Sources for technology and business insights explained, part 1/7: Venture capital news

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The most successful scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs take a broad view

In order to get technology and business insights, different people look at different types of sources. For example, scientists typically consult R&D publications (journals, conference proceedings, etc.) and patents. Business people look at venture capital news or market data. Policymakers, in order to gauge the innovative power of companies or entire economies, often consider patenting activity or public research funding. And hipsters love their tech blogs. Just partly kidding.

But the most successful scientists, engineers, product managers, entrepreneurs, and technology investors do not fit these “silo patterns”. Instead, they take a broad view across many different sources of information. For example, consider how science entrepreneur Vannevar Bush thought about this in the 1920s:

In Bush’s mind, the line between research and business had blurred. The good researcher cannot act in academic isolation. In order to succeed, they must know something about markets, finance, and the organization of a business.

From G. Pascal Zachary, “Endless Frontier: Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century”
Vannevar Bush. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Vannevar Bush. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

And even earlier, in the 1600s, Galileo Galilei worked with a wide network of scientists, businesspeople, diplomats, and others. In other words, the idea of bringing together insights from across science, technology, and business–and in a broader sense the concept of open innovation–is not new.


Related: Innovation, Galilei-style.


About this series of articles

This is the first in a series of seven articles. For seven different types of technology and business information sources, I will describe:

  • What kinds of data I mean, and where to find them
  • The insights you can expect to find in these data
  • What you might not find
  • Good search strategies (= how you should write your search queries so you find useful insights)

I will consider the following seven types of sources:

  1. Venture capital news (= this article)
  2. Market analyses
  3. Patents
  4. Scientific publications
  5. Publicly funded research projects
  6. Technology blogs
  7. Clinical trials

Mergeflow data sets

Mergeflow collects, analyzes, and visualizes all the data sources that I describe in this series of articles. You can find more details in this article in our technical knowledge base.

Let’s start by looking at venture capital news.

What I mean by “venture capital news”, and where to find them

By “venture capital news”, I mean news about venture capital funding awarded to companies. Typically, these news write about the company being funded, how much they got, who the investors are, and some general background about the company and the investors.

You can find these news in press release sites, dedicated venture news portals, investor websites, company websites, or more general news and blogs.

What you can expect to find in venture capital news

Growth-stage companies

Venture capital news are a good place for discovering companies that work on new technologies, business models, or a combination of both. And in many cases, they are companies that are relevant but that you didn’t even know might exist.

The screenshot below shows you an example (click on the image to enlarge). It shows results for a simple “diagnostic imaging” search in Mergeflow (“simple” = I only searched for this term, “diagnostic imaging”, not for specific technologies). Some of these companies build imaging technologies. Other companies make technologies or materials required for diagnostic imaging, such as radioisotopes. Yet others make diagnostic-imaging-related software, for example for image analysis or imaging workflow management.

Venture capital fundings in "diagnostic imaging". Screenshot from Mergeflow.
Venture capital fundings in “diagnostic imaging”. Screenshot from Mergeflow.

Investors

In most cases, venture capital news also say who the investors are. Investors include “traditional” venture capital firms, but also (technology-focused) corporations, private equity, or even banks.

For example, the screenshot below shows venture investors in “quantum computing”. I marked in green some investors that I expected to see, given the topic. This includes Andreessen Horowitz, Comcast Ventures, Google Ventures, Lux Capital, or Paladin Capital. Then I marked in red some investors that I found surprising. For example, neither BASF Venture Capital nor Robert Bosch Venture Capital seemed classical “computing investors” to me.

Venture investors in "quantum computing". Screenshot from Mergeflow. "Expected" vs. "surprising" are my (subjective) judgments.
Venture investors in “quantum computing”. Screenshot from Mergeflow. “Expected” vs. “surprising” are my (subjective) judgments.

Particularly for such “surprising” investors, I recommend exploring some more context. For example, you could check out the websites of quantum computing companies where BASF or Bosch Venture Capital invested. This might tell you something about why BASF and Bosch invested there. For example, their investments might be a way for them to enter new markets.

What you might not find in venture capital news

Venture investment news typically don’t go into too much technical detail. But they can be good starting points for discovering more technical content. For example, the website of a funded company might list patents or scientific publications. Or you could search for scientific publications or patents by their founders.

Some also say that venture capitalists typically don’t invest in very capital-intensive and long-term tech sectors, such as energy or materials, for various reasons (for example here and here). But when you look a bit closer, it turns out that there are substantial investments in such “deep tech”-sectors as well. You can see some of them in our “deep tech venture investors” infographic below (click here for the full-size PDF version).

Our "deep tech venture investors" infographic. Click on the image to get the full-size version as a PDF file.
Our “deep tech venture investors” infographic. Click on the image to get the full-size version as a PDF file.

Related: Raw data behind our “deep tech venture investors” infographic (Google or Excel Sheet)


Good search strategies for venture capital news

Searching is not about what you want to find. It’s about what other people most likely call the thing you want to find.

When you search for venture capital investment news, try using more-general terminology. Think of a person who is smart but not an expert in your area. How would they talk about your area? This is the “granularity level” you’re going for.

For example, let’s say you work on CRISPR. In this case, if you search for “tracrRNA”, you might not find anything. Instead, try searching for more-general terms such as “CRISPR” or even “genetic engineering”.

As another example, say you’re interested in machine learning. Rather than searching e.g. for “region-based convolutional network”, it’s probably better to search for “machine learning”.

If you get too many hits using more-general terminology, rather than searching for more specific technology terms, try a combination of general technology terms and application terms. For example, try searching for “machine learning” AND “predictive maintenance”, if predictive maintenance is your application.

A venture capital news search for "machine learning" AND "predictive maintenance" in Mergeflow. Algorithms extract company names, dates, and funding amounts from the news and display them in an interactive chart.
A venture capital news search for “machine learning” AND “predictive maintenance” in Mergeflow. Algorithms extract company names, dates, and funding amounts from the news and display them in an interactive chart.

Related:


Featured image of D-Wave computer from Wikimedia Commons.

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