Artificial intelligence Fintech & e-commerce Seed funding Web3

For Seed Startups, A Time Of Extended Adolescence And Extra-Large Financings

Bird with coin - Seed funding.

For some rites of passage — such as learning to drive or casting a vote — the age when one may begin is clear.

For other stops on the path from youth to adulthood — like no longer ordering off the kids’ menu or trick-or-treating on Halloween — the delineation is fuzzier. One stops when it feels right.

Among startups, maturing out of seed-stage looks much the same. Securing a Series A round marks the closest thing to an official graduation from seed to early stage. But some startups take much more time to get there than others, if they make it at all.

These days, startups can remain at seed-stage for quite a long time. They can also score pretty good-sized financings well before getting to Series A.

The $5M+ seed round goes mainstream

In particular, we’ve seen increasing normalization of seed rounds of $5 million or more in recent years. Last year, for instance, Crunchbase identified more than 1,500 angel, seed or pre-seed financings that met or exceeded this level.

While overall global venture investment has contracted sharply since the 2021 peak, large seed rounds haven’t followed the same pattern. To illustrate, we charted total rounds and investment for this category across the past 10 calendar years.

As you can see, there were fewer jumbo-sized seed rounds last year than in 2022. However, it’s also notable that the 2023 total was only slightly lower than 2021. This is striking because most categories — late stage and pre-IPO in particular — have fallen quite sharply since the market peak roughly two years ago.

Supergiant seed rounds

The comparative resilience of seed is in part due to really, really big rounds at this stage. Financings in the tens of millions of dollars aren’t all that uncommon, and even deals over $100 million do get done.

Probably the poster child for the unbelievably huge seed round is Yuga Labs, the NFT collectibles startup known for its Bored Ape Yacht Club collection. The Florida company landed a staggering $450 million seed round in March 2022.

In the past six months, we’ve also seen some super-sized seed financings including:

  • Elon Musk’s Austin, Texas-based xAI scooped up $135 million in December to build Grok, an AI designed to answer questions based on real-time knowledge of the world;
  • Poolside, an AI platform for software development, raised $126 million in seed financing last year; and
  • Black Ore Technologies, an AI-driven tax prep platform for accountants, secured $60  million in a seed round co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and Oak HC/FT.

As Crunchbase News’ Gene Teare reported earlier this year, seed funding to startups has grown into its own asset class over the past decade, with round sizes trending larger, and a bigger pool of investors backing these nascent startups.

The U.S. has been particularly active for big seed financings, which has driven growth of the asset class. In 2014 less than $5 billion was invested at seed. At the market peak in 2022, seed investment was more than $16 billion, although it fell to $11.5 billion in 2023.

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Illustration: Dom Guzman


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