Molekule And Others Are Exiting For Less Than The Cash They Raised

Illustration of an Exit sign next to a pile of coins.

The valuation peak has passed, but the dealmaking continues.

That’s the recurrent theme lately for acquirers of venture-backed companies. They’re still buying but are commonly paying less than the amounts prior investors put into the acquired companies.

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Now, this would be nothing new if the startups getting sold were already winding down or close to it. However, what’s interesting lately is that a funded company still chugging along can also be a cheap acquisition or merger target.

Molekule meets AeroClean

For an example, look no further than Molekule, the air purifier upstart that this week closed a merger with AeroClean Technologies, a publicly traded, South Florida-based air hygiene company with a recent market capitalization around $50 million.

Under terms of the stock-based deal, AeroClean shareholders own 50.5% of the combined company, while existing Molekule stakeholders have the remaining 49.5%. The combined company has been renamed Molekule, and will soon begin trading under the ticker symbol MKUL.

The merger looks like an efficient way to raise the public profile of Molekule, which sells room air filters for about $400 and up at Amazon, Walmart, and other major retailers. But it’s hard to imagine venture backers of the nine-year-old company, which previously raised over $118 million in funding, are excited about the valuation.

At the combined company’s current value, prior Molekule investors’ stake looks to be worth around $25 million. That, of course, is far less than what they put in.

On the bright side, there is potential for future gains, should Molecule’s stock perform well. That’s not a given in the typical low-priced startup M&A deal, where investors get their share of the up-front price and no more.

Other acquisition activity

In case you’re wondering, it looks like a lot of startups are getting acquired lately at prices well below what their venture investors put into them. Using Crunchbase data, we aggregated eight examples of deals announced in the past six months in which the disclosed acquisition price is lower than the total venture funding:

The actual number of low-priced acquisitions of venture-backed companies, however, is much greater but difficult to quantify given that a majority of M&A deals do not have disclosed prices.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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