Term Sheet

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Exclusive: Returns for brand-name VC funds

August 20, 2012: 12:15 PM ET

Beyond the dotcom-era benchmarks.

FORTUNE -- It's no secret that venture capitalists were hit hard by last decade's dotcom bust, considering that median returns for 1998-2001 vintage funds are all underwater.

Now Fortune has obtained more granular data, including returns for dotcom-era funds managed by such firms as Accel Partners, Benchmark Capital, General Catalyst Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

The information is based on part of a confidential year-end 2011 investment report distributed to investors in a fund-of-funds that made commitments between 1999 and 2001. We agreed to withhold the name of the fund-of-funds manager and to not post the source documents, as a condition of receiving the materials.

Overall, the fund-of-funds is 97% called for 45 funds raised between 1999 and 2002. Almost all of them would be characterized as venture capital, with a few exceptions for funds managed by The Blackstone Group (BX), Providence Equity Partners and Spectrum Equity Investors.

Through 12/31/11, less than 66% of the fund-of-funds called capital had been returned to limited partners. Overall, the portfolio value (including realizations) was being held at around 5% below cost.

What follows is performance data for several funds of note. The percentage is the 12/31/11 portfolio value (including cumulative distributions) divided by the called capital. In parenthesis is the cumulative distribution divided by called capital. In both cases, 100% is break-even (well, until you include fees).

  • Accel Partners VII (1999): 89% (74%)
  • Accel Partners VII (2000): 122% (97%)
  • ARCH Venture Fund V (2000): 41% (11%)
  • Benchmark Capital IV (1999): 133% (109%)
  • Commonwealth Capital Ventures III (2000): 110% (56%)
  • Crosslink Ventures IV (2001): 246% (104%)
  • General Catalyst II (2001): 149% (53%)
  • HIG Venture Partners (2000): 44% (22%)
  • Insight Venture Partners IV (2000): 169% (119%)
  • JK&B Capital III (1999): 68% (61%)
  • JK&B Capital IV (2001): 85% (15%)
  • Lightspeed Venture Partners VI (2000): 112% (80%)
  • Madrona Fund I A (1999): 171% (150%)
  • MPM BioVentures II (1999): 59% (41%)
  • MPM BioVentures III (2002): 76% (44%)
  • Kodiak Venture Partners II (2000): 35% (4%)
  • Nokia Venture Partners II (2000): 56% (35%)
  • Onset Ventures IV (2000): 31% (4%)
  • Sigma Partners VI (2001): 125% (75%)
  • Softbank Capital Partners (1999): 21% (21%)
  • Trinity Ventures VIII (2000): 100% (69%)

Now, as for those private equity funds:

  • Blackstone Communications Partners I (2000): 129% (97%)
  • Providence Equity Partners IV (2000): 198% (186%)
  • Spectrum Equity Investors IV (2000): 133% (127%)

You'll notice that the price equity fund distribution figures are closer to the overall valuation figures than is true for many of the VC funds, which goes to show that VC's have had a much tougher time exiting dotcom-era investments. Or maybe that they're holding on longer, hoping to time a big hit that could help the fund move from red to black...

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Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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