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interview: jay hoag and rick kimball

Not long after you start TCV, you see Netscape go public. It's like the Big Bang in conventional wisdom here. You were positioned perfectly. I mean, IPOs were not a big, big deal until after that event.

Jay Hoag: I think what Netscape triggered was a sense that you didn't have to be profitable to go public. But if you were growing fast enough, at some point in the future, you would grow into profitability. It unleashed a lot of different things, including a huge number of IPOs, a really big up cycle in venture funding -- to some extent, some bad ideas, actually.

Rick Kimball: And Netscape also unleashed the individual retail focus on technology investing, perhaps ultimately leading to the whole day trading phenomenon. I vividly remember -- and this was the first time I had ever witnessed this -- the week Netscape goes public, that Saturday or Sunday I am down at the little newspaper stand on Chestnut Street in San Francisco where I get my Sunday newspaper. I walk in and the guy behind the counter and the two other guys that work there, all they are talking about is the performance of Netscape stock that previous week.

It was the first time I ever remember hearing that. Of course, that just accelerated, so for a five-year period, that's all anybody talked about. ...

In December of 1998, you put money into Can you talk a little bit about why you jumped into that one, and what you were thinking?

Jay Hoag: Sure. ... The thing about the Internet is you have low-cost infrastructure that businesses can do a bunch of things on top. And looking at mortgages, it is the ultimate enormous market. A trillion dollars of mortgages in that year were actually transacted. The vast majority of it is not online. So the opportunity for somebody like to use the low-cost infrastructure to start gaining share of that trillion-dollar piece by doing things more efficiently online, hooking up mortgage brokers with lenders -- that was the opportunity.

[There were] a whole variety of issues ... that prevented them from really capitalizing upon it. And like many technology-driven markets before mortgages, it will take several generations and iterations of that model before it really takes off.

Hoag and Kimball founded Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV), a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, in 1995. During the tech bubble, TCV posted over 100 percent gains in its portfolios for several years running, one of the best investing records in Silicon Valley. In mid-2000, TCV was able to attract $1.6 billion to form the largest technology venture capital fund in U.S. history. According to Fortune magazine, between 1995 and 1999 TCV lost money on only 2 out of the 76 companies in which it invested. FRONTLINE producer Martin Smith interviewed Hoag and Kimball in May 2001.

Ariba was also an early investment -- March 1998, I think, was your initial investment, at least that's the earliest reference that we found to that. What were you thinking there with Ariba?

Jay Hoag: Ariba at the time was a pretty young company, had a very small number of customers. What they had, though, in a sense the beauty of Ariba was they were very focused at the time on a single function: helping large corporations get their arms around what they are purchasing, streamline the process, including approval. Therefore, by streamlining it and being able to buy online, dramatically lower your costs of what you buy -- what any typical business buys, which can range from paper to pencils to much more sophisticated goods. So they were laser-like in their focus initially, capitalizing on that opportunity. A great team of people built an enormous company in a short period of time.

Rick Kimball: Ariba is an example of a company that could use the Internet to offer their customers tremendous real ROIs, return on investments, and, by the way, they actually executed virtually flawlessly. So you combine those two things together and you have a great success.

When you say they "executed flawlessly," what do you mean? Do you mean that the business operated flawlessly, or ...?

Rick Kimball: Businesses, particularly venture-backed businesses, never operate flawlessly. But they had a world-class management team who cut their teeth with other companies. They weren't the 22-year old guys just out of Stanford Business School. Some of them must have been at least 30.

So they had real live real-world experience. And they started out with a great marquee account, which was Cisco. And when you can go into a company like Cisco and demonstrate, one, your technology works and, two, you can show real ROI, they were able to translate that and replicate that to multiple other Fortune 500 customers.

