Chapter 1 - What Is All The Talk About?

Joseph W. Bartlett, Special Counsel, McCarter & English LLP, Co-Founder of VCExperts

McCarter & English LLP


Confounding many of its critics, the American economy is outstripping the economies of its sister industrial nations by an astonishing margin. The United States has been breathtakingly successful in creating new jobs. While Europeans are experiencing double-digit unemployment, the U.S. economic engine continues to roar combining realtively low unemployment and low inflation in ways which seem to puncture the accepted econometric models. The Japanese miracle, the Pacific Rim tigers … little need be said about their fall from grace, except that it has happened despite educated workforces, positive balances of payments, high savings rates, strong productivity, and a work ethic which equals if not exceeds that prevalent in the United States. What is going on here? We are not the richest nation in terms of natural resources (although, of course, we are blessed); Russia certainly has more of everything the world needs to run its factories. We run a balance-of-payments deficit year in and year out and, until recently, a deficit in our own internal accounts. Other indices, infant mortality, for example, and secondary education are not wholly favorable. What constitutes the critical distinction?

I suggest that a major, although not the only, difference between the U.S. economy and those of the other nation states with which we compare ourselves lies in a confluence of happy factors, some created by design and some serendipitous, which came together after World War II, under the heading of "Venture Capital." Entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, and key managers have coalesced in various hot spots around this country over the past forty years to incubate new firms, most but not certainly all technologically oriented, which have grown from classic garage start-ups to multibillion-dollar corporations such as Microsoft, Intel, Compaq, and the like. Only in America, it seems, have the necessary constituent elements been successfully combined to create an economic powerhouse.

The fact is that small business powers our economy (a fact beyond argument); and the crowning glory of small business is the venture-backed sector, from "the embryo to the IPO."  To be specific, our future lies in what one of the earliest and most prominent chroniclers of the phenomenon, MIT's David Burch, calls "gazelle companies," i.e., "young enterprises with pioneering ideas that quickly grow into big companies." [1] These are the firms where founders, from the start, are driving for major league status.  Generally, although not exclusively, they are tech driven [2] and venture capital backed … and we will use those terms: gazelles, backed by professionally managed venture (or, as my mentor the late Bill Elfers, called it, "adventure") capital.

[1] Andrews, "Where Do The Jobs Come From?." New York Times, G-1 (Sep. 21, 2004). "Gazelles" are referred to as "innovator firms" by Prof. Megginson.  Megginson, "Toward a Global Model of Venture Capital," VC Experts Buzz of the Week, 8/10/2004.

[2] Note, innovation needn't be tech-centric; we all relied on the Post Office to deliver the mail, until Fred Smith came up with Federal Express. But, by and large, tech drives the venture market … computer hardware, software, biotech, information technology … and then robotics, nano-tech, quantum computing, gene therapy, und so weiter.


Introduction to Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance