In the world of finance, there are two terms often used interchangeably with one another, and yet, are quite different regarding how they invest and the goals they’ve set out to accomplish.
Aside from the eccentric, risk-loving nature of venture capitalists, and the corporate, busy-body nature of investment bankers, these financial entities are unique in a variety of ways and it is valuable for us retail investors to understand how.
In this article, we will explore the key differences between venture capital (“VC”) and investment banking (“IB”), the unique roles that each plays in the world of finance, as well as a few advantages and disadvantages of being venture capitalists or investment bankers.
If you are curious about Venture Capital vs Investment Banking and what makes these investment strategies special, you will want to continue reading below.
What is Venture Capital?
We have all heard of venture capital, but we may not be aware of what it means.
VC is a type of private equity investment that focuses on finding high-growth start-ups with the hopes of turning them into the next legendary business venture.
The goal of a venture capital firm is to provide funding to these businesses to help them grow and succeed in return for a portion of the company’s ownership.
In most instances, venture capitalists choose to invest in up-and-coming ventures where the growth potential is huge and prosperous.
This means that venture capital firms tend to favor industries with innovative technology or novel ideas, such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and fintech, over traditional industries like banking, consumer staples, and natural gas.
That being said, venture capital investing is also quite risky, given that over 90% of start-ups fail.
Therefore, to be a great venture capitalist, you have to know what to look for and be willing to dive head-first into this high-risk, high-reward investment strategy without fear of taking over.
Overall, VC plays an important role in the startup ecosystem, providing much-needed funding and support to innovative companies and private equity looking to disrupt the status quo.
Advantages of Venture Capital
Venture capital investing is exciting and riveting.
Here are a couple of the key benefits of being in private equity.
Early Funding & Ownership Opportunities
One of the most promising opportunities that exist when venture capitalists invest is that they get to buy into a business with their own
This investment capital gives them tremendous power that can be used to help guide the direction of the company and to ensure that the investment pans out in the way they want it to.
Though one might argue that you are taking a lot more risk by investing so early, the results are usually life-changing when you find that diamond in the rough.
Therefore, even if only 1 in 10 ventures pans out, you still make a killing well above what anyone else is making when that company succeeds.
Not to mention that it is pretty damn awesome to brag that you were one of the first people to hop on board.
Want to learn how to get venture capital funding? Check out this article.
Mentorship & Strategic Input
If you have found previous success as an entrepreneur, then owning private equity may be the perfect strategy for you.
Not only do you get the chance to participate in early-stage funding, but you also get the opportunity to help teach and mentor these young and aspiring entrepreneurs.
VC is one of the few strategies out there that allows investors to be directly involved in the development of the company.
So, if you are someone who loves being hands-on and claiming that they were a key figure in the growth of the next ChatGPT or SpaceX, then VC could be what you are looking for to make a meaningful impact in your life.
Disadvantages of Venture Capital
Venture capital investment may seem appealing, but it can also be quite risky.
Here are two of the most common risks venture capitalists run into.
Limited Exit Opportunities
One of the toughest things about being a venture capitalist is that once you invest, you are somewhat trapped in the fate of the company.
In most situations, venture capitalists are hoping to eventually sell their stake in the company either through an offering on the public markets or through an acquisition.
But, if a venture capitalist invests in an unprofitable venture, then they may end up losing it all as the company slowly dwindles into nothingness.
For this reason, venture capital investing is not for the faint of heart.
90% of Startups Fail
That is the sad truth about venture capital investing, but it is also what makes it so attractive.
Even though 90% of the businesses fizzle, there is still a 10% chance that they blow up.
If you create an investment strategy that tilts the odds of discovering high-quality start-ups in your favor, then your reasons for investing become even greater.
Of course, not everyone is cut out for VC, but those who are can make a killing far beyond their wildest dreams.
What is Investment Banking?
When you ask any finance undergrad moving on from university what career they aspire to pursue most, many of them will reply with investment banking.
Investment banking is a form of financial service that provides advice and assistance to companies wishing to raise more
Investment bankers serve these companies by underwriting securities, like stocks and bonds, in the global capital markets, conducting market research, raising capital, determining debt structure, and more.
Essentially, they are the financial institutions that bring an initial public offering (IPO) into existence, making their business available on the stock market for all to trade.
Beyond that, investment banks offer a variety of complimentary services, including providing financial advice, facilitating mergers and acquisitions, and managing assets for institutional clients.
Overall, they are a key player in the financial markets, playing a complex and highly critical role in facilitating the flow of capital.
