Funding Secrets Series: Appendix: VC Returns on Investment Example


Here is a hypothetical example of what a typical VC portfolio could look like and why they need to invest only when they can see a potential for a 10 – 20 times return on their investment. The numbers are overly simplified (see notes) to demonstrate the point of why the Big Profits have to be such a high multiple of the initial investment.

In this example we’ll take a fund of R200 million, which needs to make 20% over 5 years. It makes 20 investments with an average investment of R 10 million.

We also assume that out of every 10 investments that an average VC makes, they’ll have 2 where they loose all their money and fail outright; 3 where they will foresee the company failing and shut it down recovering 50% of cash from selling assets; 4 that will become profitable and make some cash but will never really make it huge; and 1 that will make large multiples on the investment. This seems to be a very rough trend for your average VC but is also simplified for these purposes.

Total Total loss 50% loss 50% gain Big Profit Definition
10 2 3 4 1 Investors average /10
20 4 6 8 2X # of investments by fund
200 -40 -30 80 2X Millions invested (X is unknown)

To calculate X:

(fund) + (interest) + (tot loss) + (50% loss) = (50% gain) + (Big Profit)      [gains must equal loss plus investment and fund]

.:  200 + 40 + 40 + 30 = 80 + 2X [ in R millions ]

.: X = R 115 million

.: The fund has to have at least 2 companies sell for over R115 million (over 10 times the investment) for them to make their 20% interest in 5 years.


* Notes:
– this is an overly simplified example. The following points are some reasons why the final value is a little low…
- The 20% is very low for compound interest over 5 years
- R200 mil is on the small side for South African VC funds.
- 20 investments is on the high side
- Management fees (normally about 15%) are not accounted for

This is the Appendix of my Funding Secrets Series.

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