Venture investment: steady as she goes, but early stage slows

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Venture capitalists and other investors are still pouring lots of cash into startups despite a volatile stock market, a paucity of initial public offerings and shocks such as Britain’s recent vote to leave the European Union.

That’s according to the latest quarterly MoneyTree Report released today by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, using data from Thomson Reuters.

The second quarter, when $15.3 billion was invested in 961 deals, marked the 10th quarter in a row of $10 billion-plus in VC invested in companies.

“There’s still a lot of money going into the system,” Tom Ciccolella, PwC’s venture capital market leader, said in an interview with SiliconANGLE. “It’s still healthy.”

One reason for the continued flow of big bucks is persistently low interest rates that force investors to look elsewhere for higher returns. But it’s also a sign of more “non-traditional” investment firms such as mutual funds, private equity and hedge funds and sovereign funds diversifying their portfolios. “This is a way to get a little bit of beta in their portfolios,” Ciccolella said.

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Still, the VC market is somewhat split. The big driver of continued investment is really big bucks put into a relatively small number of highly valued companies, chiefly “unicorns” worth more than $1 billion. If not for two billion-dollar-plus deals involving Uber Technologies Inc. and Snapchat Inc., venture investment fell below the first quarter. And even including them, the total is down 20 percent from a year ago.

The second quarter was the ninth in a row in which at least 10 companies raised “mega-rounds” of $100 million or more. This time, not surprisingly, Uber, which raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, and Snapchat, which raised $1.3 billion from a wide variety of investors (a round that may have hit $1.8 billion), topped the list.

Those top 10 deals accounted for 39 percent of all the money invested in the second quarter, up from 26 percent in the first quarter. And Uber and Snapchat alone accounted for 31 percent. “Those two deals move the needle quite a bit,” said Ciccolella.

The earliest-stage startups didn’t fare as well. Investment in seed-stage startups fell 5 percent, though on average they were still a surprisingly high $12 million apiece. Dollars invested in companies getting their first VC fell 8 percent, and the number of such deals dropped 14 percent, to 267. Later but still early-stage investment dropped by 14 percent.

Software continued to rule with six of 11 megadeals, getting $8.7 billion in 379 deals for the quarter, a 70 percent increase in dollars on a 4 percent decrease in deals compared with the first quarter.

Biotech came in second, followed by information technology services, media and entertainment, and computers and peripherals. Some 251 Internet companies across industry categories received a total of $2.6 billion.

However, the categories are a bit fluid because companies decide which one they’re in. For instance, Box is in software and Dropbox is in IT Services. Full results of the survey are at www.pwcmoneytree.com and www.nvca.org.

Image from Pixabay