Venture capitalist Dave McClure takes an unusual approach to startup investing, spreading smaller bets over a lot of startups instead of attempting to pick a few winners. He gets a lot of criticism for the strategy, but he had a clear message for the GeekWire Summit crowd on Thursday: just wait.
“I think they [other VCs] will look like idiots in five to 10 years, or at least 90 percent of them,” McClure said. “Ten percent of them will get lucky and look smart. But I think the investment model is incredibly flawed.”
McClure, a former PayPal exec who co-founded the 500 Startups accelerator program, did the math for the audience. He said a very successful venture capitalist will pick a billion-dollar “unicorn” about 2 percent of the time. If you apply those odds to typical portfolio of about 30 companies, it comes out to zero or one grand slam.
“Unless you happen to be [Sequoia Capital] or [Benchmark Capital], you have no data to backup why that strategy should work,” he added.
Apply that reality of startup investing to a portfolio of 500 companies, on the other hand, and your odds start looking a whole lot better.
McClure has given this pitch for his accelerator approach countless times before since launching the acclaimed 500 Startups in 2010, but he still seems to have a chip on his shoulder about it.
GeekWire co-founders Todd Bishop and John Cook called McClure’s strategy of investing the “shotgun approach,” and it didn’t go over well.
“I take incredible issue with the fact that my strategy is considered gambling, or shotgun when I’m the f—ing mathematician,” he said.