VC’s and America

There is a new question for citizen-investors to consider: “Are you a new VC or an old VC?”

January 25, 2000

There is a new question for citizen-investors to consider: "Are you a new VC or an old VC?"

In recent years, Americans have developed a higher degree of investment-savvy than ever before in history. The stock market boom has meant that countless Americans are now familiar with an amazing range of expressions and abbreviations which, until recently, was the lone domain of chartered financial analysts.

The Internet-based brokerages have already picked up on this fact. One of them is even running a TV spot in which football players taunt each other not with gibes about the other’s abilities or manhood, but with barbed insults like, “You don’t even know what a P/E ratio is!”

While this particular ad makes no mention of it, we thought we’d help things along by interjecting a new question for citizen-investors to consider: “Are you a new VC or an old VC?”

It’s an abbreviation we encounter more and more these days — and one that, for many, is loaded with meaning. What we find astonishing is that the mere mention of VC no longer causes Americans to develop all sorts of twitters and shakes. After all, there was a time when these two simple letters were the subject not only of endless news reports — but nightmares and worse.

In fact, all four leading U.S. presidential contenders can speak at length about VC. The college careers of Al Gore, George W. Bush and Bill Bradley were overshadowed by questions of how to serve their country against VC. The other presidential frontrunner, John McCain, was held captive for five years by VC. To many of their generation, VC — shorthand for Vietcong — was something to be pursued and hunted, regardless of cost or expected gain.

Fast forward thirty years. To the Internet generation, many of whom have little or no direct knowledge about Vietnam, VC is still something to be hunted and pursued — something to risk everything for regardless of cost or expected gain. But for them, VC means something much less explosive, even though no less powerful in its ability to reshape American society.

Today’s VC, of course, is venture capital. And, in a remarkable transformation, what used to be cause for gravest concern is now the stuff of IPO-related dreams.