Economy Startups Venture

It’s Taking Longer For Startups To Raise From Series A To Series B

Founder at bus stop waiting for Series B. - Edited to Series B by Judy Rider

Startups that raise Series A rounds typically have only a short break before they’re fundraising again.

Among U.S. companies that go on to close Series B funding, the median is just under two years to do so, according to a Crunchbase analysis from 2012 to today. For the speediest quartile, the median is under 18 months.

But as venture funding contracts, the lag time between rounds is getting longer. Startups across sectors are taking steps to cut costs and extend runways. The steep rise in average round size in 2020 and 2021 also means many companies that raised then have plenty of cash to help push off the next fundraise.

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We’re already seeing evidence of delays this year, with the average time lapse between Series A and Series B hitting 31 months — the longest span in at least 12 years. To illustrate, we charted out median and average fundraising time spans since 2012 below:

So how long can you delay?

Extended delays are no surprise. Under current market conditions, there are multiple arguments in favor of putting off one’s next fundraise. For one, valuations have contracted in many sectors, so waiting longer before seeking new investment allows some time for them to potentially recover.

Secondly, venture investors have gotten stingier lately about writing checks, save for a few hot spaces like generative AI. Holding out for a window when the mood is more upbeat and the odds of rejection are lower seems sensible.

Still, startups can only delay fundraising for so long. Among the slowest quartile of startups, it took an average of 34.5 months to go from Series A to Series B over the past 12 calendar years. It’s uncommon to see a gap of four years or more between rounds.

Hot startups, meanwhile, often go from Series A to Series B pretty quickly. One recent case is artificial intelligence upstart Anthropic, which took less than a year before closing its 2022 Series B round. More distant past examples include scooter provider Bird (four months from Series A to Series B), homebuying platform Opendoor (eight months), and grocery service Instacart (14 months).

Will it be different this time around?

It wouldn’t be surprising if in the next few years we see startups pushing up time spans for raising the next round.

Delays are already evident for the slowest fundraisers in 2023. Crunchbase data shows the slowest quartile of startups this year took a median 38 months to go from Series A to Series B. That’s the longest in our 12-year survey period.

We also shouldn’t forget that U.S. startup funding reached a record high nearly two years ago. Per Crunchbase data, Series A investment has fallen for five consecutive quarters since peaking in late 2021.

Coming down from those heights, startup investors’ preferences have changed. They’re shying away from high-cash-burn, high-growth models and are more accepting of slower growth paired with smaller losses.

Sooner or later, however, Series A companies will have to do one of five things: Get acquired, go public, become self-sustaining, raise more financing, or shutter. If enough years pass with none of the first four options happening, it becomes increasingly likely the startup will not make it.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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