Siwoti Friday: Kwak fisks Langeler

By Felix Salmon
May 21, 2010
Gerry Langeler, a venture capitalist, takes to Dealbook to try to defend the crazy way in which most of his income is taxed at the 15% capital gains rate. And then James Kwak reads his piece, comes down with an acute case of Siwoti, and delivers a textbook fisking of what passes for Langeler's argument.

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This is where the blogosphere comes into its own: Gerry Langeler, a venture capitalist, takes to Dealbook to try to defend the crazy way in which most of his income is taxed at the 15% capital gains rate. And then James Kwak reads his piece, comes down with an acute case of Siwoti, and delivers a textbook fisking of what passes for Langeler’s argument.

This might be the first point at which I’ve actually seen an MBA put to good use:

Langeler can’t tell the difference between a founder and an investor. To start off, what does it mean to say that founders are “leveraging our money”? The concept of leverage only applies to debt. VCs invest by buying convertible preferred shares, which are a form of equity, not debt.*** They are buying a share of the company, and they get all the upside on that share. That’s not leverage. Seen purely from the standpoint of the capital structure, VC investments dilute the founders. Granted, the company is getting something valuable — cash — in exchange for that dilution. But it’s giving up some of the upside. That’s the opposite of leverage.

There’s much, much more where that came from: go read the whole thing. It’s overwhelmingly probable that you agree with Kwak already: I have yet to find a non-VC who thinks that VC incomes should be taxed at 15%. But you’ll still learn a lot, both about the economics of financing startups, and about the art of putting together a great blog post.

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