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Posts Tagged ‘National Venture Capital Association’

Article from SFGate.

It’s suddenly a lot harder for venture capitalists and startups to raise funds, as investors fed up with low returns turn their backs on the sector.

Most industry observers agree that lots of young firms will simply not be able to raise their next round of funding, commencing a period of belt tightening, consolidation and closures. At a minimum, it seems to mark the beginning of a more level-headed investment climate in Silicon Valley, after years of insatiable lust for all things mobile and social.

But if the drop-off is too sudden and steep, this new austerity could spill over into an economy highly dependent on the tech sector. Indeed, as The Chronicle reported last week, the industry has an enormous impact, with each tech job creating 4.3 indirect jobs in the community, according to a Bay Area Council Economic Institute report.

The investors and venture capitalists I spoke to insisted that we’re not on the verge of anything like the dot-com meltdown, characterizing the shift as a minor and healthy correction, or a “rationalization.” One suggested it was little more than the usual process of separating good and bad ideas in the marketplace.

But the numbers suggest something new is afoot. In the third quarter, the amount that U.S. companies raised in venture capital dropped 32 percent from the prior year, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. Venture capital funds themselves raised 17 percent fewer dollars from the second to third quarter, even as the number of funds grew, according to a joint report from Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association.

Economic uncertainty

Some partially blame the economic uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the election and the “fiscal cliff.” But the main problem seems to be that many of the “limited partners” that fund venture capital are pulling back after years of frustration.

Ever since a brief period in the late 1990s when venture capital burned bright, the industry has been delivering consistently weak returns on the whole.

In fact, despite requiring greater risks and larger capital outlays, venture capital has been underperforming the stock market over the past decade, according to a report this year by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Joe Dear, chief investment officer for CalPERS, told Reuters this summer that venture capital “has been the most disappointing asset class over the past 10 years as far as returns.” The huge pension fund for California’s public employees didn’t return repeated calls from The Chronicle.

Investment horizons have steadily spread out, from five to 10 to sometimes 15 years, as exit opportunities like acquisitions and initial public offerings fail to materialize. This has sometimes forced investors to put in more money to protect their initial funds.

‘Pretty grumpy’

“The industry definitely, for the last decade, has been a tough place to be,” said Ray Rothrock of Palo Alto venture capital firm Venrock. “We’re all pretty grumpy right now.”

Some of this is due to macroeconomic conditions outside the control of venture capitalists, notably the housing and banking crises. But at least some of it has to do with poor picks and herd mentality, funding companies with few real prospects and driving up the entry price for legitimately promising companies beyond what they could pay off.

“The market overfunded the number of companies in the system,” said Hans Swildens, founder of Industry Ventures in San Francisco. “There’s a glut.”

Even the grand promise of Web 2.0 companies that lured so much recent money hasn’t generated the hoped-for returns. The ones that managed to go public were often disappointments, including Facebook, Zynga and Groupon, in some cases leaving late-stage investors underwater on their holdings.

That was a final straw for some.

Last week, Forbes dug up figures from CB Insights that highlighted a wide and growing gap between the number of companies that raised initial funding and companies securing the follow-on investments, known as a Series A, generally necessary to keep going. This year, there have been 1,747 seed or angel rounds but only 688 Series A deals, underscoring the coming crunch.

Bad businesses

Based on as scientific a survey as the PR pitches in my inbox, there’s a tremendous number of silly, redundant and poorly executed companies out there that don’t warrant additional funding. The real problem isn’t that many of these companies won’t raise more money; it’s that they raised money in the first place.

For the venture capital industry to get back on track, it needs to embrace a renewed sense of discipline – on company picks, deal terms and total spending.

But hope springs eternal in Silicon Valley.

Rothrock stresses that the industry’s trend-line averages mask very strong results and ongoing investment at top firms, as well as growing venture capital activity among corporations like Google. Companies are just being more selective and looking beyond consumer Internet opportunities.

“We’re steady as she goes in terms of funding enterprise,” he said.

Secondary opportunity

Swildens oversees a secondary fund that buys shares from limited partners and venture firms looking to liquidate part of their holdings. He sees this period as a ripe opportunity for bold investors to get into promising companies at suddenly reasonable rates.

“Ours is one of the few firms aggressively putting money into these funds,” he said.

Mark Heesen, president of National Venture Capital Association, is similarly optimistic. He says the industry could be primed for a strong comeback in 2013, as long as the broader economy strengthens.

Above all, what the industry needs are some wins – acquisitions or initial public offerings that put investors clearly in the black and start to restore some lost confidence.

“If we see these exit markets start to generate good returns, I think you’ll see limited partners look at this asset class again,” he said.

James Temple is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. E-mail: jtemple@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @jtemple

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Here is a good read from Yahoo.

