Unicorns Dominate Venture Capital Investments, Leaving Startups Troubled

According to a new study by PitchBook, early-stage startups are having trouble raising funds as billion-dollar unicorns receive more venture capital than ever before.

In the second quarter of 2016, billion-dollar companies like Snapchat and Uber received $8.78 billion in venture capital investment, or 39 percent of all venture capital investments made that quarter. This number is more than double the $4.06 billion invested in unicorns in the same quarter of 2015, an approximate 20 percent of all venture capital investments in that quarter, and is the most that has ever flowed to unicorns.

Uber alone took in 28 percent of all venture capital investments in the second quarter of 2016. As of May 2016, the company had a valuation of $61 billion before raising an additional $5.6 billion from venture capitalists.

In total, $22.3 billion in venture capital was invested across 1,906 deals in 2016’s second quarter, an 11 percent increase in spending over the same time in 2015. However, the number of completed deals declined by 29 percent over the same quarter of 2015.

John Gabbert, PitchBook’s founder and CEO, attributes the increase in spending and decline in the number of deals to a dramatic shift in the mentality of venture capitalists, who are no longer readily willing to make big bets on any type of company. “Massive mega rounds for companies like Uber and Snapchat are certainly driving up the level of VC dollars invested in the market,” he said in a statement. “But today, VCs are more thoughtful about the types of investments they make. The decline in deal volume overall could be a result of this shift.”

Selectivity is affecting investments in early-stage startups too. In the second quarter of 2016, investors spent $2 billion in angel and seed investment rounds, but the number of early deals has fallen from 1,532 to 990. Because the amount of funding is about the same as in recent quarters, the report concludes that angel and seed investors “have plenty of money on hand,” but are “increasingly selective about where they put it.”

The number of seed deals completed last quarter is particularly low, with 554 having closed. This figure is half of the 1,098 seed deals that closed in the second quarter of 2014. Additionally, if a company manages to get seed funding, getting to the Series A round has become harder than ever. Thus far in 2016, only 1.2 percent of startups that received seed funding have completed Series A rounds, which is the lowest number on record.

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