I am attending the panel in our Silicon Valley office on the PricewaterhouseCoopers “Shaking the MoneyTree” report on the state of the venture capital industry. The detailed results are available online at www.pwcmoneytree.com, www.nvca.org and www.venturexpert.com. However, the report reflects several important trends:
1. Silicon Valley continues to dominate the industry with 36% of Q4 deals and 39% for the entire year.
2. Despite a downturn in the amount of venture capital investments, it remains significant and is very similar to 1996/1997.
3. Q4 reflects a downturn in the number of deals and amount invested, but it is not clear if this decrease is a blip or a trend.
4. For Q4, software continues to be the largest sector with life science a close second. Cleantech is third for Q4, but is second for the year as a whole. The growth of cleantech is very interesting since the category did not exist four years ago. In Q4, venture capitalists invested in $5.4 Billion in 818 deals.
5. The lack of IPOs and fewer large M&A deals means that venture capitalists are investing in more later stage deals to keep companies alive for an exit.
The panelists were a mix of venture capitalists, investment bankers and commercial bankers. Although the panel acknowledged that the economy is grim, venture capitalists are continuing to invest. Mike Selfridge from Silicon Valley Bank, which serves more than 60% of venture backed startups, stated that over half of their companies are predicting lower sales for 2009. However Silicon Valley Bank is continuing to lend to its customers. Many of the panelists stated that the venture capital industry is ”broken” and likely to shrink over time with estimates ranging from a decrease from 50% to 80%.
According to PWC, they predict that VCs will be reviewing their portfolio companies carefully and will stop funding many portfolio companies. The industry will see many downrounds (I am working on three downrounds which are styled as ”-” rounds, i.e Series A-1 so “hyphen” rounds appear to be a new trend). New deals will be harder with the quality of the team being critical. For enterpeneurs, PWC noted that they need to recognize that if the contraction of the industry occurs as predicted, many venture funds (and venture capitalists) may not be present for a second round and the entrepeneurs need to consider this issue in choosing investors. Finally, PWC believes that venture fund raising will continue to be difficult and capital calls may be rejected by the limited partners who do not have the liquidity to meet them.
The venture industry clearly is undergoing many fundamental changes and the direction is still unclear, but innovation has become even more important to the economy and the venture capital backed companies remain a major source of innovation.
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