Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The likelihood of venture finance becoming more available.

Interesting blog post from ROSALIND RESNICK a few weeks ago, talking about the likelihood of venture finance becoming more available.

Last week, as I was testing out the very latest business plan software technology, I got a call from a client of mine I hadn’t heard from in a while. Turns out, when he and his partner couldn’t raise money from investors to launch their business last year, they did what many intrepid entrepreneurs do. They went back to corporate America and got jobs, and used their own money to build the prototype they needed to prove that their concept was more than just a business plan and a dream.

Now that they’ve launched their product, signed up their first pilot customer and started generating revenue, is it time to start pitching venture capital firms again, they want to know. After all the bad news they’d read about VC funding last year, did the VC industry still have a pulse?

According to the quarterly MoneyTree report released last week by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, the answer may be “yes”–and not just for later-stage companies but for startups and early-stage ventures, too.

First, the bad news: Venture capital investment in 2009 declined to its lowest levels in more than in a decade, the report found. Last year, venture capitalists put $17.7 billion in 2,795 deals nationwide, the lowest level of dollar investment since 1997. This marked a 37 percent decline in dollars and a 30 percent decrease in deal volume from 2008.

Now, the good news: In the fourth quarter of 2009, VCs put $5 billion to work in 794 deals. But while funding declined 2 percent from the third quarter of 2009, the number of deals actually grew by 15 percent. The report also had good news for startups: While first-time financings fell to the lowest dollar and deal level since the report began tracking VC investing in 1995, the Q4 numbers showed increases in the number of first-time and early-stage deals completed.

Does this mean the ice is finally thawing?

“The venture capital industry had no choice but to slow the investment pace in 2009,” Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association, said in a statement. “The weak exit environment resulting from an unstable public market combined with a challenged limited-partner base sent a strong message to the venture community to pull back the reins–and the VC’s listened. Now that the economy has begun to show signs of improvement, we expect to see dollars flow more freely back into those sectors that offered the most promise before the recession began–clean technology, life sciences and IT.”

With bank financing still tight for small businesses, the VC turnaround couldn’t come at a better time for cash-starved startups and early-stage companies. Seed-stage companies attracted 9 percent of dollars and 11 percent of deals in 2009 compared with 6 percent of dollars and 12 percent of deals in 2008, the report found. Early-stage investments saw double-digit increases in the fourth quarter, with $1.6 billion going into 277 deals, a 32 percent increase in dollars and 26 percent increase in deals from Q3.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Despite the fact that you may have used top of the range business plan software the create your business plan, startups and early-stage companies face long odds when it comes to raising venture capital–even in good times. Still, it’s exciting to see the river of VC money starting to flow again. It may be winter in the financial markets now, but you don’t need to be an economist to see that spring is right around the corner.

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