Very quickly before I start, I want to point out this research would conceivably extend to all investors that take a sizable chunk of preferred stock in a startup, not just venture capitalist (my opinion, not stated by the authors).
VCs have to work with founding teams and other common stock shareholders when they want to exit their investment, and as initial public offerings have decreased, trade sales, which were already common occurrence, have become even more prevalent in recent years. In a new paper, "Carrots & Sticks: How VCs Induce Entrepreneurial Teams to Sell Startups," (available here) Brian J. Broughman and Jesse M. Fried analyze 50 trade sales of VC-backed startups located in Silicon Valley.
Broughman and Fried investigate how VCs choose to persuade the entrepreneurial teams and common stockholders to make the sale—either through bonuses or carve-outs to common shareholders (carrots), or through force by terminating the entrepreneurial team, professionally blacklisting the founders, or trying to manipulate shareholder voting (sticks). They find that VCs rarely overtly use sticks but do use carrots with some frequency—at least one carrot was provided to the entrepreneurial team in 45 percent of sales, and on average amounted to 9 percent of the deal value.
The practical application here is that you can hold out on a sale. The infrequent overt use of sticks suggests that VCs don’t want to hurt their reputation by being forceful. There are a couple of other discussion points in the paper you can check out for yourself. I give credit to the authors for writing in an understandable and non-technical manner.
Hat tip to Robert Strom for pointing out this paper.