I have always been of the view, as we look at buying IPOs at TCV, [that] it's caveat emptor. ... Everybody is responsible for their own mistakes. Jay Hoag: If I can add to that, I think sometimes there is a misperception that sometimes companies succeed or fail just because of technology. And when we talk about how well they executed in Ariba's case, yes, they developed a product that worked. They listened to their customers' feedback and evolved a product over time. But an important part of any technology company's or Internet company's success is all other aspects of execution. Sales execution. Are they hiring the right kind of salespeople who are selling this stuff in an aggressive environment? [Is] the marketing and positioning proper relative to the competition? ... So Ariba is an example of great technology and tremendous execution in building a real business. There are a lot of other examples where there might be great technology, but the company doesn't execute well.

April of 1999, CacheFlow. Talk about what you were seeing in that company.

Jay Hoag: Getting back to the theme of Internet infrastructure -- a company that had a great product that solved a very specific function, allowed its customers to speed up their Internet usage. A CEO we had gotten to know over many years, a fellow venture capitalist we had gotten to know over many years, and at the time we looked at CacheFlow, great technology, early customer adoption and a conviction on [the part of] the CEO led us to believe he could build the sales and marketing team necessary to rapidly accelerate the business.

And when you get into Ariba and CacheFlow and, how are you telling yourselves and your limited partners how you are going to play it? We talked about the IPO that we saw at Netscape. That has in some ways changed what you can expect in terms of a liquidity event. What are you thinking when you get into those?

Jay Hoag: We are always, in good times and bad, looking for really big market opportunity -- for a company that could potentially be a leader in that market. And are we getting it at a price where we think we are buying low, and some day, at some point in time, selling high? ... What we try to always ask ourselves, with mostly success but occasionally a few misses, is if the music stops and there was no IPO window starting the next day, how would we feel owning this asset, effectively -- this piece of this company -- on a three-, five- and seven-year basis?

Rick Kimball: Maybe taking that another step, I think when we get involved with companies, we do follow that philosophy that Jay described. I think, though, you typically try to get the company's goal to be thinking about building a company that could do an IPO.

But you don't want that to be, "Jeez, you have to do it within a year, you got to do it within two years." But you want them to be thinking about those types of things, which hopefully gives them a focus toward, ultimately, a business model that is profitable, has high gross margins, has a revenue run rate that's growing 30 percent to 50 percent per year. And if there is an IPO window during that time period, you take advantage of it, and you utilize it. But you don't want to be in a situation where your companies have to do an IPO to raise money, or you are beholden to that.

And that is, by the way, at the end of the day if you look back and say what happened in 1999, I'd say that's the biggest fall down we all made -- TCV included, and most of our venture capital brethren -- is we did look at the IPO as a funding event. We did let burn rates get out of hand, because we always, we kind of have been conditioned over the previous 12 to 24 months to say, "Well, jeez, OK, they spent more than we thought they would. We will just go out and raise money at a higher valuation, or maybe we will just go out and take the company public."

The thing that we've been all dealing with is the fact that when that IPO window is shut, you had companies with burn rates that were way extended, way over what they should be, and they couldn't raise money.

How do you account for getting into a situation ... where you were rushing to take companies public at quicker and quicker, narrower and narrower time frames? In the case of Ariba, it's from March of 1998 to June of 1999. In the case of others, it gets faster than that.

Rick Kimball: The positive reason for going public is if you just look at the IPO as a financing event. ... So at that point in time, what the market was saying was you should go get, basically, almost free capital in the process of going public. So as a board member, the decision would be very tough to not push a company towards an IPO. Because otherwise you have to do another private financing without the available etceteras. So the whole system kind of got ratcheted up. So, yes, younger companies were trying to go public, and guess what? They were succeeding.

So at the end of the day, at the end of that process, you then had a company that had $50 million to $100 million of cash in the bank, which could then go about spending that money -- hopefully prudently -- to build a real business. So that's a positive reason for doing it.

I think some of what happened was people confused a financing event with an end result. An IPO -- we forgot for a while, and know again -- is not the end of events. It's just a way to raise money for a company. So I think people would start talking about an IPO as a branding event. And somehow, magically, by going public you got all this publicity, all these people would come to your Internet site and the business would boom.

