Up, Up, and Away. That’s the title of a sixties hit about hot air balloons. But it could just as easily apply to North American venture funding data for the just-ended quarter.
A Crunchbase tally of projected investment totals and round counts for Q2 of 2018 shows both achieving their most buoyant levels in years.
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Everything was up, from seed-stage deals to growth rounds. Exits were up, too, including both the biggest venture-backed M&A deal in years and a long lineup of IPOs. U.S. venture capital firms also hauled in some of the biggest new funds ever, providing a plentiful supply of cash for future deals.
Below, we break down the numbers in greater detail, focusing on Q2 investment and round totals, stage-by-stage performance, largest rounds, and biggest exits.
Investors put $33.1 billion to work across all stages for U.S. and Canadian startups over the course of the just-ended quarter. That’s an increase of 16 percent from Q1 of 2018 and a whopping 43 percent increase from Q2 of 2017.
These appear to be the highest numbers since the 2008 financial crisis, according to Crunchbase records. It’s likely that these are also the largest tallies since the dot-com bubble, though our records do not go back far enough to definitively validate this.
In the chart below, we look at how the numbers compare over the last five quarters for seed-stage through technology growth investment:
Now let’s turn to round counts. Those look to be up in the just-ended quarter, but not nearly as much as investment totals.
Crunchbase projects that investors backed 3,017 funding rounds across all stages in Q2 of this year. That’s up 6 percent from Q1 and up 3 percent from Q2 of 2017.
In the chart below, we look at round counts compare over the past five quarters:
As seen above, the number of startup funding deals across all stages was above or roughly on par with the prior quarter.
Early-stage round counts were also up nearly a fifth from the prior quarter, although still a bit below year-ago levels.
With investors putting a lot more money to work across slightly more deals, average round sizes ballooned. Across all stages, the average size of reported rounds rose by 30 percent or more from year-ago levels.
Late Stage and Growth Stage
Late-stage and technology growth rounds showed the sharpest gains in total investment as venture backers put even more money into already well-capitalized startups.
Of all stages, the volatile technology growth category was up the most. For Q2, investors put $3.12 billion to work in tech-growth deals, up from $1.23 billion in Q1. Round counts also surged, with 36 deals in Q2, up 33 percent from Q1.
It should be noted that tech growth is the category with the fewest and biggest rounds, so it’s common to see wide quarterly variance. That said, there were a high number of big rounds, with large funding recipients including nuptial planning site WeddingWire, home products maker The Honest Company, and online petcare network Rover.
Late-stage dealmaking, a much bigger category than tech category, also rose sharply. Investment at this stage was up more than 50 percent from year-ago levels, driven by a handful of supergiant rounds.
In the chart below, we look at late-stage funding over the past five quarters. Investment totals show a pattern of steady gains:
Where did all the money go? Lyft scored the largest late-stage round of the quarter, securing $600 million in late June.
A big chunk also went to scooter startups, which haven’t been around long but still managed drive up funding totals. Bird, founded just last year, swooped away with $300 million in Series C funding to expand its scooter network. Meanwhile rival Lime waited till just after the quarter’s end to raise its $335 million Series C, after raising a $70 million B round in February.
In the chart below, we lay out the largest late-stage rounds of the quarter:
Early-stage companies (Series A and B) also soaked up more capital. Crunchbase projects that investors poured $10.65 billion into early-stage rounds in Q2 of 2018. That’s just a bit above Q1 and the highest total in the past five quarters.
In the chart below, we provide more specifics about round counts and investment totals for the past five quarters:
The median early stage round in just-ended quarter was around $8 million. However, there were some really enormous deals in the mix, dominated by biotech but also encompassing a broad range of other sectors.
Below, we look at the five largest Series A and B rounds.
It should be noted that big early-stage rounds often go to companies with comparatively mature technologies. For instance, Allogene Therapeutics, the largest Series A recipient, is working on to advance cancer immunology work that originated at Pfizer. Automation Anywhere, the second-largest Series A, has been around for close to 15 years, but it hadn’t previously raised a venture round.
A few quarters ago, we were writing a lot of stories about a marked pullback in seed-stage activity and what it could portend for the broader startup ecosystem.
Looking at the latest Q2 numbers, it seems fair to say we are no longer seeing a slowdown. True, seed investment is not up as much from year-ago levels as late stage. However, it is nonetheless on the rise.
Crunchbase projects that investors put about $1.42 billion in seed-stage deals in Q2 of 2018, a smidge above from the prior quarter and up about 15 percent from year-ago levels. We break down round counts and investment totals for the past five quarter in the chart below.
By this point, we’ve made it clear that investors spent lots of money backing new startups this past quarter. But did they also manage to generate returns from the old startups in their portfolios?
It’s hard to answer definitively. Acquisition prices are often undisclosed and newly public shares can be quite volatile. Based on the information we do have, it’s reasonable to conclude that Q2 was a very good quarter for exits, including both M&A deals and IPOs.
First, let’s talk about IPOs. There were a lot of them—including at least 27 venture-backed companies based in the U.S. Of those, 16 were in the pharma or healthcare space, while the other 11 could be loosely categorized as tech.
There were some big offerings in the mix. After 15 years as a private company, e-signature pioneer DocuSign finally went public this spring, securing a recent valuation of over $8 billion. Pluralsight, another older startup that provides training software, went public and is now valued over $3 billion. And GreenSky, a provider of fast loans, went public in May and is now valued at over $4 billion.
M&A numbers were pretty big, too, thanks in large to part to Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of GitHub in June. That deal alone was the largest purchase of a private, venture-backed company in years. Yet it also came amid a broader upward trend for U.S. and Canadian venture-backed M&A.
So far this year, acquirers have spent just over $22 billion in disclosed-price purchases of U.S. and Canadian VC-funded companies, according to Crunchbase data. In the chart below, we look at the largest disclosed-price acquisitions for Q2:
Can We Go Higher?
So is this the top? We can’t answer that, of course. But having crunched data for a few market cycles, we can say that present conditions sure share a lot more in common with a cyclical peak than a trough.
It’s not just North America, either. In his overview of the high-flying global Q2 venture funding numbers, Crunchbase’s Jason Rowley also observed that current investment levels are “not normal.”
And it could stay not normal for a while longer, given the huge reserves North American venture capital firms have been stockpiling. So far this year, at least a half-dozen U.S.-headquartered firms have closed or initiated fundraising for new funds of a billion dollars or more. Sequoia Capital alone has closed on $6 billion out of what could end up as an $8 billion global growth fund.
So yes, things could inflate further. That said, nothing goes up forever.
Glossary of Funding Terms
- Seed/Angel include financings that are classified as a seed or angel, including accelerator fundings and equity crowdfunding below $5 million.
- Early-stage venture include financings that are classified as a Series A or B, venture rounds without a designated series that are below $15M, and equity crowdfunding above $5 million.
- Late-stage venture include financings that are classified as a Series C+ and venture rounds greater than $15M.
- Technology Growth include private equity investments with participation from venture investors.