There's been a huge amount written in the blogosphere about how Web 2.0 with it's low startup costs and rapid growth patterns negates (or at least minimized) the need for traditional venture capital.
Fred Wilson of Flatiron Partners in NYC has an excellent blog post up on how, and why, Web 2.0 and VC's mix very nicely, thank you. He sums it up with the following graph:
His premise is simple. The cost, in the early years, of a startup has dropped significantly. As the business takes off, all the usual business expenses (hardware, bandwidth, sales force, etc.) still pop up. So, the costs rise and need for capital required from VC's kicks in.
The upside is much of the risk is removed for VC's in the early stages (due to the low costs) and, assuming your company survives and grows, more of the equity remains in the hands of the founders (because much of the risk was removed along the way, requiring less equity be given up).
Nice trade off all around.