Despite the mythology that has built up around venture capital, it has become a slowly moldering investment vehicle. “The past 10 years haven’t been very productive,” Maris points out. According to the research firm Cambridge Associates, during the decade ending last September, VCs as a class earned a 2.6% interest rate for their investors—less than you could have earned in an S&P 500 index fund. The numbers look slightly better over shorter periods; VCs have delivered a 4.9% return the past three years and 6.7% over the past five, still far from terrific.
Google’s insurgent attitude—perceiving startup funding as broken and appointing itself as the fixer—has ruffled some in the insular, clubby world of venture capital. Not on the record, of course. Google Ventures is already big enough that it has participated in deals with almost every prominent Valley investor, and nobody wants to talk ill of a partner. Behind the scenes, though, some question the firm’s experience—most of its partners are former Googlers who haven’t worked in venture capital before—and its passion. If you were looking for money and were choosing between Google Ventures and such top firms as Andreessen Horowitz or Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, people would tell you to go with one of the other guys.
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