Jan 31, 2020 - Economy & Business

Venture capital has no guesses as to what 2020 has in store

Illustration by Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Over the past 48 hours at the Upfront Summit, I've met with at least 50 venture capitalists and nearly as many limited partners in venture capital funds, representing varying geographies, experiences, and specialties.

My goal in such settings is to suss out a consensus trend or sentiment. The same thing that keeps arising in varied conversation, unprompted. For the first time I can remember, there wasn't one.

Venture's first half of 2019 was all about the rapid ascent, whether it be round sizes or valuations — fueled by everything from SoftBank to public SaaS multiples. Then came WeWork, and it felt like the climb was over. Everyone was Wile E. Coyote on the downhill, waiting to be flattened by a boulder.

But then it didn't happen.

  • Things didn't really get worse, save for some portfolio company layoffs that were relatively mild in comparison to the buildup.
  • Things didn't really get better, outside of increased focus on profitability.
  • So everyone just kept pushing along, doing deals. Running on limbo's treadmill.

Bottom line: 2020 is beginning as the year of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Go deeper: Venture capitalists have yet to join Corporate America in tackling climate change

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Health care VCs haven't made plans for a Bernie Sanders win

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Bernie Sanders still may eke out a win in Iowa, and is the consensus front-runner in New Hampshire. But most venture capitalists investing in America's health care industry — the primary target of Bernie's ire — have shoved their heads so deep in the sand that they've found water.

Why it matters: At some point, it could become a failure of fiduciary duty.

Online dollar store Hollar to wind down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Hollar, an e-commerce company that raised more than $75 million in VC funding, is expected to wind down soon, Axios has learned from multiple sources.

Between the lines: It's been a very tough month for direct-to-consumer startups, beginning with Casper Sleep's uninspired IPO and Monday's shutdown of SoftBank-backed Brandless.

Established VCs turn to "super angels" to grow their network

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Thanks to companies like AngelList and Carta that make it easier than ever to set up small VC funds, a new generation of so-called “super angels” is cropping up — and established venture funds are backing them.

Why it matters: Just like the boom in scout programs a number of years ago, it’s all about the deal flow.