Operator experience has become critical in venture capital over the last few years. Pure-play financial VCs are falling out of favor with startups compared to investors who bring building experience alongside their cash.
But not all operating backgrounds are equally helpful. If a VC has experience in a different field, it may not translate well — if at all — to a startup, and advice around certain business decisions could quickly become outdated. There is a growing group of VC funds led by folks who think they might be better suited to back companies because they are currently startup founders themselves.
These firms and founders may be onto something. Recent data from AngelList, pulled for Flex Capital, shows that the founder-led funds raised through its platform outperformed the other funds raised on AngelList.
In fact, across all percentiles of fund performance, VC funds led by active founders outperformed those without that structure when comparing multiples on invested capital, according to the data. Funds in the 90th percentile saw performance metrics that nearly doubled the numbers from firms without a founder at the helm.
Now, let’s be clear, this data definitely doesn’t give a full picture. For example, we don’t know how founder-led funds compare to operator-led firms. This dataset is just based on funds raised on AngelList, which is obviously limiting, and it’s unclear what the structure of these firms look like; some may be led by a founder but have full investment teams.
But it does pose the question: Do active founders make better investors than, essentially, anyone else?
For Jeff Lu, a general partner at Flex Capital, the value of this model is clear.
His firm has three founding partners, two of which are currently working as operators, and Lu, who serves as a full-time investor. “I had to pitch Flex a thousand times over the last three years, and not once have I ever had to explain to a founder why this is better,” Lu told TechCrunch+.