Funding deals with huge dollar signs attached to them have increased in venture over the past decade, fueling the unicorn startup phenomenon. This year, even as many of those startups funded with supergiant investments finally head to the public markets, many others have continued to draw VC rounds of $100 million or more.
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The trend of supergiant fundings has been driven by very large institutional investors targeting private companies for investment. The SoftBank Vision Fund is an extreme version of this trend, but other global investors doubling down include Tiger Global Management, Temasek Holdings, DST Global, Alibaba Group, General Atlantic, Insight Partners, Warburg Pincus and T. Rowe Price.
Let’s dive into the numbers. As of mid-November 2020, 539 supergiant rounds have been raised, according to Crunchbase data. That represents nearly $142 billion in reported venture-capital dollar volume and 55 percent of overall dollars invested.
The dollar figure for this year is already above that of 2019, when it was $140 billion, but down from 2018, when Crunchbase recorded $180 billion in supergiant rounds.[Footnote]For this analysis we include seed through venture funding as well as private equity to venture-backed companies. These numbers can shift as funding is added to Crunchbase over time.[/footnote]
Over the past decade, it has been more attractive for many startups to raise funding in the private rather than public markets, which has delayed liquidity for private companies and created the unicorn phenomenon.
From the chart below it is clear that some dollars might have shifted from rounds below $100 million, but in large part this growth has been funded by new investors previously focused on the public markets and M&A, and venture firms raising ever larger funds and multiple funds to participate.
Supergiants catch up
This is the second year in the last decade when rounds above $100 million have dominated. Despite this growth in supergiant rounds, for the decade overall, venture funding has been led by rounds below $100 million. That lead started to narrow in 2014 and flipped in 2018, when 54 percent of funding rounds were at or above $100 million.
From 2017 onwards, rounds above $100 million have fluctuated between 48 percent and 55 percent of global funding dollars to early- and late-stage startups.
Regional and global comparison
Globally, this increase in supergiant rounds started to pick up in 2014. But when viewed by region, the trends diverge.
North America and Europe pulled back in 2016. From 2017 onwards, however, North America and Europe deal count increased year over year, with 2020 surpassing prior years. Asia—dominated by China—continued to grow substantially in round counts, peaking in 2018.
From the chart below we can see that the North American market, namely the U.S., monopolized funding amounts in 2010 but not so much in 2020.
Larger rounds have dominated the Asian market since 2015. In North America, this is a more recent phenomenon, with 2020 at 50 percent to rounds above $100 million for the first time. In Europe rounds below $100 million still lead the funding landscape.
Leading supergiant rounds, technology takes center stage
Reliance Jio, the telecommunications company from India, raised the most in 2020. It raised $20 billion this year in multiple rounds above $100 million, from both Google and Facebook, and a slew of alternative investors.
The second-largest amount raised this year went to tutoring platform Yuanfudao, headquartered in China. It raised $3.2 billion over several rounds and was valued at $15.5 billion in October 2020.
Self-driving technology company Waymo, launched out of Google labs in Silicon Valley, raised $3 billion over two rounds this year. And electric vehicle company Rivian, based in Minnesota, raised $2.5 billion, and China-headquartered real estate platform Ke.com raised $2.4 billion.
As we see by the companies that garnered the year’s largest supergiant rounds, technology has proven to be an essential counter to the pandemic. The role we assign to technology in our daily lives has expanded and will go further in the decade ahead.
This growth in adoption has driven the strong performance of technology stocks in the public markets in 2020 and could serve to increase this trend, or mitigate it with more companies opting to go public earlier. With the rise of SPACs, this dynamic for raising large funds from the private sector could be dented somewhat.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
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