Question of the Week: Would VCs Be Hurt if SecondMarket Sells Directly to Individual Investors?

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Earlier this week, my colleague Jonathan Marino broke the story that SecondMarket is considering launching a platform to let private companies bypass VC firms and sell shares directly to individual investors.

Clearly, there is strong demand for stock in hot private companies — such as Facebook, Groupon and Zynga. These brand name companies have seen their valuations rise significantly as their shares have changed hands on secondary exchanges such as SecondMarket and SharesPost.

But is there enough appetite for shares in lesser-known private companies that a significant number of them will be able to bypass venture capital firms by raising money via these exchanges? If so, what will that mean to the venture business?