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V.C. Fever Abroad

U.S. startups, despite their reputation as technology innovators, are about to face tougher competition from Europe. While the amount of venture investing in the U.S. has slipped for two consecutive quarters, global venture investing, including buyout funds, is expected to jump 47%, to $200 billion this year. Of that, some $70 billion is expected to go to Europeans, says PricewaterhouseCoopers and 3i Group PLC, an equity investment firm in London. In 1999, a banner year for American venture investing, U.S. firms raked in about $36 billion.

European investing has boomed thanks to new stock markets designed for small-cap companies, changing tax laws and deregulation. The very success of the U.S. has proved inspiring, too. European investors have adopted a "mass belief in the economics the U.S. has achieved with low inflation, low unemployment, high consumer demand, and high innovation," says Martin Gagen, president and CEO of 3i's U.S. operations.

Small Biz Slowdown

The stumbling stock market and slowing sales are forcing small businesses to reexamine their forecasts and budgets. "People are looking at the markets and starting to get worried," says Christopher Wysocki, president of the Small Business Survival Committee. "It's gut-check time."

Only 3% of small businesses reported higher sales in the third quarter, says William C. Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business. Dunkelberg expects sales to weaken further in the fourth quarter, and he says that cutbacks in capital spending are reminiscent of those that preceded the past two recessions.

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