That proved to be fallacious thinking. And the other thing that was underestimated is that going public is a stressful process. Being public for a company is a stressful process. And if you are an adolescent rather than an adult, there are risks associated with it, because you are now trying to operate with specific quarterly benchmarks in the public eye. And so, given the boom of IPOs, we have had also a boom in the number of companies that have disappointed investors.

In the case of Ariba, what was the IPO like? Tell me about the IPO.

Rick Kimball: The IPO was an enormously successful event that raised several hundred million dollars for the company. It also allowed them to then acquire some other companies, using a high-priced currency to cheaply acquire and therefore to help build their business. It was done at a valuation that was just staggering at the time -- so off the charts relative to anything that any of us had ever seen, including Netscape.

And when did you get out of Ariba?

Rick Kimball: When did we? ...

Jay Hoag: I don't recall specifically.

Rick Kimball: I don't recall the exact date. But our basic goal is to primarily distribute stock out to our many partners, and typically there is no set time frame We are not saying, "Jeez, two months after the IPO, or six months after the lockup comes off, do we do it?" But I think that we do want to do it when we think the company's fundamentals are still very strong, and where we think the valuation probably can no longer earn us a venture-capital-like return in the public markets.

So where we think the stock is fairly valued but the fundamentals are very strong, that's when we are most likely to distribute the stock out to our limited partners. Because the last thing we would ever want to do is give stock to our limited partners and then have it shown or be seen that the company's fundamentals have deteriorated and the stock price collapses before our limited partner has a chance to do anything with the stock.

When you say "fundamentals," in the case of a company like Ariba, were they ever making profit? They are still not making a profit.

Jay Hoag: Actually, they were profitable at least two quarters last year.

But they've amounted to net losses for their investors?

Jay Hoag: Right.


So when you looked down the road, you saw a company that was going to continue to be profitable?

Rick Kimball: Absolutely.

Why get out?

Rick Kimball: In a sense, that's just very much a part of our business. It was an enormous return for us, in that case in a very short period of time, and we felt that having some sense that we were in unsustainable times from a valuation standpoint; not just for Ariba, but for many companies.

We, as a firm, were very aggressive about trying to make distributions. We thought it was a prudent thing to do. We actually have a 1999 venture fund where we return all the capital back to our investors about two years later. And while we made some mistakes in that fund just simply by doing that -- by aggressively distributing -- that puts us in remarkably good shape relative to other funds that were investing during that same time frame.


In October of 1999, you were on Louis Rukeyser's show on PBS ["Wall Street Week"] talking about And this is a time when, presumably, you know that these valuations of companies are maybe too high. But you were in a position at the same time of touting, of recommending to investors that they jump in. Some people would say that is a problem.

Jay Hoag: What is a problem?

That you know these are heady times and these valuations may be too high, but at the same time, you are recommending to investors that they jump in.

Rick Kimball: I've been on "Wall Street Week," I believe on the fall show four of each of the last six years, talking about a whole variety of things. ... I'm sure I can go back and look at a number of companies I talked about positively that fared well and some that were big disappointments. But at the end of the day, it's not my job to recommend to investors. It's kind of a batting average business. ...

Do investors understand that when they are watching? I mean, they think they are getting advice on what to run out and buy.

Jay Hoag: There has been a lot of focus, a lot of attention by the press and everybody in the food chain of lawyers, venture capitalists, landlords, CEOs of companies, investment bankers that are involved in the Internet phenomenon. Some old lessons have been relearned -- namely, you should never rely upon anybody's recommendations to do anything, be it to buy a stock, get involved in a venture-backed company, buy real estate.

I have always been of the view, as we look at buying IPOs at TCV, it's caveat emptor. You have to know what you are buying. You shouldn't assume because Morgan or Goldman or anybody else is bringing them public that they are looking out for your best interests. You have to look out for your best interests. And I think that is true throughout the food chain. So I would say nobody should ever do anything because they saw somebody on TV talking about it. Nobody should do it because Merrill Lynch, or Goldman or Morgan are recommending the stock. ...

