U.S. venture capital investors poured $34.2 billion into startups during the first quarter of 2020. But the COVID-19 crisis will surely put an end to a decades-long rise in investments amid global economic uncertainty.
That’s the takeaway from the latest quarterly PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor, which reported more than $34 billion invested across 2,298 deals. That’s down slightly from $35 billion across 3,162 deals during the year-ago quarter.
Total VC investments reached a record $140.8 billion in 2018, and $136 billion last year. That number will likely be lower at the end of 2020 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak as some investors will be more skittish about plowing millions of dollars into companies, at least for the time being.
“New deals are still happening, but most of these had already been in the pipeline prior to the onset of the pandemic,” according to the report. “Investment pace will likely slow down if shelter-in-place orders are still in effect once deals that were already in progress or in the pipeline are completed, since VC is a business that revolves around in-person meetings with founding teams before making an investment.”
The outbreak has affected the overall health of the startup ecosystem. More than 230 tech startups have cut 22,000-plus employees since March 11, according to this tracker. Logjams and ethics are impacting the federal loan process for many tech companies looking for help as they slash expenses.
Meanwhile, the IPO market has slowed, and the same could happen for M&A, the report noted. Valuations, particularly for late-stage companies, will likely “be challenged” over the next few months.
“Startups will see some options for federal relief from the CARES Act, while others will look to alternative means for cutting costs and capital infusion,” Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of NVCA, said in a statement. “The reality is that it will be a tough road ahead in 2020, but as we’ve seen in past downturns, resilience is in the fabric of this industry. Some of the most successful venture-backed companies were born in difficult times.”
Indeed, a recession does present opportunity. Companies such as Airbnb, Square, and Stripe all launched during the global financial crisis. The report noted that life science startups are receiving more attention as of late. “Beyond life sciences, startups in sectors that are meeting the needs of the new normal — where most of the US population is staying home to work, eat and live — are seeing more demand and interest,” according to the report.
Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital last month published the letter it sent to portfolio founders and CEOs titled “Coronavirus: The Black Swan of 2020.” The investment group told its entrepreneurs to “question every assumption about your business” related to cash, fundraising, sales forecasts, marketing, headcount, and capital spending.
Tim Porter, managing director at Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group, said last month that his firm’s overall guidance to portfolio companies is not to panic, but to be ready if this downturn lasts for an extended period of time. He said companies should re-examine hiring plans, think about how sales and marketing changes in a work-from-home environment, and consider cash reserves.
“While some businesses will be impacted more or less than others, we expect Q2 to be soft and likely also Q3,” Porter told GeekWire last month.
Seattle-area startups raised $555 million across 67 deals during Q1, which was down from $823 million across 96 deals in the year-ago quarter. That compares to $16.2 billion invested in Silicon Valley startups; $4.1 billion to Boston-area startups; $3.3 billion to New York City-area startups; and $2.8 billion to Los Angeles-area startups.
Seattle ranked near regions such as Atlanta ($594 million); Austin ($466 million); Chicago ($351 million); and San Diego ($622 million) for total VC investments last quarter.
Funding to Seattle-area startups reached a record $3.5 billion last year. Here are some of the top funding rounds across the Pacific Northwest during Q1 (see a full list of deals here):
- OfferUp — $120 million
- Silverback Therapeutics — $78.5 million
- Semios — $75 million
- PayRange — $70 million
- Inpria — $31 million
- Rad Power Bikes — $25 million
- Porch — $21 million
- Canalyst — $20 million
- Ventec Life Systems — $20 million
Source: Geek Wire