Good Bubbles, Bad Bubbles — and Where Unicorns Come from


Venture capital and investing in startups is the (modern) classic case of decision making under uncertainty. As new players and sources of capital enter the market, however, how do we hedge against that uncertainty? For one thing, startups have more reasons than ever to focus on “the 2 Cs”: cash (flow), and control.

Or so argues Bill Janeway, an early venture capitalist and partner at Warburg Pincus, visiting lecturer in economics at Cambridge, and author of one of the definitive books on the history and evolution of the VC industry. In this segment of the a16z Podcast, Janeway — who can best be described as a “theorist practitioner of financial economics” — offers his insights on where unicorns come from (hint: it has to do with IT “disappearing”); how big companies need “absorptive capacity” when acquiring new tech; and why bubbles are “banal” — including the difference between “good” bubbles and “bad” bubbles.