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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Valuations for U.S. venture-backed companies are at record highs, per data released this morning by PitchBook.

Between the lines: It's the new normal, in which nontraditional investors are traditional, unicorns are pigeons and startups are in the driver's seat.

Inside the numbers: Valuation creep can be seen across all stages of the VC ecosystem, from seed to pre-IPO. It's also showing up in both the medians and averages, and also across quartiles, reflecting how this isn't just a few big deals skewing the data.

  • Early-stage valuations hit all-time records in Q2 2021 of $50 million (median) and $105.4 million (average).
  • Late-stage valuations also hit new highs, with the trendline suggesting that average late-stage valuations could top $1 billion by year-end.
  • Value hunting: Deals in the four major tech hubs of SF, NYC, LA and Boston remain more expensive than deals elsewhere in the U.S.

What's happening: Most of this is just animal spirits running rampant, with price discipline now viewed as passé. Plus a ton of crossover money seeking yield and public equity markets forcing a reverse denominator effects on LP bankrolls.

  • This often means that funds are owning smaller percentages of their portfolio companies, with average late-stage stakes falling below 20% for the first time ever.

What to watch: Fed tapering? Congress raising taxes on the wealthy? Maybe, but we've just lived through 18 months of a global pandemic that freaked out investors for all of five minutes.

  • Until and unless the public markets repeatedly punch venture capitalists in the nose, forcing them to taste their own red ink, startup valuations will continue to rise. And there's no indication that's going to happen, after several years of feeling like it should happen.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Aug 31, 2021 - Economy & Business

The state of space startups

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Space startups garnered record investment last year, according to a new report.

Why it matters: The influx — despite the coronavirus pandemic — shows that investors are still interested in the growing industry and see relatively young companies as worthy of funding.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.