When crashes happen, inevitably the startup space gets hit, too. Funding slows, the IPO window closes and investors say no to bankrolling huge losses in the name of growth.
Now that stocks are officially in bear market territory, and measures to curb coronavirus have turned the biggest tech hubs into work-from-home zones, we decided to check in to see if the downturn has yet impacted startup funding totals.
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The broad finding: Not quite yet. A Crunchbase global analysis of sizable venture funding rounds ($10 million and up) shows that reported totals are down about 11 percent in 2020 compared to the same period last year.
Overall, investors have put $41.1 billion to work in reported rounds of $10 million and up through March 17 of this year, compared to $46.2 billion in the same period in 2019. Although it looks like a moderate decline, it’s actually too early to tell, given that a sizable percentage of financings actually get reported weeks or months after the date they close.
This year’s totals have been boosted by supergiant financings for a handful of companies, with a lot of the money going toward transportation. That includes Alphabet-incubated autonomous transportation startup Waymo ($2.25 billion venture round), ride-hailing rivals Gojek and Grab ($1.2 billion and $856 million, respectively) and electric aircraft developer Joby Aviation ($590 million).
Major funding recipients in sectors other than transport, meanwhile, include plant-based meat producer Impossible Foods ($500 million), banking upstart Revolut ($500 million) and data warehousing provider Snowflake ($479 million).
Why are big deals happening in the current environment? Partly, it’s because big, complicated private financing rounds typically take weeks or months to close.
Thus, it’s not entirely surprising to see some of the largest private investments getting announced over the same period that major stock indexes are posting their largest declines in years. A deal put together in a more bullish climate might be made public in a more bearish one.
Earlier indications of funding cutbacks may be more easily seen for smaller rounds at early and seed stage, when sought-after deals come together more quickly. However, this is difficult for us to track here at Crunchbase because reporting delays are also most frequent at these earliest stages. So, it’s hard to determine whether a drop in funding is due to delayed reporting or fewer checks being written.
Historically, however, startup funding has trended sharply lower in recessionary times, including after the implosion of the dot-com bubble in 2001 and the financial crisis of 2008-9.
If past cycles are any guide, we can expect a sharp startup funding slowdown in coming months. We’ll keep monitoring the funding totals for indications of that coming to pass.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.