Artificial intelligence Economy Fintech & e-commerce Layoffs Seed funding Startups Transportation & Logistics Venture

Our 10 Most-Read Stories Of 2023, From Charting The VC Downturn To Layoffs To Some Very Large AI Deals

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For the startup world, 2023 was an action-packed year, particularly in the first half when AI adoption exploded following ChatGPT’s launch, the biggest bank to startups failed, and layoffs piled up even as venture funding toppled.

Perhaps not surprisingly, readers flocked to our coverage of these topics, particularly when we could apply our unique data lens to make sense of the biggest stories affecting tech and private companies.

With that, let’s take a look at 10 of Crunchbase News’ most-read stories of 2023.

1. The Crunchbase Tech Layoffs Tracker: Our comprehensive tally of U.S. tech sector layoffs was by far our most-read feature of the year. With 2023 heading toward the 200,000-layoff mark, it’s no surprise that readers wanted to see which companies were cutting headcount. While Big Tech companies including Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Meta have led with the largest cuts, a steady drip of layoffs from startups has kept the tally climbing all year. Some of the layoffs were also whole-company cuts — in other words, a startup essentially shutting down. Here’s hoping 2024 starts to offer some reprieve for the tech workforce.

2. The Crunchbase Unicorn Board: Next up is another Crunchbase tracker, this time our list of unicorn startups, or those private companies with valuations of $1 billion or more. Of course, it’s been a challenging year for a lot of unicorns, too. Many of the companies that populate the board landed there in 2021, when venture investors minted new unicorns by the hundreds — often with valuations that would definitely not hold up in the current business environment. In fact, we’ve since seen some of the highest-profile unicorns lose that status either in down rounds or other events that force a recalculation of their valuations. Case in point: Instacart, the grocery delivery app, landed a lofty $39 billion valuation in 2021, at the height of the funding boom. It went public this September at a valuation of less than $10 billion, and now trades with a market cap of around $7 billion.

3. Global VC Funding Falls Dramatically Across All Stages In Rocky Q1: Our first-quarter global venture funding report didn’t bring readers the good news they may have been craving. Despite a $10 billion deal to OpenAI and $6.5 billion to fintech giant Stripe — still the two largest startup funding deals of the year, by far — global startup funding in Q1 fell 53% year over year. Things didn’t improve much in Q2 or Q3.

4. Silicon Valley Bank Collapse Leaves Tech Industry Scrambling For Answers: Also in Q1, the sudden and unexpected collapse of Silicon Valley Bank — for decades, the dominant bank for U.S. startups — delivered a massive shock to the venture-backed tech world. Startups scrambled to make payroll, pay vendors and find a new place to stash their cash. Ultimately, however, the SVB failure — the third-largest bank collapse in U.S. history — seems to have had few long-term effects on the startup world, with the possible exception of venture debt. But startups — and their investors —have likely become much more cautious about diversifying where they bank.

5. The VC Downturn In 6 Charts: Sometimes pictures tell the whole story. In six charts, we chronicled the venture downturn, which has hit every major startup region in the world, from North America to Europe to Asia — even Latin America, which was the fastest-growing area for VC investment in 2021. As we showed, the venture pullback also shook up the investor ranks once again, with Silicon Valley firms including Andreessen Horowitz and General Catalyst reclaiming their spots as the most active investors in startups while the likes of SoftBank and Tiger Global, which had dominated the funding landscape in the 2021 go-go days, faded from the rankings.

6. What’s Happening With Seed And Series A Funding, In 4 Charts: When venture funding started to turn south after 2021, seed and early-stage funding was at first relatively unscathed. (Investment into seed startups globally actually grew in Q2 2022, even as venture investment overall dropped off dramatically.) But as we showed in this series of charts, that had changed by Q1 of this year, when seed and angel investment to U.S. startups fell 45% year over year and Series A funding more than halved.

7. The Crunchbase Megadeals Board: Venture funding overall fell, but that doesn’t mean some truly massive deals weren’t still there to be had — especially if you were an AI company. Our Megadeals Board tracks all of the $100 million-plus funding deals to U.S. startups. No. 1 on the list probably isn’t too hard to guess (if you can’t, maybe ask ChatGPT to give you a clue.)

8. How To Use AI To Brainstorm A Billion-Dollar Business Idea: Speaking of billions and AI, this guest piece by business and design strategist Dan Kraemer discussed how to use AI tools to help you generate big business ideas. It’s not too hard to see why the article was a reader favorite.

9. Embark Goes From $5B Valuation To Kaput In 16 Months: Not every billion-dollar idea works out in the long-run, of course. Take the case of autonomous trucking startup Embark Trucks, which raised more than $317 million from venture investors since its founding in 2016, and went public through a SPAC merger in 2021 at a target initial market cap of more than $5 billion. Things went south quickly from there, though: Sixteen months later, the company announced it was winding down operations.

10. Global Funding Slide In 2022 Sets Stage For Another Tough Year: A year ago, we reported that venture funding in 2022 had fallen 35% to $445 billion and predicted that 2023 would be another difficult one for startups seeking capital. We weren’t wrong, unfortunately. Here’s to hoping that even if things don’t come roaring back in 2024, funding at least becomes a little easier, and layoffs and company shutdowns a little less frequent.

Related reading:

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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