Unicorns Beat Out ‘Real Businesses’ Yet Again

The death of Indie.vc spells the end of a movement that valued steady profits over breakneck growth

Photo: Mimi Haddon/DigitalVision/Getty Images

This week, Bryce Roberts, a Salt Lake City–based venture capitalist and the brains behind Indie.vc, announced that his VC firm that focused on sustainable profits over rapid growth would no longer be accepting or making further investments after funding nearly 40 companies over six years. “This is not intended to be a pity party,” Roberts wrote. “Rather, a public acknowledgment that the initial Indie experiment has come to an end.”

It’s a surprising ending for an idea that many in the entrepreneurial community lauded as a step in the right direction to address some of the longstanding systemic issues and the generally “myopic mindset of the venture capital community.” As Jennifer Alsever reported in Marker last summer:

Too many founders tried to shoehorn themselves into looking like a billion-dollar company to get funding, and too many promising companies either didn’t start or don’t get funded because they didn’t fit that criteria — not to mention the thousands of businesses started by women and minorities who have been largely ignored by a VC industry dominated by white men. Roberts, who is white, believed there was room for another funding model that backed “real businesses.”

Roberts thought creating a new kind of funding model could close the gap. He also thought it could help fund more female founders and entrepreneurs of color outside of Silicon Valley. Even though about 13% of the U.S. population is Black, Black founders receive just 1% of venture capital dollars. Worse, Black female founders get just 0.2% of all VC funding. “The venture capital is systemically broken for founders of color,” says Roberts.

If institutional investors no longer have an appetite for the Indie.vc economy—especially with unicorns like Roblox, Airbnb, and DoorDash going public left and right—it doesn’t seem to bode well for the future of the emerging movement to address the 81% of entrepreneurs who aren’t served by existing capital markets.

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