Tech

Tim Culpan is a technology columnist for Bloomberg Gadfly. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.

Everyone knows that Asia's startup bubble has to pop. The problem is, no one knows what a bursting bubble looks like until it's too late.

A report out this week from KPMG -- drawing on data from CB Insights -- may be the first signs of that implosion. The 101-page report on the global venture capital industry offers plenty for the VC nerd to salivate over, complete with dozens of pretty bar and line graphs.

It's on page 83, though, that we're given a look at how far things have fallen. Just $6.5 billion was plowed into VC-backed startups in Asia during the first quarter, down from $14.3 billion two quarters earlier.

Asian Pop
Venture capital-backed funding and deal size has halved over the past two quarters
Source: CB Insights, KPMG, Bloomberg

A quick crunching of the numbers shows that average deal size has dropped precipitously, too.

What this tells us is that VCs throughout Asia are losing their appetite for the sky-high investments of just six months ago and are starting to close their wallets. Rocket Internet's fire sale of Asian online retailer Lazada to Alibaba this week is a classic example. 

Once considered the king of Southeast Asia's e-commerce scene, Lazada struggled to raise another round of funding last year, leaving it cash-strapped and desperate, according to TechCrunch. Alibaba's largesse came just in time, TechCrunch reported, citing multiple people.

To be sure, the flipside is that Chinese players like Alibaba are keeping the party going with such bailouts (and a Chinese photo-editing app still thinks it's worth $3 billion), but it won't be long before everyone starts to realize that these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Tim Culpan in Taipei at tculpan1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katrina Nicholas at knicholas2@bloomberg.net