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Q3 Shows Evidence of a VC Market Slowdown

Oct 21, 2022

A Quarterly Wink and a Glance at Venture Capital

The venture capital (“VC”) industry—which had been achieving records for deal activity, fundraising and exits throughout the pandemic—may finally have reached a tipping point. Rising interest rates, geopolitical events, supply chain issues and weak performance in the public markets are certainly beginning to impact the VC market. Q3 2022 saw only 4,074 completed deals and invested capital of $43 billion across all stages. The deal count was the lowest quarter since Q4 2020 and continues a string of three quarters of declining deal numbers. The dollars invested in Q3 2022 were the lowest amount of deployed capital over the last nine quarters. For the first three quarters of 2022, there have been 11,871 VC deals completed with almost $195 billion invested. This is certainly a far cry from the 17,867 completed deals and $344 billion of invested capital in 2021. VC activity may be slowing down, but with almost $195 billion invested through the first three quarters, 2022 is still the second-best year of the past decade in terms of dollars invested.

VC Exits Are a Concern

Q3 2022 saw 302 VC-backed exits with a value of $14 billion. Through the first three quarters of 2022, there have been 1,092 VC-backed exits totaling approximately $85 billion. This compares quite unfavorably to the record year for exits in 2021, with almost 1,900 exits totaling more than $781 billion. In fact, 2022 is on pace to be the lowest year for VC exit values since 2017 and will probably be the first year that exit values were below $100 billion since 2016. A prolonged period of low-exit activity will negatively influence limited partners’ desire to reinvest capital into the VC ecosystem.

Only five companies exited via an IPO in Q3 2022. For the first three quarters of 2022, there have only been 60 IPOs, which is quite a decline from the 303 public listings in 2021. SPACs have suffered a similar fate as the IPO market. Only three SPACs completed public listings in Q3 2022. Many SPACs are reaching their two-year time limit for doing a deal and may soon be forced to return capital to investors.

This lack of liquidity faced by VC-backed companies may force more VC ecosystem companies to try and raise additional capital through equity financings—quite possibly at lower valuations (down rounds).

Angel and Seed-Stage Deals

Angel and seed-stage activity began to decline in Q3 2022 from earlier in the year. Even with the decline in Q3, there is still a strong possibility that angel and seed-stage deal values in 2022 will eclipse the record of almost $20 billion that was established in 2021. Even with angel and seed-stage deal activity beginning to wane, the median deal size and pre-money valuations remain at fairly high levels. In Q3, the median seed-stage deal was $3.5 million, and the median pre-money valuation was $10.1 million.

Fundraising Already Exceeds Record Year

Presumably, public market turbulence and the lack of exits for liquidity would put a damper on fundraising activity. That certainly has not been the case. In Q3, VC fundraising topped $29 billion, and that brought the year-to-date fundraising total to $150.9 billion, a new annual record. In fact, over the past seven quarters, VCs have raised more than $298 billion in new capital. LPs are seeing strong returns from prior investments, and this has resulted in capital being reinvested into new VC investments.

What’s Next for Venture Capital in Q4?

There is no consensus on where the venture capital industry is heading. The number of VC deals is on the decline, and exits through IPOs and SPACs are extremely difficult to achieve. However, there is still considerable dry powder on the sidelines looking for a home. Q4 2022 could shed some light on whether the VC industry is truly at a tipping point.

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Alan Wink

Mr. Wink assists clients with capital budgeting, capital structuring and capital sourcing. He has worked with many tech and life science companies on developing the appropriate capital structure for their position in the business life cycle.

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