But there was a misunderstanding, I think, on the part of the public. When they watch these investment shows, they [think that they] are getting a kind of expert advice.

Jay Hoag: Yeah, it could be. Remember, CNBC is a wholly bull market phenomenon. If you had said to me when we starred TCV, "Yes, there is going to be this 24-hour cable channel talking about the stock market," I would have thought you were crazy.

Rick Kimball: I can't remember the specifics of what stocks Jay may or may not have mentioned, but I'm sure he would have referenced the fact that we were in headier times than we've been in the past.

And even specifically as it relates to, again, it's a batting average business. And, the fact is it did have a huge enormous opportunity and the company misexecuted. So we, obviously, at the time, thought the company was going to execute. And bear in mind we suffered just as much, because it was not like we were selling or anything like that. We suffered just as much as anybody who might have had the misfortune of purchasing the stock around that same time. We were in the same boat.

Jay Hoag: I think there is a lot of attention lately, trying to assign blame for the NASDAQ going from 5000 to 2200, for people who bought IPOs that went down. And it's sort of a strange phenomenon, in that everybody is responsible for their own mistakes, and certainly we made a number.


Your obligation, if I understand correctly, is to your limited partners and to yourselves as a business?

Jay Hoag: And, when you are on a board, to all shareholders and employees of the company.

It could be seen that you are looking to maneuver to the point of profitability for yourselves and your limited partners. Isn't that your first obligation? ...

Jay Hoag: To my [mind], it's a dual obligation to our investors, as well as to the companies, if we are on the board. There are times when we have to separate the two.

Rick Kimball: But if you are on the board, your first and foremost obligation is as a board member, as a director.


Rick Kimball: No -- it better be.

But it doesn't necessarily have to be. Did things get out of line in 1999?

Rick Kimball: Of course they got out of line. ... None of us predicted that the economy was going to go in the tank, that the capital markets for spending by carriers and companies to buy gear like, say, what a CacheFlow was selling, was going to slow up. I've got news for you. If any of us was able to predict any of that stuff, we'd be on a beach somewhere. Alan Greenspan didn't see that.


Talk about the kind of money that was being thrown at ... that was coming at you during this period of time, once people saw the returns that you were getting. ... People are getting involved who didn't get involved in venture capital in the past?

Jay Hoag: I think one of the phenomena that went on is everybody wanted in. Venture funds had returned over 100 percent over several years. And just like any other asset class in the world, including tulip bulbs in Holland and oil in Texas during a certain period of time, money rushed in; some people with the perspective that it's a long-term investment. And then there were also some investors into venture funds that said, "Hey, it's a quick buck, get in. We'll get our money back quickly." And that's proven to be challenging as the environment changed.

Some people that I've talked to have said that the crossover funds [like TCV] are termed "the fast-money guys," that what you are playing is the stock more than the company ... [that] what you were taking advantage of was this bubble. ...

Jay Hoag: If that's true, that means I've been doing the same "fast money" thing for 19 years now. So I finally don't agree with that. Under the crossover investing umbrella, there are a lot of different things. It's a little bit like saying hedge funds are all this kind of way or venture capitalists are all that kind of way. ...

Rick Kimball: I would actually argue that, in fact, if you really look at historical rates of return for early-stage venture capital versus late-stage venture capital, what you will find is that really the bubble that took place, the people who benefited most from that really were early-stage VCs, because they were able to take immature companies public more quickly than they ever could. ...

CacheFlow goes public. Tell me about it. It's one of the top ten of all times. ... Do you remember the gain that you made on that first day?

Jay Hoag: No, I don't.

It was 427 percent. It was one of the top ten of all time.

Jay Hoag: OK. Just to take issue with you -- we didn't make that gain. I mean, obviously, ultimately, as a venture capitalist, in terms of the investment performance, two metrics matter: what you buy at and what you sell at. In between those two, there might be private financings that are up or down from the original price that you paid, and IPOs which go up 400 percent but, as you have seen in many in the last year, then decline 98 percent. ...

