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Semaphore's 2024 Confidence Results Revealed

Discover the latest insights from Semaphore's 2024 Confidence Survey

"I’ve got to admit it; it‘s getting better, a little better all the time (can't get much worse).”

With apologies to the Beatles that their music could belie our industry, this lyric came in a comment to our 16th Annual Semaphore Confidence Survey and seemed to summarize the entirety of the record responses received. Our respondents, while recognizing challenges, were decidedly optimistic about themselves, the state of the industry, their ability to deal with inherent problems, and rather certain that incomes would continue to climb.

Four overriding observations deserve note. First, women respondents more than doubled to 25%. Total participation exceeded 1400 responses, double last year and the largest number we have ever experienced. Artificial Intelligence is anticipated to capture the largest investment market share in 2024, far and away the hottest industry sector. Lastly, despite dismal lack of confidence in the Biden administration, over the three weeks the survey remained open, the expectation of whether the President would be reelected grew from 30% in the initial week to 46% at the end - mirroring recent political polls. Someone else with a higher pay grade than me can analyze whether and how all these connect.

The commentary remained enlightening and entertaining. Please conduct your own review and analysis of our audience opinion and whether you abide by them. Click here for the survey results and a representative sampling of commentary on matters of the industry, race, carried interest, sexual harassment, breaking up Big Tech, and whether Sam Altman should be running Open AI – 78% say yes with comments ranging from “He’s a genius” to “He’s a fraud”.

Results intrigued as usual with definitive confidence in yourselves (82%) and a 4X increase in the economy just twelve months ago (40% have confidence today in the US and 12% International), with a single digit 1% confidence in the US Congress. President Biden confidence rating held steady at just 24% with 58% expressing a lack of no confidence in US national tax and spending policies.

For the first time, less than a majority, 47% of you, earned more in 2023 than the prior year, while 58% expect to do so this year. This is a bounce back in confidence as last year we reported the lowest numbers of increased income expectation ever recorded.

Surprisingly, 56% do not support elimination of carried interest rates compared to 70% last year, with 44% apparently agreeing with one commenter that “Greed is not good”.

Our respondents don’t wish to have Big Tech broken up (72%), believe that sexual misconduct, harassment, and gender bias remains a problem (68%), both virtually the same numbers as last year. 51%, a slightly smaller majority than last year at 55%, believe inherent racism is a structural industry obstacle.

Respondents were from 25 states with California, Massachusetts and New York making up 59% of the US response. 38 other countries were represented with 37% of international respondents from Canada, UK and Germany (36% last year).

Males represented 74%, 25% Females and, 1% self-reported Gender X of those participating this year. 9% of you were from PE shops (way down from 24% last year); 34% were VCs; 3% Hedge Funds; 13% LPs; 10% operating executives; 9% Investment Bankers; and 22% third party vendors/advisors to the industry (lawyers, accountants, etc.) – the last two categories were double last year’s proportion.

Back to the Beatles – the song noted is “Getting Better” on the Sgt. Pepper’s album. The initial idea for the song's title came from a phrase often spoken by Jimmie Nicol, the group's stand-in drummer for the Australian leg of their 1964 world tour when he replaced Ringo who was ill. Take a listen – here’s hoping things do get better all the time.

Check out the complete results and engaging opinion by clicking here.

Mark DiSalvo is Founder and CEO of Sema4 Inc., dba Semaphore,, a leading global professional services provider to troubled Private Equity, Venture Capital and Hedge funds under management. Semaphore currently holds fiduciary obligations as General Partner for fourteen funds, is a New Markets Tax Credit provider, and advises Limited Partners around the world. Semaphore’s corporate offices are in Boston with offices in Barcelona, Dallas, London, Luxembourg, New York, and Washington DC.


Topics: Venture Capital, equity, private equity funds, Semaphore, limited partners, turnaround, technology, diligence, small businesses, growth equity investments, market, analysis, venture funds, private equity, ethics, ethical standards, business, Survey

Semaphore's 2021 Confidence Survey Results!

“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, 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,, 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.


Topics: troubled funds, equity, Semaphore, market diligence, market, business, Survey

Thoughts on Jeopardy Analysis

Blog 3 of 3 in the Due Diligence Often Discovers Discrepancies series

I expect that there are many folks out there who will challenge our analysis.  I’ve anticipated some of the objections and have addressed what I think are the three major ones below.

 1. Shouldn't some of the points that we reallocated from Watson to Ken have gone to Brad, lowering Ken's revised total? While that is true, Brad would have also taken additional points from Watson. If we had data from Brad, we expect that the gap between Watson and Ken would be narrower, but that Ken would still enjoy a solid lead.

2. What about Game 1? Watson did even better in Game 1 than it did in Game 2. Wouldn't that have kept Watson the winner? Probably not. The reason Watson racked up such a huge total on Game 1 was that it answered 29 of 32 questions correctly in Double Jeopardy.  I didn't have a tape, but I believe Ken and Brad also knew many of those answers and were shut out by the buzzer. Allocating those responses across players would have put one or both players within striking distance when they got to Final Jeopardy. Watson blew Final Jeopardy with a comically bad answer to an easy question.  So, what would likely have happened is it would have been in second if not third place heading into Game 2

3. What about the humans' own "unfair advantage".  Humans tend to ring in before they know the answer and then have several seconds to figure it out. If they had to answer right away like Watson, wouldn't Watson cream them?  While this is true, I take exception to the notion that this represents an advantage for the humans.  Instead, this represents a fundamental difference in how computers and humans process information.  While it can take humans a few seconds to work out the right answer, we can intuit nearly instantaneously whether or not we will be able answer the question. Great Jeopardy players have great intuition and rarely get questions wrong after they ring in, as Ken Jennings demonstrated by getting just 1 question wrong in Game 2. Watson on the other hand seemed to either come to an answer very quickly or never got there. It doesn't have intuition and more time didn't appear to help it significantly. Changing the rules to take out the intuition factor would shift the advantage to Watson but would be counter the goal of the contest - figuring who is better at answering questions.

Let us hear your objections and observations.


This article was contributed by Jon Klein. Jon is the founder and general partner of The Topline Strategy Group, a strategy consulting and market research firm specializing in emerging technologies. Jon brings a unique blend of strategy consulting and hands on operating experience to The Topline Strategy Group and works closely with Semaphore on a variety of engagements.


Topics: due diligence, diligence, market, analysis

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