Mar 13, 2020 - Economy & Business

Venture capital open for business on record amounts of dry powder

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Venture capitalists are almost all working from home, but they have not stopped investing in startups.

The big picture: Axios yesterday spoke or emailed with 40 different U.S. firms, and every single one of them reports that they are still actively doing deals — several signing term sheets within the past week.

Why it matters: Startups and their employees are particularly vulnerable to economic shocks, given that they often are unprofitable or even pre-revenue. Venture capitalists are sitting on enormous amounts of available capital, and so far haven't been scared off from using it.

  • Yes, some pricing is beginning to soften, while at least a few deals have collapsed or been delayed.
  • There also are questions on whether some in-process sales to public companies will be retraded (particularly now that WHO has declared a pandemic). And for still-active negotiations throughout M&A, we're hearing that "material adverse effect" definitions and closing conditions are being revised.

What they're saying:

"What else are we going to do all day stuck at home except look at deals?"
"We're investing, but a bit more slowly because we're no longer learning about new opportunities at community events."
"Some of the best VC investments are made in a downturn."
"At first Zoom was a huge win for its investors. Now it's a huge win for all of us."

Look ahead: U.S.-based venture capitalists are sitting on record amounts of dry powder, having raised over $100 billion in fund capital over the past two years. That could become the industry's saving grace due to the denominator effect and the fact that recent fund returns could plummet (particularly for firms that held onto public securities from recent IPOs).

The bottom line: For venture capital, it's business as unusual.

Go deeper

Why venture capital might avoid "fund size cuts" during coronavirus crisis

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We're living through the third financial crisis of the modern venture capital era, following the dotcom crash and the housing bust.

The big picture: There wasn't a widespread push for "fund size cuts" in 2008, save for a few efforts tied to funds that had closed just before Lehman went under. While it's too soon to know for sure which path LPs will take this time around, odds are that it will look similar — with already-raised fund sizes remaining static.

What's in the coronavirus bill for Silicon Valley

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There are a few provisions for Silicon Valley in the massive $2 trillion package to cushion the coronavirus' economic impact that Congress is on the brink of passing.

Why it matters: Some startups are facing layoffs and shutdowns, and millions of gig economy workers and Airbnb hosts are being strained by the sudden shift in consumer behavior.

Bipartisan push could save private equity-owned small businesses

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Private equity and venture capital investors now have high-powered bipartisan support in their efforts to expand the types of small businesses eligible for $350 billion in federal loans via the CARES Act.

The intrigue: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who rarely agree on anything except for the grandeur of California, both want the so-called "affiliation rules" waived.