read more.

Lucinda Shen

Jessica Mathews compiled the IPO and SPAC sections of this newsletter.


- Gorillas, a European quick grocery delivery company, raised $950 million in Series C funding, valuing it at $3 billion, per the Information. Delivery Hero is reportedly leading the round.

- Momenta, a Chinese self-driving car company, will raise $300 million from General Motors, making it a unicorn.

- Emerge, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based digital freight marketplace, raised $130 million in Series B funding. 9Yards Capital, Tiger Global Management and The Spruce House Partnership led the round and were joined by investors including New Road Capital Partners and Greycroft.

- Loft Orbital, a San Francisco-based space startup, raised $130 million in Series B funding, per the Information. Blackrock led the round, valuing it at $550 million.

- NTWRK, a video shopping app, raised $50 million in funding. Goldman Sachs Asset Management led the round and was joined by investors including Kering.

- Syng, an audio hardware startup, raised  $48.8 million in Series A funding. Eclipse Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, Lionel Richie and Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia

- Sternum, an Israel-based internet of things company, raised $27 million in Series B funding. Spark Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Square Peg Capital, the Hinrich Foundation, and btov.

- Crosschq, a San Francisco-based recruiting software company, raised $16.5 million in additional Series A funding. Tiger Global led the round and was joined by investors including GGV Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, SAP.iO,, and Jack Altman (CEO of Lattice).

- Focused Energy, a Germany and Texas-based laser fusion startup focused on alternative energy, raised $15 million in seed funding. Prime Movers Lab led the round and was joined by investors including Alex Rodriguez, Marc Lore, and Tony Florence.

- Jscrambler, a Portugal-based cybersecurity products maker, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Ace Capital Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Portugal Ventures. 

- Grow Therapy, a New York City-based way to find therapists, raised $15 million in Series A funding. SignalFire led the round.

- Pronto, a Cupertino, Calif.-based maker collaboration tech, raised $4 million in seed funding. Work-Bench led the round and was joined by investors including Vertex Ventures US, Firebolt Ventures, and Tau Ventures. 

- Maroo, a New York City-based buy now, pay later startup focused on the wedding industry, raised $3.8 million. Investors included Rogue Capital, i2bf, Pioneer Fund, Darco Capital, Acrobator Ventures, and YC.


- Exadel, a portfolio company of Sun Capital Partners, acquired Coppei, a Mercer Island, Wash.-based consultancy. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Karman Missile & Space Systems, backed by Trive Capital, acquired Systima Technologies, a Kirkland, Wash.-based provider of manufacturing to the aerospace and defense industries. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Serent Capital invested in Millennium Systems International, a Parsippany, N.J.-based software provider to the spa and salon industry. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- General Electric (NYSE: GE) will acquire BK Medical, an ultrasound company, for about $1.5 billion.

- Dating Group acquired Cupid Media, an Australian dating company, for $51 million.

- A group of investors including its second-largest shareholder offered to acquire French Connection, the U.K.-based fashion retailer, for about $40 million.

- Progress (NASDAQ: PRGS) acquired Kemp, a New York City-based secure applications and networks company, for $258 million. 


- Clearwater Analytics, a Boise, Idaho-based investment accounting and analytics software company, raised $540 million in an offering of 30 million shares priced at $18 per share. The company posted $203.3 million in revenue for 2020 and a loss of $44.2 million. Warburg Pincus, Dragoneer, Welsh Carson, and Permira back the firm.

- Cue Health, a San Diego, Calif.-based company that makes COVID tests, raised $200 million in an offering of 12.5 million shares priced at $16 per share. The company posted $15 million in revenue in 2020 and a loss of $19 million. ACME Capital, Decheng Capital, and Madrone Capital Partners back the firm.

- Kakao Pay, a South Korean payments company, is delaying its plans to go public until November, per Reuters. An IPO could raise around $1 billion for the company. Kakao owns a majority stake in the company, and Alipay backs the firm.

- ServiceTitan, a Glendale ,Calif.-based HVAC software company, is preparing for an IPO early next year, per Reuters. An IPO could value the company at around $10 billion. Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital back the firm.

- FWD Group, a Hong Kong insurance company, filed for an IPO in the U.S. The company posted $10 million in revenue in 2020 and a loss of $252 million. Pacific Group Chairman Richard Li backs the firm.


- TPG named Todd B. Sisitsky as president of the firm. He will continue as co-managing partner of TPG Capital and co-head of its healthcare investing.

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