It’s official: The venture capital market is freezing up. And don’t expect the market to warm up any time soon.
In the fourth quarter of 2008, venture capitalists raised only $3.37 billion, down a staggering 71% from the year-ago quarter, when VCs raised $11.67 billion, according to a January 20 release by Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association. This is the smallest amount of money raised since the second quarter of 2004, when VCs raised $3.3 billion.
The size of the average fund and the number of funds able to scare up capital is also rapidly shrinking. In the fourth quarter, 43 funds accounted for that $3.37 billion, down from 84 funds in the year-ago period. That is the smallest amount of funds raised since the third quarter of 2003, when 33 funds raised $1.8 billion.
The shrinking amount of capital means that fewer new companies will get financing, and that older startups without market traction are likely to wither away.
“With some notable exceptions, we can expect this slower pace to continue well into 2009,” said Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA in the press release.
After years of waiting for an industry shakeout that never happened, many VCs now expect the industry to shrink significantly since some institutional investors are pulling back from the venture capital asset class. “There are likely to be fewer firms over the next few years,” says Ira Ehrenpreis, general partner with Technology Partners, a firm based in Palo Alto, CA. “And that’s a good thing. A pruned tree will be healthier.” Ehrenpreis believes the industry could shrink by as much as 20%.
Another silver lining: The largest and most successful VC firms continue to be able to raise large war chests. Two of the three largest funds raised in the fourth quarter were by Accel Partners, a well-established firm that has invested in Facebook, JBoss, MetroPCs and many other prominent startups.
Accel raised an Accel Growth Fund with $480 million to invest in more mature new companies. It also raised Accel London III with $525 million to invest in young European startups.