Venture capitalist Bill Gurley appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” show earlier this week to clarify some of the comments he’d made in mid-September to the Wall Street Journal – comments that Gurley thinks were misconstrued in follow-on reports that confused risk with valuations. “I was talking about risk and I didn’t say a word about valuations,” said Gurley. “I don’t see radically insane valuations.”
Gurley went on to say that the pubic market is right now “more discerning” than the late-stage venture market, where investors are “cram[ming] almost unnecessary levels of capital into these private companies.” Gurley also told CNBC that he believes his earlier warning in the Journal is having a “positive” impact on the private market. Here’s Gurley, in his own words:
“It’s a four or five-year trend . . . of late-stage companies raising rounds that are larger than historic IPO rounds, and because there’s no capital intensity – we’re not buying stores, we’re not building factories – when you take that amount of capital and try and put it to use, the only way to do that is to increase your burn rate.
“The problem is this growth-at-all-costs mentality causes almost a subsidization of survival. It’s almost easier to execute unprofitably than profitably. So if I say, ‘Hey, go grow a company to $100 million,’ and one company is told they have to be profitable and the other is told they can lose $30 million, it’s much easier to do the latter. So I think we end up with more companies with higher revenue rates where their business models still may be open to question . . .
“I think the public markets are being more discerning than the late-stage private markets in terms of trying to figure out whether a company has a potential long-term business model and has the ability to generate profitability over the long term.
“[In fact,] I think having that conversation a couple of weeks ago has had two positive impacts. One, I’m starting to hear more and more people tell me at board meetings, ‘Hey, we’re talking about this; we’re thinking more about this. We’re going to be smarter going forward.’
“Second, in the public markets, you’re seeing some discernment. In the same week, [you’ll see] two companies go public and two delay because of ‘market conditions.’”