Jan 14, 2021 - Economy & Business

Venture capital's record-smashing year

Illustration of dollar bill piles forming a data graphic with an arrow going up
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Just weeks into the pandemic, we reported that venture capitalists were still doing deals, even though their offices were closed and their flights were canceled. But we didn't quite foresee the WFH gusto.

Driving the news: U.S.-based venture capital hit an all-time record in 2020.

By the numbers: U.S. startups raised $130 billion last year, topping the prior high of $120 billion set back in the dot-com craze of 2000, per the MoneyTree report.

  • PitchBook has a slightly higher 2020 total ($156 billion), but we're highlighting MoneyTree because it existed back in 2000 (albeit with some different partners and methodologies). PitchBook wasn't founded until 2007.
  • MoneyTree reports that the number of 2020 deals was not only well below 2000, but at the lowest total since 2013. In other words, the boom was driven by a record number of mega-rounds, which represented 49% of the 2020 dollar total.

(Not) leaving San Francisco: Bay Area companies continued to dominate, in terms of both dollars and deals, despite the "leaving San Francisco" narrative. In fact, Bay Area startups raised just 1.3% less than startups in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Austin and Seattle combined, per PitchBook.

The bottom line: 2020 obviously wasn't the same as 2000, in terms of everything from business models to smartphones to lockdowns. But both VC surges were propelled by kinetic public markets and the concurrent valuation inflation and rush to fund. So this time it is different, but it's also the same.

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