But you do get allocations back from the investment bankers for a hot deal like that, correct?

Jay Hoag: An allocation of?

An allocation of shares in the IPO.

Jay Hoag: [There are] two types of ways we participate on the buy side on IPOs. The hedge fund basically wakes up every day and says, "I want to own the best 30 companies." So if it's an IPO, it is just going to be potentially one of those types of investments. And the second way we participate is, as part of our private activity, we often negotiate the right to buy in the IPO, or the option, rather, in the IPO. And we did that envisioning, in less heated times, perhaps someday the option to get those shares will be quite valuable. Well, if not, we didn't lose anything. That's actually one of the things we innovated in 1996 and 1997.

But you can sell those shares, unlike the investment you are locked up for?

Jay Hoag: Typically, if it's negotiated as part of the private deal, we have a similar lockup to the previously owned private shares, yes.

You have a 180-day lockup for that as well? So there are no shares that you can receive there that you can --

Jay Hoag: If we negotiate as part of our private deal, no. I mean, there are shares that we receive in IPOs into the franchise fund, which is our hedge fund, [that are] unrestricted.

Rick Kimball: It's like any institution.

But I'm just trying to understand that relationship. Those shares are like a gift. They are given to you --

Rick Kimball: They are not a gift.

Jay Hoag: No. No.

Rick Kimball: You have to pay for them. You have to buy them.

You have to buy them, but the opportunity is a gift.

Rick Kimball: It's not a gift.


But there are situations, too, where the investment bankers want to encourage repeat business. And they make allocations available, either in the deal you are currently involved in, or in another one.

Rick Kimball: We have to place an order, okay. We are an institution. We have a hedge fund which buys and sells securities. We go to road shows. We have to say, this is a deal, this is a company, this is a stock we want to own. We all have plenty of experience with buying IPO shares. And guess what? They trade down 10 percent. They trade down 20 percent. There is nothing that says every IPO goes up 400 percent.

But during this period of time -- in the last quarter of 1999 and the first quarter of 2000 -- there is a good chance that you could do well by allocations of IPO shares.

Rick Kimball: Sure. In hindsight, absolutely, yeah.

Jay Hoag: For a short period of time.


The broad question is whether or not it was really rational to invest in these opportunities as stock opportunities rather than as the opportunity to build a company. Why wouldn't that have been rationale in this environment?

Jay Hoag: Part of what we do is take risk, so we invest across many areas. We have successfully invested in infrastructure, in various software companies, and actually a number of consumer focused Internet companies like CNET, like Real Networks. The mistake, if you will, is in e-tailing. Clearly, expectations got way ahead of reality.


Some critics of your industry say that, during this period of the bubble, that risk was transferred to the public away from you. Is that a fair analysis?

Rick Kimball: Investing in a private technology company or investing in a public technology stock is by its very nature a risky proposition -- always has been. ...

It's a winners and losers game. Technology markets are horribly unforgiving. If people went out and bought every IPO, they should expect to lose money. So the challenge is avoiding the losers and just being involved in a very small number of winners, be they private or public, but then go on to achieve great success. So I'm not sure if it was transfer of risk. If you think about the sheer number of IPOs that happened in 1999, as you step back in hindsight, it's clear that there are going to be more ... losers, yet the same percentages apply, because there were an absolute number of bigger IPOs.

When I got in the business, there were 12 IPOs in 1982 that raised $400 million. In 1999, there was 300 technology IPOs, raising tens of billions of dollars. If I go back to my premise, nobody should buy into a technology stock, nor should we as venture capitalists buy into a private company, without acknowledging we are taking a risk. You have to do your own homework.

And none of this would have been possible, I guess is what people are saying, without the public coming in like never before through mutual funds and through ...

Rick Kimball: We made bad investments that we are not very happy about, so I assume the public made bad investments they are not very happy about. Is that somebody on CNBC's fault? Is that our fault? In the investments we made it is our fault.

