Research / BFI Working PaperSep 21, 2020

Fencing Off Silicon Valley: Cross-Border Venture Capital and Technology Spillovers

Ufuk Akcigit, Sina T. Ates, Josh Lerner, Richard R. Townsend, Yulia Zhestkova

The treatment of foreign investors has been a contentious topic in U.S. entrepreneurship policy in recent years. This paper examines foreign corporate investments in Silicon Valley from a theoretical and empirical perspective. We model a setting where such funding may allow U.S. entrepreneurs to pursue technologies that they could not otherwise, but may also lead to spillovers to the overseas firm providing the financing and the nation where it is based. We show that despite the benefits from such inbound investments for U.S. firms, it may be optimal for the U.S. government to raise their costs to deter investments. Using as comprehensive as possible a sample of investments by non-U.S. corporate investors in U.S. start-ups between 1976 and 2015, we find evidence consistent with the presence of knowledge spill-overs to foreign investors.

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