Mar 13, 2020 - Economy & Business

Venture capital open for business on record amounts of dry powder

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata

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.

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