Fund performance: SAIF, Index, TCV lead Calpers’ early-stage focused venture portfolio

Starting a venture fund in the early years of the past decade was no cakewalk. The industry struggled to recover from the dot-com meltdown, and returns were generally nothing to celebrate.

The harshness of the period is reflected in the performance of California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s California Emerging Ventures portfolio.

The portfolio owns 17 venture funds with vintages of 2004 to 2006, and their performance is in keeping with a three-year period when returns were just beginning to climb out of the post-bubble hole.

Only five could boast a double-digit IRR, as of June 2015, though all but three of the funds were in the black, according to a recent portfolio report. Even many of the better performers near the top of the portfolio were hardly blockbusters.

The portfolio favors smaller fund size and early-stage investment strategies, and it avoids the mega funds that were just beginning to catch on. Only one fund exceeds $1 billion.

At the top of the portfolio are funds from SAIF Partners, Index Ventures and Technology Crossover Ventures. SAIF’s SB Asia Investment Fund I found itself in the No. 1 position with an IRR of 19.6 percent, as of June, and it boasted substantial distributions, the report shows.

Index Ventures III from 2004 had an IRR of 16.9 percent, as of June last year, a nice increase from two years earlier.

TCV VI wasn’t far behind with an IRR of 14.3 percent, the report shows.

The accompanying table lists all 17 funds with their commitments, distributions and IRRs.