“Jeffrey Bussgang likes crazy entrepreneurs. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman and Sitrris Pharmaceuticals’ Dr. Christoph Westphal all share what Bussgang, a partner with Boston-based Flybridge Capital Partners, calls paranoid optimism. He defines it as an almost-arrogant belief in a world-changing idea mixed with a healthy fear of competitors. “You rarely see those two words together, which is why I like them,” Bussgang says. “They really distill the essence of the great entrepreneurs.”

He should know. Before he was a venture capitalist, Bussgang co-founded Upromise, now part of Sallie Mae and the nation’s largest private source of college funding contributions. In his new book, Mastering the VC Game, Bussgang offers a blueprint for entrepreneurs hoping to get funded: Be a paranoid optimist.

But even that may not be enough, given the state of today’s venture capital market. Total VC dollars invested fell 39 percent between the first quarter of 2008, before the recession began, and the first three months of 2010, according to data supplied by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

VC firms have gone tight-fisted, and limited partners–the investors who supply capital to private equity funds–are skittish, afraid of being burned again after suffering a decade of negative returns. Mix in a contentious debate over the taxability of profits derived from successful venture capital investments, otherwise known as carried interest, and entrepreneurs are being forced to clear hurdles not seen since the 1980s, says Roger Novak, a partner with Novak Biddle Venture Partners in Bethesda, Md. “I think we’re going back to the old days, and better companies are going to be born.”

In other words, venture capitalists are being more discerning about where and with whom they invest. Here are three ways to make sure your business passes the sniff test.

  1. Create the Market
    Much of that time was spent planning and talking with prospects; the founders didn’t want to build a solution before defining the problem, which they believed was big. Advertising affiliate networks were losing revenue each time a customer clicked on a digital ad but completed the transaction by phone. RingRevenue would fill the gap with technology, but only if affiliates could agree on the concept they had in mind.

    “Before we were going to commit all of our time, career, dollars and resources to it, it was important to [know] enough about the customers and their needs that we could feel good that we were getting it right the first time,” Spievak says.

    Each meeting brought changes to the design. But by asking prospective customers for feedback and then building to spec, RingRevenue created its own market. “We wanted to make sure that we understood the formula for growth, that we had satisfied customers and a scalable model,” Spievak says. Investors were impressed. RingRevenue closed a $3.5 million initial round of venture capital funding in June of 2009.

  2. Get a Big Idea
    If there’s a model for the sort of crazy entrepreneurs Bussgang admires, it might be the team at PhoneHalo. The company’s wireless technology plugs into a smartphone, making it a hub for preventing computers, iPads and other networked equipment from getting lost or left behind. But the vision for what it could be is much bigger.

    “Imagine that everything that’s valuable to you in your life is always connected to the network. And imagine down the road if every item in your refrigerator was somehow talking to the network so when you were low on milk, if it goes through PhoneHalo’s infrastructure, it can update a to-do list right as you’re in the grocery store, all on the fly,” says CEO Jacques Habra. Crazy? Sure, but according to Bussgang, the ability to press forth in the face of naysayers is what makes a great entrepreneur.

    PhoneHalo was still shopping for venture capital funding as of this writing. And yet Habra and co-founders Christian Smith and Chris Herbert are confident they’ll eventually find the right VC partner.

    “Since this is our baby, it’s easy to feel rejected and bruised by a no,” Habra says. “In reality, that time with an investor is hugely valuable: If you ask the right questions and apply the feedback to your business unemotionally, you make the company that much more investable and likely to succeed.”

  3. Work Your Network
    Finally, the venture capitalist who doesn’t know you isn’t likely to partner with you. “They see so many referred-in deals that it just doesn’t make sense for them to spend much time on the ones that come in over the transom,” says Spievak.

    He and his team were approached by potential venture capital investors in late 2008, during the height of a global financial meltdown, in part because backers of his earlier venture, publicly traded CallWave, earned back 30 times their investment following a 2004 public offering.”

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Here is some interresting news from Bloomberg.

“Silicon Valley companies looking to put their cash to work may drive a wave of mergers this year, bankers and venture capitalists say.

Companies are eager to make acquisitions because many of them have cut research budgets, says Robert Ackerman, founder and managing director of Allegis Capital in Palo Alto, California. That means they’re not as able to fall back on their own ingenuity to fuel growth. More businesses are relying on acquisitions to find their next new product or service, he says.

“The product cabinet is bare, but the market continues to move forward,” Ackerman said. “Wherever you see innovation sprint ahead, companies will have a product deficit, and will look to fill it.”

Google Inc., based in Mountain View, is currently one of California’s most acquisitive companies, buying at least five businesses in 2010. It agreed to buy Picnik Inc. last month, acquiring online photo-editing tools. Its purchase of DocVerse provided it with software that lets people share documents over the Internet. The value of the deals wasn’t disclosed.

