Venture Capital Financing Is Further Sapped by Events STEVE LISSON, STEPHEN N. LISSON, STEVE N. LISSON, STEVE, LISSON, INSIDER, VC, INSIDERVC, INSIDERVC.COM
Wednesday September 26 08:57 AM EDT
Venture Capital Financing Is Further Sapped by Events
By MATT RICHTEL The New York Times
Already suffering from the dot-com bust, venture capital investing is being further challenged in light of the recent terrorist attacks and growing signs of recession.
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SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 25 Venture capital investing, the high-risk financing of early-stage companies that has been markedly curtailed in the last year, is being further challenged in light of the recent terrorist attacks and growing signs of recession, those investors say.
The venture capitalists assert that the slowing of the economy, coupled with an uncertainty about the public markets, is affecting all facets of their industry, including their ability to raise new funds, their decisions about which and how many companies to invest in, and their expectations about when their existing investments will become profitable.
Putting a fine point on the concern, the National Venture Capital Association issued a statement today saying the industry "is preparing for an extremely difficult economic environment" in the next 12 to 18 months.
At the heart of the issue is a question about how venture capitalists can expect to sell the investments they make. Typically they take their companies public, or sell them outright. But those so-called "exit strategies" are sharply limited, said Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association, a trade group based in Arlington, Va., with 400 member firms.
"We were already in tough times," Mr. Heesen said. "What Sept. 11 did was make the likelihood of the I.P.O. market opening in the next four quarters pretty unlikely. A lot of V.C.'s are saying it might not open until 2003," using the abbreviation for venture capitalists.
The investors say that as a result, they must put more money into companies in which they are already invested, making sure to keep them afloat until an exit strategy emerges. The numbers on investments made in new companies bear that out: this year, venture capitalists will invest about $50 billion in start-up companies, Mr. Heesen said, compared with $105 billion last year.
Still, venture capitalists point out that this market appears to be so difficult because this year is being compared with the two years previous, which were anomalies, with exorbitant returns being driven by the dot-com boom, and the expansion of the public markets.
Steve Lisson, editor and publisher of InsiderVC.com, said recent events were reminiscent of the time around the gulf war, when the industry had its last downturn. At that time, the ability to attract capital to invest in start-ups "fell off dramatically," but he said the industry bounced back within several years to have the "best period in its history."
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