For the past two months, global venture funding has leveled off above the $20 billion mark, as investors continue to pare back their funding pace.
Global funding almost reached $22 billion in May 2023, up a bit month over month and significantly down, around 44%, compared to May 2022, Crunchbase data shows.
The funding setback has impacted all three funding stages — seed, early- and late-stage venture — with each stage down between 41% and 48% in a year-over-year comparison. And despite large funding rounds for AI startups in May, investor interest in the technology wasn’t strong enough to change the overall picture.
For new unicorns in May we count 10 companies — double the count in April, but much lower than the 34 new unicorns that joined the board in May 2022. This is the first month since November 2022 for new unicorns to reach low double digits.
This scaled-back funding environment shows a massive decline from 2021 and the first half of 2022. Current monthly funding is in line with amounts seen in the years 2018 to 2020 — which were up from prior years.
However, billion-dollar fundings are still taking place in 2023. The largest funding this past month went to Singapore-headquartered fast-fashion retailer Shein, albeit at a lowered valuation. The company raised $2 billion at a valuation of $66 billion, slashing a third of its value from its 2021 funding when it was valued at $100 billion. It reported $22.7 billion in revenue in 2022 and remained the fourth most highly valued private company on The Crunchbase Unicorn Board with ByteDance, owner of TikTok, the most highly valued private company.
One ameliorating trend is investments into AI companies. Out of 38 new unicorns in 2023, AI companies represent eight new unicorns, including two from this past month. Toronto-based Cohere is a ChatGPT competitor, building large language models that companies can integrate to build products. Runway is a New York-based generative AI video automation platform.
However, the interest in funding AI companies is not enough to shift the overall macro funding climate. Around 13% of total funding in May went to companies tagged with AI.
The leading AI chip provider, Nvidia, tipped close to the trillion-dollar value mark for the first time in May 2023, more than 20 years after it went public at $676 million in 1999.
So, are we in a bubble or downturn? This question was posed by Crunchbase News reporter Joanna Glasner. The 2000 dot-com bust wiped out the asset class, and it took 15 years for Nasdaq to recover from the bubble. After the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the value of tech stocks powered back within two years from the downturn.
In 2021, tech stocks spiked up sharply, a pandemic-driven increase with cloud services leading the way, and many tech companies saw unprecedented growth and garnered large valuations.
The following year, of course, saw a dramatic pullback in funding to tech startups. But despite the recent Nasdaq upswing, May funding numbers indicate that the reset is looking more protracted as investors proceed with caution.
Funding rounds included in this report are seed, angel, venture, corporate-venture and private-equity rounds in venture-backed companies. This reflects data in Crunchbase as of June 5, 2023.
Note that data lags are most pronounced at the earliest stages of venture activity, with seed funding amounts increasing significantly after the end of a quarter.
Please note that all funding values are given in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted. Crunchbase converts foreign currencies to U.S. dollars at the prevailing spot rate from the date funding rounds, acquisitions, IPOs and other financial events are reported. Even if those events were added to Crunchbase long after the event was announced, foreign currency transactions are converted at the historic spot price.
Glossary of funding terms
We have made a change to how we include corporate funding rounds in our reporting as of January 2023. Corporate rounds are only included if a company has raised an equity funding at seed through a venture series funding round.
Seed and angel consists of seed, pre-seed and angel rounds. Crunchbase also includes venture rounds of unknown series, equity crowdfunding and convertible notes at $3 million (USD or as-converted USD equivalent) or less.
Early-stage consists of Series A and Series B rounds, as well as other round types. Crunchbase includes venture rounds of unknown series, corporate venture and other rounds above $3 million, and those less than or equal to $15 million.
Late-stage consists of Series C, Series D, Series E and later-lettered venture rounds following the “Series [Letter]” naming convention. Also included are venture rounds of unknown series, corporate venture and other rounds above $15 million.
Technology growth is a private-equity round raised by a company that has previously raised a “venture” round. (So basically, any round from the previously defined stages.)
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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