“Bubble, baby II!”
This was the comment left behind in the very last response received in our 13th annual Semaphore Confidence Survey. The comment “Bubble, baby” was my favorite economic analysis comment left a year ago. It seems some of you come back on an annual basis and remember what you said. Commentary exploded this year with pithy two-word replies and our very first emoji too vulgar to note were accompanied by nearly 500-word essays. Everyone has an opinion – you decide whether any are worthwhile. Click here for the results and you will see an expanded sampling of thoughtful commentary on matters of race, carried interest, sexual harassment, Trump, and breaking up Big Tech. Until the last day of the survey it was a see-saw race whether you believed Facebook, Google, et.al should be broken up. In the end a near landslide 57% said “tear them apart”. You were not shy about other opinions. The survey closed the night before the impeachment vote in the US Senate and 83% of our respondents correctly predicted Trump would not be convicted. Of course, last February 62% of you predicted he would be reelected.
COVID proved troubling as 59% reported it hurt your business with 54% believing that it would continue to do so in 2021. That said, it did not appear to hit our respondents in the pocketbook. 67% earned more in 2020 than the prior year with 21% earning less. The same 67% expect to earn still more in 2021. This follows along with the continued expression of confidence expressed in ourselves - a full 97%. This near unanimity of confidence plummets to a 54% confidence rating in the US Economy and only 37% believing one should be confident in the International economy.
One person enjoying a honeymoon is President Biden with 56% expressing confidence in the new president as compared to 69% who were not confident in his predecessor just a year ago. Even Congress has seen a boost in confidence to 20% up from 4% last year. Under the Capitol Dome, Speaker Pelosi enjoyed the confidence of 32% with new Senate Majority Leader Schumer at 30%.
Sadly, 78% agree that sexual misconduct, harassment, and gender bias remain a problem, and 68% believe inherent racism is a structural industry obstacle. The self-identified gender mix of respondents this year were 80% Male, 18% Female (up from 9% last year) and 2% choosing Gender X.
The top five states were 26% from California (supplanting NY for the first time), 20% New York, 18% Massachusetts, 6% Texas and 3% Connecticut. Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois came in each at 2% and no other state represented more than 1% (with Missouri topping Utah for first on that list).
Canada represented 21% of international respondents, 13% UK, 5% Germany, 5% China, 5% India and 2% France, Italy, and Singapore, with multiple respondents in descending order from Israel, Australia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Columbia, Spain, Viet Nam, and single responses from 14 other nations.
Of the 620 participating this year 21% were from PE shops; 32% were VCs; 4% Hedge Funds; 9% were LPs; 11% were operating executives; 11% were Investment Bankers; and 12% were third party vendors/advisors to the industry (lawyers, accountants, etc.) – reasonably consistent with last year albeit more heavily representing VC.
A favorite comment this year was “I have encountered rapacious thieves in PE as well as some of the finest people I could ever hope to meet…”. In our baker’s dozen years that the Semaphore Confidence Survey has taken your temperature we ruefully note we have seen too many rapacious thieves given our niche taking over troubled funds. It is mercifully balanced by very many fine individuals and firms with whom we proudly enjoy working to right the misdeeds of plundering bandits.
Please keep safe, wear a mask, get jabbed in the arm so we can do it all again next year. Check out the full results and enjoy informative and sometimes entertaining opinion by clicking here.
Mark DiSalvo is the Founder and CEO of Sema4 Inc., dba Semaphore, www.sema4usa.com, a leading global professional services provider of troubled Private Equity, Venture Capital and Hedge funds under management. Semaphore currently holds fiduciary obligations as General Partner for eleven funds, is a New Markets Tax Credit provider, and advises Limited Partners around the world. Semaphore’s corporate offices are in Boston with principal offices in New York, London, Luxembourg, and Dallas.