The number of startups getting seed funding in 2012 jumped by 65% over the previous year to a total of 1749, according to a recent report by CB Insights. “Seed investments” are early stage financings (typically less than $1.5 million) made by either Angels or venture capitalists, or both. This is great evidence that the recession drag on funding new startups is behind us.
In another report more specifically on Venture Capital Activity for 2012, CB Insights noted relatively flat but still healthy funding levels, compared to the previous year (down in total dollars by 7.5%, but up in total deals by 7%). Thus the venture capital industry isn’t dead yet, despite all the rumors, and more startups are getting money, even at Series A and later levels.
Of course, there are still qualms, cautions, and risks highlighted by these reports that every entrepreneur needs to understand, to optimize their own chances of getting the funding they want:
- A “Series A Crunch” could orphan 1000+ startups. The explosion in seed funding, without a corresponding explosion in investors willing to lead the next round (Series A), may mean that you can’t get a second round and will be “orphaned” or die. The pundits are now debating the impact and potential alternatives for startups. Stay alert.
- Seeded companies will take longer to raise a next round. As soon as you get seed money, it’s time to start working on the next round. The current average is slightly more than 13 months to raise follow-on financing. As the leverage increasingly looks like it is shifting towards investors, the time required may go up, so plan ahead.
- Only 40% of seeded companies get follow-on financing. This is nothing new. The death of startups and the loss of investment dollars is part of the process of separating the best companies and investors from the rest. To prepare yourself, make sure you have enough runway, be prepared to make drastic cuts, and have a Plan B for organic growth.
- The Internet sector is tops for seed deals. Not surprisingly, the Internet sector is still the primary destination for seed investing. Interestingly, follow-on financing rates to the computer hardware and services sector is the highest of all tech sectors. Healthcare is not far behind.
- California and NY dominate for number of seed deals. California is the clear #1 for seed investment activity followed by strong #2 New York. Massachusetts is a distant #3 but in terms of the rate of follow-on financing, Massachusetts has the highest rate. Texas is still struggling to hold the next position.
Make no mistake, even with these caveats, 2012 has been a banner year for startup funding, and the cost of entry has never been lower. Investment amounts and deals were near 10-year highs, and all indications are that this year will be just as good. Of course, it always helps to be in the right business sector, in the right part of the country, and know the best players:
- Top business sectors for venture capital. The Internet sector continues to lead the pack (information technology and software), followed by Healthcare (medical devices and equipment), then Mobile (CRM) & Telecom (wireless). Green Tech is still in a slump, with renewables leading the way. Yet these comprise much fertile territory for entrepreneurs.
- Top five states for venture capital. California (Silicon Valley), Massachusetts (Boston), NY, Washington, and Texas held as the top 5 states for venture capital in 2012, but overall, 38 states got in on the action. As is typical, funding and deals remain concentrated in venture’s big markets. Be there, even if you have to move.
- Most active venture capital firm. New Enterprise Associates, in Silicon Valley, leads all VCs as most active in 2012, putting some of its $2.5 billion fund to work. By activity, the other four of the top five firms were Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and First Round Capital. It helps if you know someone in one of these.
Of course, every entrepreneur needs to remember that even if you are in the right sector and the right location, there is no entitlement to venture funding, much less success. Most sources agree that less than 1 out of 100 who apply get the funding they want. Of those who get funded, only about 1 in 10 succeed. But who amongst us doesn’t love a challenge? Now is the time.