Venture capitalists will tell you that a lackluster IPO market and struggling tech stocks mean that they are being more cautious, but the data suggests otherwise. Apart from last year, which saw $13.7 billion invested in the first quarter, National Venture Capital Association data shows that the $12.1 billion invested at the beginning of 2016 was the best start to a year since the dot-com boom in 2001.
Investment dollars were flat compared to the $12 billion invested in the fourth quarter of last year. It was also the ninth consecutive quarter that saw deal volume reach $10 billion.
“It was a choppy market but deals were getting done,” said Neeraj Agrawal, general partner at Battery Ventures. “I don’t think there is a bubble.”
Tom Ciccolella, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said that “there was a lot of gloom and doom prior to the numbers coming out.” It turns out that it was a “robust quarter.” PwC worked on the Moneytree report alongside the NVCA and Thomson Reuters.
And this investment trend is likely to continue, with venture firms garnering the most money in a decade. $12 billion was committed to new venture funds in the first quarter, and it will need to eventually get deployed.
The largest deal of the quarter went to Lyft, which completed a $1 billion financing round. Florida-based augmented reality startup Magic Leap, raised a whopping $794 million. Sunnova Energy, Uber and Flatiron Health rounded out the top five. A winner takes all market, the top ten deals accounted for 25% of the dollars invested in the first quarter. 969 total companies raised funding.
Software was the leader in investment dollars, attracting $5.1 billion in 376 deals. Biotechnology, which has seen an IPO boom, raised $1.8 billion in capital. Media and entertainment was the third most popular startup category with $930 million deployed across 109 startups.
Yet the money was flowing to more experienced startups, with early stage investment declining 18% in volume compared to the previous quarter. Seed stage deals also fell 10%, but expansion stage investment saw a 25% rise. Late stage deals were up 10%.
Some investors are surprised by the data and think that many investors need a reality check. “There’s still a tremendous oversupply of venture dollars in Silicon Valley,” warned Asheem Chandna, partner at Greylock. “While VCs are more cautious overall, the dollars are still flowing way too fast. The reality is the very best companies don’t need a lot of venture capital money.”