A new study from MIT discovered that startups are more likely to succeed when their venture capital backers are connected to them via direct flight.
The research informs larger questions about the effects of venture capital oversight and whether it improves the operations of the startups in which the firm has invested or whether startup success depends solely on effective internal management.
The researchers — Xavier Giroud of MIT, Shai Bernstein of Stanford, and Richard R. Townsend of Dartmouth — compared startups in cities where a direct flight recently had become available between startups and their existing VCs to startups in cities where no direct flights existed to connect the two groups.
“The effect is that those companies become more innovative,” Giroud, an associate professor of finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management, told MIT News.
After surveying data from 22,896 startups and 3158 venture capital firms around the country — largely concentrated in Northern California, New England, and New York — the researchers found that startups that had become connected by direct flight to their investors were more likely to succeed.
The study should be comforting news to Seattle entrepreneurs, many of which mine the San Francisco Bay Area for venture capital. Multiple direct flights connect Seattle to the Bay Area, so many that folks in the tech industry have been known to dub the route the “nerd bird” for the number of techies shutting between the two hubs.
The study controlled for the effects of regional economic growth to ensure that the startup success measured was due to the introduction of direct flights and not just a subsidiary effect of a local economic boom.
The study’s authors found that startups that could reach investors by direct flight were more innovative, receiving three percent more patents than those not connected by direct flight. Furthermore, their patents were cited 5.8 percent more often, indicating that the work of those startups was more visible.
Startups that had direct flight access to their venture capitalists also were 1 percent more likely to issue a public stock offering and 1.4 percent more likely to reach an IPO or sell the company in an acquisition — another measure of startup success.
These results will be published along with other findings in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Finance.
Ultimately, the MIT study indicates that successful support of entrepreneurship in a city might require the promotion of direct flights to connect the startups in that city to their VCs located elsewhere.
In cities where direct flights are available, venture capitalists are better able to oversee the operations of the startups in their portfolios, and, as the study shows, that oversight translates directly to startup success.
In fact, when GeekWire traveled to Columbus, Ohio for part of their Startup Week activities last year, members of the Midwestern tech community cited the recent addition of direct flights to San Francisco as a positive step to getting their tech hub established.