As an investor and an independent adviser to corporate management, I am not convinced by John Browning's arguments that venture funding is unlikely to bounce back, as suggested by his Essay 'The incredible shrinking venture capital' (Nature 460, 459; 2009).
Earlier trends indicate that venture-capital funding will probably rebound after the current financial crisis subsides. Until last year, venture-capital investments in US companies had increased annually for 12 years, except during the dot-com bubble of 1999–2001. The biotechnology sector, in particular, reported a substantial positive trend in these investments during the same period: their annual funding grew even when quarterly funding fell for one or two quarters by more than 30% relative to the previous quarter.
Meanwhile, most of the technologies that are crucial to solving societal problems — drugs, solar energy, biofuels and nanotechnology — will address huge markets and require large amounts of high-risk capital. Those that succeed will either be acquired or be taken public.
For every ten investments that a venture-capital firm makes, it needs only one or two big winners to offset the three or four investments that fail and the remainder that seem to go nowhere.
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