But what was different here was that the public participated in investments that were risky perhaps like never before. Is that true?

Rick Kimball: I don't believe that day traders or other people jump on technology IPOs and technology stocks because they have a fundamental love for technology. I think they did so just like some people go to Vegas; because they think they are going to come away with more money than they put in.

But that's what made it possible for the bubble to exist.

Rick Kimball: Certainly the introduction of the day trader, the CNBC phenomenon, absolutely has to be seen as a contributing factor to the bubble. But there was a large increase in institutional capital that also was pursuing this. Large growth funds that never had any technology ownership, at a Fidelity or whatever, then became major players in the technology boom.

Institutional investors are using public money. So it's, finally, the public that's fueling everything.

Rick Kimball: I am on the investment committee of the University of Michigan, which was an enormous beneficiary of the boom in the venture world. So huge gains then go help pay for scholarships, buildings on campus, etcetera.

I don't want to belabor this. But do you believe there was inappropriate transference of risk to the public?

Rick Kimball: You know, we can't -- words like "inappropriate," you know, I don't feel in a position to make a value judgment about what is, quote, "appropriate," versus what is "inappropriate."

I don't feel in a position to make a value judgment about what is, quote, appropriate, versus what is inappropriate. Throughout 18, 19 years that I've been in the business, there have been various times when the IPO window has been more open than not. By definition, when the IPO window is open, deals starts coming in. By definition, risk over time probably does go up. People buying IPOs, over time ultimately do take on that risk.

And then, guess what happens? Just like in every market, there is supply and demand. That thing then shuts and the risk then situates back toward the other direction. And absolutely, you had a phenomenon in the 1999 time frame created, of course, by the fact that you did have the Internet, and you did have just tremendous company formation, and companies growing at tremendous rates, where investors probably could make money. And you had the CNBC phenomenon, etcetera. So that's why that bubble probably got bigger than it did in the past. And you know what? That's why right now it's slammed the other way. [We're] in a more difficult time right now to get companies public than certainly in my career and history. We've gone to the other extreme.


Morgan Stanley and CSFB. You've done a lot of deals with these two banks, especially with Frank Quattrone's group.

Jay Hoag: With Frank's group. Obviously, Frank built Morgan Stanley's practice into the premier group in the nation. He grew up with the Valley. He hires great people, he's responsive and follows through on commitments. So we've worked on a number of deals with Goldman and Morgan and CSFB, and Robertson and some other firms, to great success.

When you say, "he's responsive," what do you mean?

Jay Hoag: [Part] of our job is to make sure that we can get a CacheFlow or somebody else the focus of a CSFB or Morgan Stanley. So part of that is building relationships with these guys, so you can call and say, "Hey, this company is really hot, you should go down and see them." And that they don't take five months to do that; they assemble the right team and take it seriously, and put their best foot forward.

Rick Kimball: If you think about what an investment bank does, of course, it is in many ways very intangible. It's ultimately a service business. ... And because it's that way, what we can hopefully do is just ensure that our companies get the proper level of attention and focus within these investment banks. ...

That is what you mean by "responsive."

Rick Kimball: Yes. And then aftermarket research and make sure people follow through on their commitments.


Now the investment bankers are under scrutiny by the SEC, the Justice Department and the NASD. What's going on there? CSFB has admitted, in fact, that two of its employees were violating the law.

Rick Kimball: We ... that's nothing to do with us.

Well, as observers -- as people who do business with CSFB.

Rick Kimball: I have no idea what the SEC may be investigating with individuals at CSFB or whatever.

I thought I could just get a comment or an intelligent observation.

Rick Kimball: I have no idea what those people may or may not have done. I think it would be very personally unfair to them to even speculate.

OK. We talked a little bit about the practice -- it used to be called spinning. Tell me what that is and what it represents.

