Form or substance: the role of business plans in venture capital decision making



We explore a well-known instance of fast decision making under high uncertainty, venture capital (VC) opportunity screening. We analyze a sample of 722 funding requests submitted to an American VC firm and evaluate the influence of the form of the submission and content of business planning documents on VC funding decisions. We improve on prior literature by a) using a large sample of known representativeness, b) relating request characteristics to actual VC decisions, and c) developing an inferential logic that takes account of the multiple sources of information to which VCs have access. We find that the presence of planning documents and some information contained therein are weakly associated with VC funding decisions. Based on our inferential strategy, we find that this information is learned independently of its inclusion in the business planning documents. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.