clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bill Gurley on Tech Bubble: I'm a Pragmatist, Not a Doomsayer

This venture capitalist says he's the one shouting "stop" as the car rolls off a cliff.

Brian Ach / Getty Images

Bill Gurley, general partner at venture capital firm Benchmark, has developed a reputation as the Nostradamus of Silicon Valley. He has repeatedly called out startups and fellow investors for over-the-top valuations, warning of an impending tech bubble.

He isn’t ditching that reputation.

“It’s kind of my responsibility to call it out,” the venture capitalist said at the Vanity Fair Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday. “If you’re in a car heading over a cliff and I say, ‘Hey, slow down’ — that’s being a pragmatist, not being a doomsayer.”

New York Times reporter Nick Bilton, who moderated the panel, asked Gurley how he squares that view with the fact that Benchmark is among the venture firms priming startups with cash. Gurley’s retort: The founders he backs could raise money in any condition — and could do it even better when funding dries up.

“Most of the great CEOs I work with want this to stop. They’re forced to play this game,” he replied. “Great entrepreneurs raise money in any cycle. When there’s less money available, the better entrepreneurs have the advantage.”

Gurley shared the stage with Julie Wainwright, the former CEO of, the poster child of excess for the late 1990s bubble, and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, who has also spoken publicly about the ease of raising cash. Each reminisced about how the prior surge in tech startups compared with the current one. They all agreed that today we are in a bubble.

Gurley went so far as to say that, in this moment, the funding is even more concentrated in a handful of companies than it was in the last bubble. And he doesn’t like to see startups throwing big parties to celebrate raising more money.

“What people really should be doing when they raise a huge round is say, ‘Oh, shit. We’ve got huge expectations,’” he said. “They shouldn’t be throwing a party.”

Later, in the question-and-answer session, Gurley shrugged off the idea that the current situation could end gently: “I hope to God we can have a soft landing. That’s why I’ve been so outspoken,” he said. “But history suggests it won’t work out that way.”

This article originally appeared on