Definition of venture capital
Private equity or institutional funding for start-up companies considered to have strong growth prospects. There can be several phases of investment (see seed money), through to the stage when the company is able to go public. Venture capital firms may also provide management assistance and other services. 
This is equity or quasi equity funding provided by professional investors to young, high growth oriented companies, typically to finance their early market development and growth. As well as funding, investors usually provide value added services. Funding is often provided in stages, providing sufficient cash to reach the next milestone.
Lastminute.com, the UK travel and leisure website was founded in 1998 and raised £600,000 from four venture capital firms during the start-up phase.
In 1999, an additional £13.5m was raised in two capital increases through the issuance of shares to existing shareholders and key employees, and also to venture capital firms, corporate and institutional investors including Intel Corporation.
In 2000, a private placement of preference shares to strategic partners raised £18.5m. In a fourth financing round with some of the existing shareholders, an additional £6.2m was raised. At the IPO in 2000, lastminute.com raised approximately £61m.