Is Venture Up or Down? Dow Jones Survey Shows Retreat in Q3 VC Activity, Flatly Contradicting Rival Report

10/17/09Follow @bvbigelow

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percentages and details. But the general trend was usually the same. A gap this wide, though, is too big to ignore—partly because it represents a potential black eye for either the newcomers at ChubbyBrain or the more grizzled veterans at Dow Jones VentureSource.

When I asked ChubbyBrain co-founder Anand Sanwal about Dow Jones’ contrary findings in its third-quarter venture survey, he said, “The story is less about the venture capital numbers than it is about flawed methodology in the way they do their research. They’re sort of fundamentally built on a survey technique, which was probably a great way of doing things in the ‘90s. But there are better sources of data available today.”

Sanwal says ChubbyBrain relies on a variety of regulatory filings and interviews to collect its data. He calls the Dow Jones methodology “self-selecting” because it depends on whether someone at a venture firm or startup company has the time and is willing to answer a series of questions or fill out a questionnaire.

When I put basically the same question to Dow Jones spokeswoman Kim Gagliardi, she responded in an email:

“Every firm uses a unique methodology, counting deals and dollars differently, which accounts for differences between datasets. We can only speak to our methods, which have been tested and refined over the past 20 years. We have a large team of researchers working around the world to confirm every deal and detail.

“Our definition of what is (and is not) venture capital is the clearest and best tested in the industry. We only count closed deals and never include debt/loans, government grants or private equity funding. We do not count tranches individually as deals.”

One indication of which survey accurately measures recent venture investing activity could come early Tuesday. That’s when Q3 venture capital investment data is set to be released in that MoneyTree Survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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