Why Don’t VC Fund Managers Keep Funds Small?

A friend read my posts about larger VC funds creating hurdles (here and here) and asked a great question. Why don’t emerging fund managers keep their funds small? I didn’t address this in my posts, so I’ll touch on it today.

Fund managers are usually compensated in two ways:

  • Management fees – The percentage of the capital raised that's used to run the fund. For example, if you raise a $10 million fund with a 2% management fee, you have $200,000 annually for salaries, rent, etc. Specifics around management fees (i.e., duration) can vary by fund. But this is how fund managers keep the lights on and give themselves runway (i.e., salary) to find and support companies.
  • Carried interest (carry) – The share of profits paid to the fund manager as incentive compensation. For example, if a fund realizes a $10 million profit (i.e., money above the original capital investors’ commitment) and has 20% carry, the fund manager would receive $2 million in carry. Carry is unpredictable. It’s usually paid as the fund receives capital from company liquidations over the life of the fund (usually 10 years).

If managers successfully raise a fund, management fees are predictable, while carry isn’t guaranteed and payment of it is unpredictable. I’d imagine most managers opt to increase their fund sizes to increase the predictable cash flow from management fees, even though it could lower fund performance.

I wonder if emerging managers would keep their funds small if cash flow wasn’t directly tied to the size of the fund?