Venture investors seek "Ninja assassin" entrepreneurs

SAN FRANCISCO Mon Aug 2, 2010 6:14pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - What does it take to make it as a technology entrepreneur?

A great idea and the skills of a "Ninja assassin," according to venture capitalists.

The passion and focus associated with the Japanese discipline goes a long way in impressing would-be investors.

"What I'm looking for is what I call a Ninja assassin -- a creative, fearless, nimble, focused entrepreneur," said Ann Miura-Ko, a 33-year-old partner with newly formed venture firm Floodgate Fund in Palo Alto, California. "They're the kind of person who's taking a different path and is singularly passionate about a particular idea."

Entrepreneurs have found it increasingly difficult to raise venture money since the financial turmoil in late 2008. While venture investment is improving, it has yet to recover to the levels seen before the crisis.

A key attribute 10 young up-and-coming venture capitalists surveyed by Venture Capital Journal, a Thomson Reuters publication, looked for in entrepreneurs before betting on them was confidence to keep going when the going gets tough.

"To build a great company, you can't be a weakling and survive," said Chi Hua Chien, a 32-year-old partner with the storied Silicon Valley fund Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. "You have to fail so many times before you've succeeded on small dimensions."

Phineas "Phin" Barnes, a 34-year-old principal in the Philadelphia office of First Round Capital, said he looks for entrepreneurs "who are like heat-seeking missiles."

"They can zig and zag their way to the right market," he said. "They know their industry inside and out, but when the market throws them a curve they are able to adjust."

The recent slow global economy has hurt investor

sentiment. More than 90 percent of U.S. venture capitalists expect the number of VC firms to shrink over the next five years, according to the National Venture Capital Association and Deloitte.

Additionally, more than half of the U.S. Venture capitalists surveyed said they expected their fund investors to be "less inclined" to invest in U.S. funds over the next five years.

Given the difficult economic atmosphere, venture capitalists also like entrepreneurs who are not afraid to ask for help.

"The best entrepreneurs know what they are doing right, but they also know where they have screwed up along the way," said Accel Partners' 32-year-old Ryan Sweeney. "They have a sense that they don't know it all, and understand where they need help."

(Editing by Poornima Gupta)

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