Overall, startup investors put far less money to work in 2023 compared to the prior two years. They also did far fewer deals.
However, some investors slowed down much less drastically than others. The result is that these firms, which include prominent cross-stage investors such as Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Lightspeed Venture Partners and Bpifrance, reigned as the most-active venture investors of 2023, per Crunchbase data.
To illustrate how the rankings have changed, we charted the most-active post-seed investors of 2023 by total deal count below.
As you can see, the overwhelming majority of active investors slowed their dealmaking in 2023. This is true even for a16z. While the firm made 77 disclosed post-seed investments last year — more than anyone else — it’s actually 43% fewer deals than in 2022.
Highest-spending and most-active lead investors
Of course, the firms that back the most deals aren’t always the ones spending the most money. Instead, it is those who lead or co-lead the largest rounds who walk away with the title of spendiest investor.1
Who made the top of the list? Below, we ranked investors who led or co-led rounds with the largest total capital committed, based on Crunchbase data.
By this metric, Microsoft edged out Andreessen for the top slot, thanks primarily to the software giant’s $10 billion January investment in OpenAI. In addition, Microsoft co-led a $1.3 billion June financing for chatbot startup Inflection AI.
Andreessen, in our No. 2 slot, didn’t put nearly as much capital to work. The venture firm’s largest 2023 round was a $6.5 billion late-stage financing for Stripe co-led by a group of 10 investors. A16z’s second-biggest lead round was a $420 million Series A in December for French generative AI startup Mistral AI.
Meanwhile, in the ranking for most-active post-seed lead investor, a16z regained its first place spot. In 2023, the firm led or co-led 33 rounds. Lightspeed came in second place, with 31 such rounds, followed by Insight Partners, with 23.
For a fuller ranking, we list the most-active lead investors by round count below:
Most-active seed investors
When it comes to backing a lot of startups, no one comes close to rivaling seed investors. The most active do hundreds of deals in a typical year. And while 2023 was a comparatively slow year, well-known names in seed still kept busy.
For a broader picture, below we rank the top seed investors by round count, comparing 2023 totals to the prior year.
As you can see, nearly all the most-active backers did fewer deals in 2023 than in 2022. That’s not surprising given that global seed funding fell in 2023 as part of a broader pullback.
The big picture
Overall, the rankings of most-active investors paint a picture that’s quite reflective of the global startup financing landscape for 2023. Most of the usual busiest investors continued to back a lot of companies, but did fewer deals and put less capital to work than they did in the boom cycle that peaked in late 2021.
Founders on the fundraising trail, of course, are hoping for a more bullish investment environment this year, with both bigger checks and more of them. Though whether that will come to fruition remains uncertain, one thing is clear: It will be a lot easier to produce positive year-over-year comps in 2024, given the lackluster investment pace of the year that just ended.
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Illustration: Dom Guzman
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Lead investor rankings don’t precisely reveal who put the most money to work in a given period. This is because most of the largest rounds have multiple backers, and a single investor rarely discloses their stake in the deal. That said, lead investors typically do take a large stake in the round, usually at least a double-digit percentage. And if they are the sole investor, of course, they are putting in 100% of the capital.↩
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