After Rocky Year for Start-Ups, Investors Are Pickier
Call it the Facebook effect. Until recently, investors had been all too eager to pour millions into any Web start-up with rapid growth, regardless of whether it made money or even had plans to do so down the road. But after Facebook’s rocky initial public offering and flameouts at Zynga and Groupon, venture capitalists are entering a picky phase.
CB Insights, a research firm, analyzed 4,056 initial, or seed, investments made in tech start-ups in the United States since 2009. It found that more than 1,000 start-ups that attracted seed financing from angel investors — wealthy investors who put in money from their own pockets — will find themselves orphaned this year when venture capitalists reject their requests for more money. As a result, $1 billion in angel investments will evaporate.
The realities of building an enduring business are starting to sink in. “It has never been easier to start a company, and never harder to build one,” said David Lee, a venture capitalist at SV Angel, an early-stage investment firm.
David O. Sacks, a Silicon Valley executive who sold Yammer to Microsoft for $1.2 billion last year, summed up the challenges in a bearish note on Facebook last August.
“I think Silicon Valley as we know it may be coming to an end,” Mr. Sacks wrote. “To create a successful new company,” he said, entrepreneurs have to find an idea that “has escaped the attention of the major Internet companies, which are better run than before.” To attract follow-up money, new companies now have to prove themselves for less than $5 million.