Many experts in VC will tell you that venture capital, like politics, is a “local” business. It’s true, of course: the VC needs to know entrepreneurs face-to-face; they need to know the market into which their companies are selling; and they need to build the local networks that lead to quality deal flow. In addition, it’s difficult to effectively assist portfolio companies that are not nearby.
On the other hand, social media and inexpensive voice/video conferencing services enable effective communication over great distances. That, combined with sufficient travel, makes successful, geographically-diverse venture investing very feasible.
In fact, the world of startups, and thus venture capital, is increasingly global. Online media is melding together various markets into one international popular culture – the same YouTube videos go viral in the US, Europe and Brazil; Jeremy Lin is as massive a cultural phenomenon in China as in the US; people in Lebanon follow the same Twitter feeds as people in NY.
Regarding language, for better or worse, English seems to have become a common language of business and culture. This is not unprecedented – for many decades, French was “the language of diplomacy” – if you wanted to travel in international circles, especially diplomatic circles – you needed to learn French. Perhaps someday soon we will all need to know Chinese or Portuguese – many Americans are currently scrambling to learn one or the other – but right now it’s English.
Aside from that, translation services continue to level the playing field. It’s recently become possible to “get by” in most markets despite not knowing the language. Google Translate functions imperfectly but well enough. Other services like MyGengo increase efficiency and accuracy in translation. US personnel in the Middle East use handheld devices to communicate instantly in Farsi or Arabic. A high-quality smartphone app for the rest of us cannot be far behind.
The most intractable barrier to the globalization of startups/VC is bureaucracy. By that I mean anything from shipping to taxes to trade barriers. (Perhaps “logistics” is a better choice than “bureaucracy” but you get the idea.) These barriers, however, cause problems mainly for companies that require physical fulfillment of goods or services. For a great number of companies, this is not an issue. Facebook, Twitter, Google and Skype serve as obvious examples of companies largely unaffected by logistics/bureaucracy.
In sum, the importance of "local" in startups and VC remains but the importance of global perspective has increased. The pace of globalization is accelerating, almost in the same proportion as the pace of technological innovation — it’s as if there's a Moore’s Law in effect for globalization. As such, VC funds that are built for global investing, such as DST, may have the greatest future success.