Silicon Valley Bank’s Deep Ties to the Tech Industry

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More than galore different banks, SVB catered to however risky tech start-ups and their backers bash not adhere to mean concern practices.

A bluish  motion   that says “svb” connected  it, astatine  the entranceway  of an country  for parking extracurricular  a grey  bureau   building.
Silicon Valley Bank has been profoundly interwoven to an antithetic grade into the lives and businesses of tech investors, entrepreneurs and executives. Credit...Jason Henry for The New York Times

March 17, 2023, 5:00 a.m. ET

When Kleiner Perkins, 1 of Silicon Valley’s highest-profile task superior firms, wanted to physique a span betwixt 2 of its bureau buildings astir 2005, it decided to instrumentality retired a loan. It turned to Silicon Valley Bank, conscionable 43 feet distant connected Sand Hill Road successful the bosom of the task manufacture successful Menlo Park, Calif.

To marque the indebtedness enactment for Kleiner’s project, which outgo much than $500,000, SVB agreed to lend the wealth against the worth of the fees that the task steadfast was acceptable to gain from its funds, 4 radical with cognition of the concern said.

SVB besides provided idiosyncratic banking services to galore of Kleiner’s apical partners, the radical said. That was successful summation to the banking services and task indebtedness that SVB provided to galore of Kleiner’s start-ups, arsenic good arsenic mortgages for those companies’ founders. SVB adjacent invested successful Kleiner’s funds, 2 radical said.

And erstwhile SVB held an yearly lawsuit successful January connected the authorities of the vino industry, it featured speakers from, 1 of the world’s largest online vino retailers and a institution that Kleiner had erstwhile invested in.

Before SVB failed past week and acceptable disconnected a planetary fiscal panic, it was known mostly arsenic a regional, low-profile bank. But wrong tech’s ecosystem, the slope had molded itself to the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the industry, becoming profoundly interwoven to an antithetic grade into the lives and businesses of investors, entrepreneurs and executives.


Office buildings on Sand Hill Road successful Menlo Park, Calif., the bosom of the task superior industry.Credit...Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg

For 40 years, the instauration catered to the information that high-growth, high-risk tech start-ups and their backers bash not adhere to mean concern practices. These companies enactment a precedence connected breakneck growth, displacement strategies often and observe failure. They are often worthy billions earlier ever turning a profit, and they tin spell from silly thought to behemoth astatine astonishing speed. Most crucially, they trust connected a choky web of money, workers, founders and work providers to function.

That unsocial and often irrational world required a specialized bank.

“There were a batch of ways successful which Silicon Valley Bank was intertwined successful the lives of Silicon Valley radical that was unique,” said Anat Admati, a prof of concern astatine Stanford. “The slope had relationships and made relationships with radical crossed Silicon Valley. It was a constituent of congregation.”

This week, SVB — which was taken implicit past Friday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — tried picking up the pieces from its collapse. On Monday, it held a telephone with investors to archer them that it had reopened for business, adjacent arsenic it was looking for a buyer.

Mark Suster, an capitalist astatine Upfront Ventures who was connected the call, said helium and his steadfast were some customers of the bank. SVB besides co-sponsored a league that Mr. Suster’s steadfast precocious hosted, and successful the aftermath of the implosion, Upfront Ventures endorsed a letter, co-signed by a radical of firms, encouraging founders to support oregon instrumentality 50 percent of their full superior with the bank.

“They recognize you volition person currency successful aggregate banks, they would similar to beryllium 1 of them,” Mr. Suster wrote to start-up founders connected Twitter.

A spokesperson for the F.D.I.C. did not respond to a petition for comment.

SVB was champion known for courting young, risky start-ups that different banks would not slope with. But its tentacles went acold beyond that.


Marc Andreessen, a task capitalist astatine Andreessen Horowitz, personally called hedge funds and others to assistance find a purchaser for Silicon Valley Bank past week.Credit...David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The slope lent currency to galore apical task firms, including Andreessen Horowitz. From its ain $9.5 cardinal fund, it invested successful start-ups including OpenDoor, a location buying company, and Chainalysis, a cryptocurrency probe start-up, arsenic good arsenic task superior funds including Sequoia Capital’s. It incubated immoderate fiscal exertion companies that were gathering tools for start-up investors. And it schmoozed the tech industry, sponsoring skis trips, conferences, manufacture newsletters and fancy dinners.

It was each portion of the virtuous rhythm that makes the tech manufacture tick, investors and founders said. Any clip a start-up wanted a loan, the slope talked to its backers, said Samir Kaji, who worked astatine SVB successful the 1990s and is present main enforcement of Allocate, a tech level for managing task investments.

“There were changeless interaction points with the investors,” helium said. “Everyone knows each other.”

As Silicon Valley’s start-up manufacture flourished, SVB expanded its services, helping to negociate the outsize wealthiness the manufacture produced. That included providing lower-interest-rate mortgages for founders whom different banks wouldn’t lend to. Many entrepreneurs are worthy millions connected insubstantial but person small currency successful their slope accounts.

SVB besides branched retired to industries adjacent to tech, specified arsenic the wineries of Napa and Sonoma Valleys, wherever galore tech founders and executives walk their weekends. Last year, the slope lent $1.2 cardinal to vino producers.

Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, who praised SVB’s bailout past week, has received loans for 3 of his wineries from SVB, according to the bank’s website.


Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, has received loans from Silicon Valley Bank for 3 of his wineries.Credit...Jim Wilson/The New York Times

SVB’s dominance was good known astatine Y Combinator, a start-up incubator. Dozens of tech founders who participated successful Y Combinator past twelvemonth were told to unfastened slope accounts astatine SVB, and they were introduced to SVB bankers astatine Y Combinator events, said 3 radical who took portion successful Y Combinator’s 2022 people of tech entrepreneurs implicit the summer.

One described a cocktail hr mixer successful which helium was introduced to an SVB banker who could supply a indebtedness to his start-up erstwhile helium graduated from Y Combinator’s program. Six months later, erstwhile helium needed a indebtedness to bargain his archetypal home, helium went to SVB. The slope looked astatine his company’s valuation, based connected the wealth it had raised successful its archetypal circular of funding, and spoke to investors of his company. It granted a indebtedness aft 2 different banks turned him down, helium said.

SVB’s location loans were importantly amended than those from accepted banks, 4 radical who received them said. The loans were $2.5 cardinal to $6 million, with involvement rates nether 2.6 percent. Other banks had turned them down or, erstwhile fixed quotes for involvement rates, offered implicit 3 percent, the radical said.

Drive Capital, a task steadfast successful Columbus, Ohio, banked with SVB and had lines of recognition with the slope that allowed it to ligament wealth to its start-ups faster than asking its ain backers to nonstop the wealth for each idiosyncratic deal. SVB besides invested successful Drive Capital’s archetypal money and successful 2 of its portfolio companies. In total, a 3rd of Drive Capital’s portfolio utilized SVB’s banking services, which included task debt, a specialized benignant of recognition for venture-backed start-ups.

“If you’re a task capitalist oregon start-up company, it’s just to accidental successful immoderate way, signifier oregon form, SVB touched each portion of your business,” Chris Olsen, an capitalist astatine Drive Capital, said.

Sequoia Capital, a apical task steadfast that backed Airbnb, Apple and Zoom, ever recommended its start-ups to unfastened an relationship with SVB, Mike Moritz, a Sequoia partner, wrote successful a Financial Times sentiment piece. Stripe, which is 1 of the astir invaluable backstage tech start-ups and counts Sequoia arsenic its largest shareholder, utilized SVB for a merchandise that lets planetary start-ups signifier companies successful the United States, helium noted.


Mike Moritz, the president of Sequoia Capital, said his steadfast ever recommended that its start-ups unfastened accounts with Silicon Valley Bank.Credit...Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Last week, partners astatine Andreessen Horowitz sent a missive to its investors to assuage concerns astir SVB’s collapse, according to a transcript of the memo reviewed by The New York Times. About fractional the firm’s start-ups had banking relationships with SVB, the memo said. The steadfast besides had an outstanding indebtedness of astir $16 cardinal from the slope for “tenant improvements,” oregon renovations to the firm’s offices.

Marc Andreessen, an Andreessen Horowitz founder, called hedge funds and immoderate of the world’s biggest banks to assistance find a purchaser for SVB past week, 2 radical with cognition of the calls said. Scott Kupor, different Andreessen Horowitz partner, handled panicked portfolio companies and questions from the firm’s investors.

An Andreessen Horowitz spokeswoman declined to comment.

Matt Mireles, a start-up founder, encountered SVB erstwhile the slope invited him to its container astatine the San Francisco Giants’ stadium successful 2010. Ten years later, helium had a hard clip getting a owe due to the fact that his start-up, Oasis, an artificial quality institution that had raised much than $8 cardinal successful funding, was unprofitable. He began to deliberation the lone mode helium could ain a location was if helium worked for a large tech company.

But SVB looked astatine Mr. Mireles’s task backing and database of investors and offered him a tenable owe with a 20 percent down payment.

“That’s 1 of the things that’s chill astir Silicon Valley — the slope and the place,” helium said. “These institutions made the entrepreneurial manner — wherever you mightiness instrumentality 2 oregon 3 failures to get to immoderate level of occurrence — they made it viable for people.”

Last week, SVB’s top spot — its interconnected assemblage of customers — became a double-edged sword. When venture capitalists began worrying astir the bank’s fiscal solvency, that rapidly led to panic crossed the start-up world.

That Thursday, SVB hosted a meal astatine the South by Southwest tech festival successful Austin, Texas, serving chargrilled salmon and filet mignon to a radical of investors and start-up founders astatine Perry’s Steakhouse.

As anxiousness implicit the bank’s aboriginal rippled done radical chats, emails and societal media, attendees started referring to the enactment arsenic “the past supper.”

Jake Chapman, an capitalist astatine Marque Ventures who attended the dinner, said helium had pulled the big speech to inquire astir the brewing meltdown and had been rebuffed. “She conscionable said the equilibrium expanse was strong,” helium said.

By the adjacent morning, SVB customers had tried transferring $42 cardinal of deposits from the bank, starring the F.D.I.C. to unopen it down.

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