This paper investigates the role of venture capitalists. We view their “raison d’être” as their ability to reduce the cost of informational asymmetries. Our theoretical framework focuses on two major forms of asymmetric information: “hidden information” (leading to adverse selection) and “hidden action” (leading to moral hazard). Our theoretical analysis suggests four empirical predictions.1. Venture capitalists operate in environments where their relative efficiency in selecting and monitoring investments gives them a comparative advantage over other investors. This suggests strong industry effects in venture capital investments. Venture capitalists should be prominent in industries where informational concerns are important, such as biotechnology, computer software, etc., rather than in “routine” start-ups such as restaurants, retail outlets, etc. The latter are risky, in that returns show high variance, but they are relatively easy to monitor by conventional financial intermediaries.2. Within the class of projects where venture capitalists have an advantage, they will still prefer projects where monitoring and selection costs are relatively low or where the costs of informational asymmetry are less severe. Thus, within a given industry where venture capitalists would be expected to focus, we would also expect venture capitalists to favor firms with some track records over pure start-ups. To clarify the distinction between point 1 and point 2, note that point 1 states that if we look across investors, we will see that venture capitalists will be more concentrated in areas characterized by significant informational asymmetry. Point 2 says that if we look across investment opportunities, venture capitalists will still favor those situations which provide better information (as will all other investors). Thus venture capitalists perceive informational asymmetries as costly, but they perceive them as less costly than do other investors.3. If informational asymmetries are important, then the ability of the venture capitalist to “exit” may be significantly affected. Ideally, venture capitalists will sell off their share in the venture after it “goes public” on a stock exchange. If, however, venture investments are made in situations where informational asymmetries are important, it may be difficult to sell shares in a public market where most investors are relatively uninformed. This concern invokes two natural reactions. One is that many “exits” would take place through sales to informed investors, such as to other firms in the same industry or to the venture’s own management or owners. A second reaction is that venture capitalists might try to acquire reputations for presenting good quality ventures in public offerings. Therefore, we might expect that the exits that occur in initial public offerings would be drawn from the better-performing ventures.4. Finally, informational asymmetries suggest that owner-managers will perform best when they have a large stake in the venture. Therefore, we can expect entrepreneurial firms in which venture capitalists own a large share to perform less well than other ventures. This is moral hazard problem, as higher values of a venture capitalist’s share reduce the incentives of the entrepreneur to provide effort. Nevertheless, it might still be best in a given situation for the venture capitalist to take on a high ownership share, since this might be the only way of getting sufficient financial capital into the firm. However, we would still expect a negative correlation between the venture capital ownership share and firm performance.Our empirical examination of Canadian venture capital shows that these predictions are consistent with the data. In particular, there are significant industry effects in the data, with venture capitalists having disproportionate representation in industries that are thought to have high levels of informational asymmetry. Secondly, venture capitalists favor later stage investment to start-up investment. Third, most exit is through “insider” sales, particularly management buyouts, acquisitions by third parties, rather than IPOs. However, IPOs have higher returns than other forms of exit. In addition, the data exhibit the negative relationship between the extent of venture capital ownership and firm performance predicted by our analysis.