Are family offices really competitors to venture capital firms?

Opinion 18.06.2024

Are family offices really competitors to venture capital firms?

Kjartan Rist for &Simple

Family offices and venture capital (VC) firms are not competitors but potential partners that can benefit from VC expertise and networks, enhance their investment strategies, and contribute to societal advancements. By recognising their complementary strengths, family offices and VC firms can achieve synergistic growth and success in the venture investment landscape. In this insight, Simple Expert Kjartan Rist explores how such partnerships can be mutually beneficial.

The renowned law firm Withers recently published an insightful article addressing a pertinent question in the investment world: Are family offices really competitors to venture capital firms? The answer, as explored by Withers, is a resounding no. Family offices and venture capital (VC) firms are not competitors; rather, they are potential partners that can benefit immensely from collaboration. Here’s a closer look at some of the factors Withers raised on why family offices should consider working with venture capital funds and how such partnerships can be mutually advantageous.

Patience: A shared virtue

One of the strengths of family offices is their patience. Family offices are known for their long-term investment horizons, which align well with the timelines required for venture capital investments. While it’s true that some family offices are keen on seeing early commercial results, the key is to recognise that venture capital is a long-term commitment. Successful VC investments take time to mature, and family offices, with their patient capital, are well-positioned to reap the rewards if they stay the course.

Passion: The driving force

Venture capital is often considered the “ugly duckling” of asset classes due to its high risk and uncertainty. However, it’s a field driven by passion. Successful venture capitalists possess a deep-seated passion for innovation, resilience in the face of failure, and an insatiable curiosity about people, businesses, and societal changes. For family offices to thrive in venture investing, they must develop a similar level of passion and focus. This passion is not just about financial returns but about being part of transformative changes and supporting groundbreaking entrepreneurs and solutions. This is a trait many family offices have in abundance.

Personality: Building trust and relationships

The nature of venture capital investments, with their inherent risks and uncertainties, necessitates a high level of trust between family offices and venture capitalists. A partnership model, where relationships are prioritised, is essential. In venture capital, much of the value creation—from investments to portfolio management and eventual exits—relies on strong relationships. Family offices, with their personalised approach to investments, can benefit from the relational nature of venture capital by partnering with VCs who share their values and vision.

Philanthropy: Clear distinction needed

While family offices often engage in philanthropy, it’s crucial to distinguish between philanthropic efforts and venture investments. The goals, missions, and outcomes of these two activities are different. Family offices must clearly define their investment strategies and not mix philanthropic objectives with venture investing. Although softer factors like shared values should influence partnership decisions, they should not overshadow the primary investment goals.

Professionalism: Leveraging expertise

Many family offices are still navigating the complexities of the venture capital asset class. Building an in-house venture team is of course an option, but it’s often expensive and challenging due to the specialised skills required. Instead, most family offices find it more effective to partner with established venture funds. This approach allows them to gain access to top-tier investments and leverage the expertise of experienced venture capitalists. As family offices become more familiar with venture investing, their allocations to this asset class are likely to increase, also recognising the significant societal impact and opportunities that venture capital presents.

Conclusion: Ideal partners, not competitors

In conclusion, family offices and venture capital firms are not competitors but rather ideal partners. Family offices can benefit from the expertise, network, and passion that venture capitalists bring to the table. By collaborating closely, family offices can enhance their venture investment strategies and contribute to meaningful societal advancements. As family offices and venture capital firms continue to recognise and embrace their complementary strengths, the future holds mutually promising opportunities for synergistic growth and success in the venture investment landscape.

Original article