Society for Economic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Venture capital (VC) has been a critical force in boosting the innovative economy in US. Over the past four decades, 40% of the 1300 companies that went public in US were backed by VC. More recently, before Trump’s new legislation to block foreign investment in late 2018, China has started to drive ahead of Silicon Valley and the rest of the United States on venture capital investment into startups (Somerville 2019). Yet, besides the “clustering and network effects”(Gompers et al. 2016) and against-all-odds success stories, we know little about how VC makes decisions, or in this case, how Chinese money flooded into startups in US.
This paper focuses on VC’s practice of accumulation and investment decision-making. With an ethnographic approach, I explore the kind of ethics that inform the economic action of venture capitalists. As inconspicuous as it appears at times, kinship has played an important role in the process of making transnational venture capitalism between China and US. On the one hand, kinship ties is central to capital generation and recruitment of managerial personnel in VC firms. Meanwhile, the ambivalence and ambiguity of family involvement in business reveals a fundamental paradox that once again raises questions about the whole nexus of relations between individual/family/business/state (Rofel 2019): what counts as a truly “self-made” venture capitalist, what counts as innovative and illegitimate profit-seeking action, and where draws or cross the line between the state and the private sector.