The state’s largest single deal this year was Shiseido Co.’s purchase of San Francisco-based Bare Escentuals Inc. for about $1.7 billion.

California deal-making plummeted after 2007, when more than 2,670 transactions totaled almost $254 billion. So far this year, there have been about 530, worth $16.7 billion. That’s a higher number than in the first three months of 2009, although the value was greater in that year-ago period, at about $30 billion.

McAfee, Tibco

Local acquisition targets include Santa Clara’s McAfee Inc., Tibco Software Inc. in Palo Alto and Cupertino-based ArcSight Inc., according to Brent Thill, an analyst at UBS AG in San Francisco. McAfee and ArcSight both make programs that protect data, which could be more valuable as cyber threats mount. Tibco’s software helps programs of all kinds share information.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. also cited San Francisco’s Salesforce.com Inc. and Palo Alto-based VMware Inc. as possibilities — though those companies aren’t the most likely targets, the firm says. Salesforce.com makes online customer- relationship software, while VMware sells so-called virtualization programs, which help computers run more than one operating system. Representatives from all the targets declined to comment or didn’t respond to messages.

Deal Volume

In Northern California, there were 45 deals involving venture-backed startups during the first three months of 2010, according to the National Venture Capital Association. That was the highest number in any quarter in at least five years.

More than 50 companies in California have at least $1 billion in cash and equivalents, which they could use for acquisitions. They’re led by a Bay area trio: San Francisco’s Wells Fargo & Co., with $68 billion; Cisco Systems Inc. in San Jose, with $39.6 billion; and Cupertino-based Apple Inc., with $24.8 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

“There’s a lot of cash on people’s balance sheets, so I think it’s a great time for startups,” said Kate Mitchell, managing director at Scale Venture Partners in Foster City, California. “They see that the faster, better, cheaper venture- backed companies are still growing, and they’re not spending on R&D, so they can be accretive.”

The value of deals in California topped out at $378.1 billion in 2000 during the Internet bubble, when there were more than 2,200 transactions. It took five years for the number of deals to surpass that earlier peak, and the dollar amount has never come close to recapturing the dot-com era’s glory.

Internet Bust

While the latest recession was the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, it actually wasn’t as devastating to California deal-making as the dot-com collapse. After having easy access to venture money and initial public offerings in the late-1990s and 2000, money dried up. The M&A industry hit bottom in 2002, when just 1,505 transactions accounted for $95.3 billion.

The deals crept back up over the next four years, peaking again in 2006 and early 2007. There were 665 in the first quarter of 2007, valued at $59.8 billion. That’s more than three times the number reported last quarter.

Tor Braham, head of technology mergers and acquisitions for Deutsche Bank AG in San Francisco, says mergers are ready to surge again for two reasons.

Pressure’s On?

“Private-equity funds have raised a lot of money before the financial crisis and there’s pressure on them to spend it before those commitments expire,” he said. Also: “Sellers want to get their deals done this year, before the expected increase in capital gains tax rate.”

Private-equity firms raised $538 billion in 2006 and $587 billion in 2007, just before the recession, according to the Private Equity Council in Washington. Capital-gains taxes, meanwhile, could rise above 20 percent for people earning more than $250,000 under budget proposals before Congress.

In the first quarter, Deutsche Bank advised Techwell Inc. in its $370 million takeover by Intersil Corp. The bank also worked with Nimsoft Inc. in its $350 million acquisition by CA Inc., and Francisco Partners on its sale of Numonyx BV to Micron Technology Inc. for about $1.3 billion.”

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Sure the economy is coming back from the slump, but this article from InternetNews brings some hard reality checks.

“Total venture capital spending increased 17 percent in the third quarter to more than $4.8 billion, but investments in privately held software companies fell to its lowest level since 1996.

Thanks mainly to its relatively low initial startup costs and its home run potential in the equities market, the software sector for years has either ranked first or second in total VC spending.

But it fell to No. 3 among investment sectors last quarter, according to the latest MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and the National Venture Capital Association.”

Biotech firms, which checked in with the most total dollars garnered in the quarter at $905 million, closed 104 deals in the quarter. In the second quarter, biotech upstarts received a total of $947 million—a 4 percent decrease—but the total number of financing rounds closed surged up 16 percent from 90 deals.

Clean technology, which includes companies focused on alternative energy, pollution, recycling and power supplies and conservation was next with $898 million in VC investments, up an impressive 89 percent from the prior quarter.

Software firms did close the most deals in the quarter (128 rounds) but fell to third place in overall investments at $622 million, down 9 percent in both dollars and deal volume from the $680 million and 141 deals closed in the second quarter.