Advantages of Investment Banking
There is a reason that investment banks are someone of the most powerful institutions in the world today, especially in the financial industry.
Here are a couple of the most important factors that give them such an advantage.
There are only a few entities out there that have the means to effectively deploy and raise capital without bearing significant risk.
Due to their size and influence, investment banks are particularly powerful because not only do they have the ability to help companies raise
This means that they can charge fees in a variety of ways, all the while benefiting from the initial public offering in the process.
But it’s well worth it if you are an early-stage company looking to raise funding fast or go public.
Since you don’t really have a choice but to go that route, you might as well try to find an investment bank that aligns with your interests.
Beyond their access to capital, investment banking is particularly advantageous due to the types of investors they are connected with.
For example, IBs tend to have access to pension funds, hedge funds, mutual funds, and other institutional investors, including the wealthiest individuals in the world.
This can help expose a business to a deeper pool of investors than they would otherwise, which can help connect and develop a stronger, more lucrative network to work with.
Disadvantages of Investment Banking
In case you were interested in becoming an investment banker yourself, here are some of the disadvantages you may encounter when joining the industry.
Being an investment banker often means that you are part of a massive team, managing and working for a variety of clients.
However, due to the size of these entities, most investment bankers are assigned to one client or industry resulting in them developing a particular skill set for a particular sector.
While you may become an expert in that field, it also means that you don’t have any exposure to other markets, which can be detrimental if there are not any worthwhile investment opportunities in your industry.
However, that being said, being laser-focused on one industry isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means that you will have a leg up on others with less experience and understanding.
Investment banking is well known for its long work hours, high-stress levels, and intense competition.
If you are someone who prefers a more stoic approach to investing, with fewer deadlines, then IB is probably not for you.
Of course, to compensate for the long hours and stress, investment bankers are paid ridiculous amounts of
Ultimately it comes down to your personality and what you are looking to accomplish with investing.
How Venture Capital and Investment Banking Overlap
Despite what appears to be two very different investment strategies, venture capital and investment banking are surprisingly similar.
For one, both are involved in raising capital for their companies.
While venture capital firms provide funding to startups and early-stage companies, investment banks help businesses raise capital through the sale of stocks and bonds.
For this reason, it’s so important that both fields possess a strong network because, without meaningful connections, there would be no
Moreover, they must bring on clients with sound fundamentals if they wish to convince their networks that the company is a worthwhile investment.
If not, they will be stuck with a bad business and a whole lot of angry people.
So, to ensure that this is true, both venture capitalists and investment bankers conduct thorough due diligence by analyzing the financial state of a company and assessing the risk of investing.
But, if a business seems healthy and well positioned to succeed, then it will move forward in the investment process as private equity invests in it themselves, and investment banks pass it along to their shareholders.
All-in-all, you might say that venture capitalists and investment bankers have more in common than you would initially think.
How Venture Capital and Investment Banking Differ
While you may be surprised by the number of similarities between VC and IB, it is also good to be aware that they are quite different in many regards.
First is the purpose or motivation behind being a venture capitalist or investment banker.
When it comes to being a venture capitalist, the goal is to find and help great early-stage businesses reach their full potential as a company.
This is in comparison to investment bankers, who are primarily focused on raising capital or engaging in mergers and acquisitions for corporations, governments, and other institutions.
Second is their investment horizons.
Typically, venture capitalists and private equity are in it for the long haul, sticking with the investment for the next 5-10 years in the hopes that they achieve substantial returns on their investments.
On the other hand, investment banks tend to focus on short-term deals and transactions, often trying to get paid in less than a year.
Third is their risk profile.
VCs are in it for that high-risk, high-reward experience since most startups fail, and only a few turn out to be extraordinary.
This is different from IB deals which can also be risky but are typically more diversified and better understood.
So, as you can see, even though IB and VC can be similar, they also have their strategies for success.
Ever wondered how venture capital and private equity differ? Check out this article.
Final Thoughts: Which is Better, Venture Capital or Investment Banking?
Ultimately this decision comes down to your investment style, risk tolerance, career objectives, and more.
If you want a career that offers more freedom, greater volatility, and a higher chance for failure, but may also be more rewarding, then venture capital could be the best option for you.
On the contrary, if you prefer a fast-paced, demanding environment that guarantees more near-term success, then you can’t go wrong with investment banking.
Regardless of what you decide, it’s valuable to pursue the option that is going to be the most meaningful and the one that will bring you the most happiness in life.
Because when all is said and done, you want to be proud of the life you pursued.
Want to learn more about becoming a VC? Check out this video.