VC appetite for AI startups holds up in Q1 despite lackluster exit volume

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

Today we’re taking our final look back at Q1 venture capital through the lens of AI-focused startups. New data out this week paints a mixed picture of the AI startup landscape. Venture dollar volume in Q1 was pretty good, though there was weakness in certain startup stages. Exit data was weak, however, and some Q1 numbers were juiced by a single deal.

AI-focused startups have grown past their history as the hot new thing (remember when every new tech company was doing AI for 45 minutes?) into a more mature niche; TechCrunch has spent a reasonable amount of time digging into their economics, and just this week a new, $180 million AI-focused fund caught our attention.

In the post-hype days, then, let’s check in on what global AI startups got done with investors in Q1. We’re leaning on this report from CB Insights, which breaks down the quarter’s numbers for us. Let’s pick them apart and see what we can divine concerning the future.

AI Q1 2020

To set the stage, venture capital investment into AI-focused startups has generally risen on a global basis for years. Indeed, deal and dollar totals have risen year-over-year from 2015 through 2019. Indeed, 2019’s Q2 and Q3 saw record AI startup venture dollar volume ($8.45 and $8.47 billion, respectively), per CB Insights .