Rick Kimball: I think maybe three or four years ago, alluding to the practice that some investment banks would take a certain part of the IPO allocation and I think sprinkle it around to various constituencies or a company or a venture capitalist. And there was a variety of press at the time as to whether or not that was an appropriate thing to be doing, relative to allocating it to institutional investors, etcetera. And as a side note -- one of the things that, when we started to ensure there was never any potential conflict, is we prohibited ourselves from personally transacting in either private or public technology companies. So as far as for TCV, we said, if we get an offer on an IPO share, if we want to buy it for the hedge fund, we buy it for the hedge fund, which benefits all of us, including all of our clients. But otherwise, we are absolutely precluded.

To understand this -- why is it sprinkled around? What is the purpose of it?

Jay Hoag: Again, you would have to chat with the investment banks. But the press coverage has been it was, potentially trying to build relationships, curry favor.

But you received these IPO shares for your hedge fund?

Jay Hoag: We have bought IPO shares.

You received the opportunity to buy IPO shares for your hedge fund.

Rick Kimball: We have bought in a fraction of the IPOs. We are institutional clients of various investment banking firms. And that means, typically, when they have IPOs, we get the prospectuses. We are made aware of the road shows. We talk with the salespeople. And in a small fraction, we will buy shares in IPOs.

Jay Hoag: But we are no different in that instance than a Janus or a Fidelity, or whomever else, wanting to buy into that specific IPO. Quite different than if we were saying, "Well, we have a certain institutional presence that's called TCV, and we are going to go over on the side and personally buy it."

I understand. But the question I think the public has about this is, why should you get these? Or why should anybody get these preferential allocations?

Jay Hoag: Again, the specific allocations of how IPOs happen is the investment bank's business. We have been allocated shares. Again, we have an ongoing -- we are generating trading commissions, because of the franchise fund, with a whole variety of investment banks. So, in some cases, we don't get IPO allocations, because they say now we have to plan the criteria we are making for allocations. You are not big enough to warrant it. In other cases, where we are an important -- perhaps generating trading commissions or other things -- we do.


Where do you guys go from here? You've got a lot of companies that are hurting. You are on the boards of some of these companies. Some people have made the analogy to triaging.


Jay Hoag: I don't know. I'm not actually sure I would agree with the word triage. The venture capital business has always been about some companies performing well, some companies going out of business, and then a middle crowd of companies where you are trying to make adjustments, perhaps an additional guy into the company, or woman, who can help make a difference.

Businesses have gone through a serious redressment in the last six months, in the last 12 months, whereby people have been reintroduced to some of their companies. There have been a lot of failures. And where companies couldn't get any additional capital and, therefore, have gone out of business, which unfortunately, is a sad outcome as an investor. It is a sad outcome as an employee. But I actually think that that's working itself through the system pretty quickly. I mean, Darwinism is upon us.


Do you find it a stressful time when you have to make these hard calls on companies? When you have to walk into companies and tell them they are going to be folded or you become the majority owners?

Jay Hoag: The last year has been a very, very stressful time. ... The NASDAQ went from 5000 to 2200. You have to deal with that. Certainly, assessing the management team. You know, is there additional capital going into this business? Is it wisely spent? Or has the company just not made enough progress? And you have to make a tough decision.

Rick Kimball: We were absolutely in an environment where the readily available flow of capital helped cover up, if you will, or mask, if you will, mistakes. And no company is perfect. And now in an environment where capital is tougher, the significance of mistakes can get magnified. So, absolutely, it's a stressful time. We take our responsibilities as to our limited partners and to our portfolio companies very seriously. It is very stressful times.

Jay Hoag: These are the kinds of times when not only companies are going out of business. You are seeing hedge funds split up. ... So these huge public market changes are slamming bodies against concrete walls. I think you know, a bunch of venture firms probably won't go forward on the next funds. ...

Looking back, I think everybody throughout the system -- ourselves included -- made mistakes. The technology investing business, being private or public, is a forward-looking business. ... I think it's worth pointing out [that] where a year ago everybody had rose-colored glasses on in every part of the food chain -- all right, the sky's the limit -- today, everybody has a very dark set of glasses. I won't use any analogies of what's lining them.

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