Sep 7 2005

Accidents in North American Venture Capital

As a member of the American Alpine Club I look forward each year to the arrival of my copy of Accidents in North American Mountaineering.  This is a book that the club publishes annually that documents climbing and mountaineering accidents that are reported each year in the United States and Canada.  The idea, of course, is to educate the climbing community on things that can go wrong in the backcountry in an attempt to make everyone safer (as if the threat of dying were not enough, we also have to worry about being written up in Accidents. . . ).   A typical entry might be titled: Fall on Snow – Unable to Self-Arrest, Faulty Use of Crampons and would then go on to describe how someone fell on a snowfield (in this case not far from Boulder, CO), dropped his ice-axe and wound up breaking his legs when he inappropriately tried to stop himself with his crampons (ouch!).  Other titles this year were: Stranded, Exposure-Hypothermia, Inadequate Clothing/Equipment, Climbing Alone, Weather, Exceeding Abilities (apparently this guy got it all wrong); or my personal favorite: Stranded, Exceeding Abilities, Incompatible Partners – Poor Communication (I like that having crappy partners is an official designation of the AAC).

As I thumbed through Accidents this year it occurred to me that it would be great to have a venture capital version of this book.  Entries could be titled things like: Poor Sales Execution, Faulty Use of Partners, Inability to Raise Additional Financing. Or for a company from 1999: Inexperienced Management Team, Poor Market Timing, Superbowl Ad. Or perhaps: Product Shortfalls, Slow Customer Traction – Inability to Cut Costs Quickly, Inattentive Investors.  I assume that most VCs think a lot about companies that didn’t work out and why – this would be a way to memorialize that effort and to share it across the community.  I’m actually ½ serious here – let me know what you think.