“The third quarter illustrates a gradual and deliberate industry shift towards a longer term venture capital investment strategy,” said Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association. “Venture capitalists are becoming increasingly focused on industry sectors which require multiple rounds of financing for an extended time horizon.”

Software’s loss was a boon for the biotech, medical devices and clean technology sectors.”

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Here is a thought provoking article from PiOnline.

“Proposed registration, reporting and disclosure laws for alternatives managers — likely to be passed by Congress before year end — could force a swath of smaller managers to close and could have a devastating impact on hedge funds of funds, sources say.

Hedge fund, private equity and venture capital managers and their lobbyists want to strike a deal with legislators to lessen the administrative burden of reporting all investment and trading positions, trading practices, assets and on- and off-balance sheet risks, as is now proposed by the Treasury Department.

“The proposal’s required administrative tasks would be very burdensome for venture capital firms, which tend to be small companies. The chief financial officers in these firms already tend to be very stretched with the existing job of running the firm. I think this proposal … could drive many smaller venture capital firms out of business,” said Emily Mendell, a spokeswoman for the National Venture Capital Association, Washington.

“Smaller hedge fund, private equity and venture capital managers will be disproportionately impacted by the reporting regulations,” agreed Daniel Celeghin, director, Casey Quirk & Associates LLC, Darien, Conn.

“The real panic I’m hearing is from hedge funds of funds, whose executives say the reporting requirements will be a huge problem because they don’t get this level of detail from their underlying managers in order to be able to pass it on to the SEC. They’ve said `What’s coming could sink us,’ ” Mr. Celeghin said.

The new investment manager requirements are part of the Obama administration’s financial reform package first floated in June and designed to increase oversight of systemic risk and to control it.”

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Here is an excellent Bloomberg article by way of statesman.com.

“SAN FRANCISCO — Acquisitions of startups fell to the lowest level in a decade in the second quarter as the recession stopped companies from buying smaller competitors.

A total of 59 startups merged with other companies, a drop of 30 percent from a year earlier and dropping to the lowest level since 1999, the National Venture Capital Association said. Five U.S. startups have had initial public offerings so far this year. In 2007, before the financial crisis, there were 86.

Acquisitions and IPOs — the two ways for venture capitalists to cash in their investments — have almost come to a standstill, NVCA President Mark Heesen said. With the IPO market struggling, larger technology companies — confident that prices will fall — are waiting before proposing takeovers, he said.

“The buyers on the merger and acquisition side got smart real fast,” Heesen said. “They wait for companies to come crying to them to get bought.”

No venture-backed companies went public between September and March — the longest slump since the association began collecting data in 1971. Only 11 startups have had IPOs since the end of 2007, and there is little immediate prospect for improvement, said Paul Bard, an analyst at Renaissance Capital.

Only 10 startups have filed pre-IPO paperwork with U.S. regulators, and none has done so since January, said Emily Mendell, an NVCA vice president. That signals that deals such as the May IPOs of Austin-based SolarWinds Inc. and online restaurant-reservation service OpenTable Inc. failed to spur other young companies to act.

It also means the market won’t revive in the next few months, Bard said.

“Unless filing activity spikes in the next two to three weeks, we’re unlikely to see a more sustainable pickup in VC-backed IPOs before Labor Day,” Bard said. “The bar will remain high for most VC-backed deals to get done.”

Even if the 10 biggest venture capitalists had 25 companies ready to go public by early next year, that would still leave IPOs at about a third of their levels from 2004 to 2007, he said.

That means startups lack bargaining power in merger talks, a situation that is keeping offers low and stalling many negotiations that do occur, Heesen said.

Only 13 of the 59 companies that sold out reported how much they were paid, the association said. Prices were higher than in the first quarter, a possible sign of improving conditions later this year, it said.

Cisco Systems Inc.’s $590 million deal to buy Pure Digital Technologies Inc., maker of the Flip Video camera, helped drive up the average merger price to $197.7 million.

Five companies commanded less than venture capitalists had invested, the venture capital association said. Purchases of medical-instrument makers CoreValve Inc. and Chestnut Medical Technologies Inc. were the only ones in which early backers received 10 times their outlay, the traditional standard for a venture-capitalist home run, Mendell said.”

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Venture capital investment was down slightly in the third quarter, according to the MoneyTree Report released Saturday from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. Venture capitalists put $7.7 billion into 1,033 deals, a decrease of 7 percent from the second quarter.

The third quarter of the year is generally slower for venture investing, and the analysts who produced the report said that the economic crisis is not yet affecting venture numbers. In future quarters, though, the industry will probably see a dip in investing, said Tracy T. Lefteroff, global managing partner of the venture capital practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

For now, “the venture industry is very much open for business,” said John S. Taylor, vice president of research at the National Venture Capital Association.

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