Leading venture capital players are predicting a “mass extinction event” for early- and mid-stage startups that will make the global fiscal collapse in 2008 “look quaint” by comparison. According to Globest, a new survey has found that 81% of early-stage startups are facing a failure in 2023 because–as of the end of October–they had less than 12 months of capital left to keep going because VC funds turned the spigot off last year on a flood of seed funding.
An international survey of 450 startup founders in the US and Europe was conducted between August and October 2022 by research firm January Ventures, with 61% of respondents from the US and 32% from Europe. The founders who participated in the survey also were categorized by the level of funding for the startup: 48% of respondents said they had raised pre-seed funding, 32% said they had raised seed funding and 16% hadn’t started raising funding.
The survey found that four out of five startups are at risk of failure this year, with less than 12 months of “runway” left–defined as “enough capital to keep the lights on” (in the dot.com era they called this a “burn rate,” a reference to the amount of VC capital a startup was burning through before generating any revenue).
An extinction event that extinguishes more than 80% of early-stage startups would be the largest since an asteroid in the form of a housing collapse hit the global financial system in 2008.
In a Twitter post after January Ventures’ findings were released–in, of course, January–Mark Suster, a partner of Los Angeles-based venture capital firm Upfront Ventures concurred with the survey’s findings, estimating that half of the 5,000 early-stage startups his company has funded over the past four years currently are at risk of going out of business.
Suster said that the number of startup failures has been “held artificially low” over the past seven years due to the market being flooded with excess capital, London-based InvestmentMonitor reported.
“Loss ratios in the last seven years have been artificially low due to excess capital. The pendulum will swing too far in the other direction,” Suster said, according to IM’s report.
In the same Twitter thread, Tom Loverro, a venture capitalist at Silicon Valley-based investment firm IVP predicted a “mass extinction event” for early- and mid-stage startups that will be worse than the epic collapse in 2008. His full twitter thread is added at the bottom of this story.
PREDICTION: There’s a mass extinction event coming for early & mid-stage companies. Late ’23 & ’24 will make the ’08 financial crisis look quaint for startups. Below I explain when, why & how it will start & offer *detailed advice to founders* on surviving the looming die-off. /1
— Tom Loverro (@tomloverro) January 31, 2023
“There’s a mass extinction even coming for early- and mid-stage companies. Late ’23 & ’24 will make the ’08 financial crisis look quaint for startups,” Loverro tweeted.
The total for global venture capitalism dropped 32% in 2022, dropping below $300B from the $513B total of 2021, according to GlobalData. The fact that deal volume only showed a dip in 2022 from 21.7K to 19.2K is indicative of a prevalence of bigger deal sizes with far less seed funding rounds for early state ventures.
In the fourth quarter growth stage deals took a big hit, with a 24% drop in deal volume, GlobalData reported.
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Below we republish Loverro’s full Jan 31 thread:
There’s a mass extinction event coming for early & mid-stage companies. Late ’23 & ’24 will make the ’08 financial crisis look quaint for startups. Below I explain when, why & how it will start & offer *detailed advice to founders* on surviving the looming die-off. /1
First, context: “great” startups will always get funded, albeit not on 2021-style terms. Many “good” startups will endure down or flat rounds. Many merely “ok” and pre-product-market-fit startups will die — at a greater rate than anything we’ve seen since 2008. /2
Many startups raised 2 years of cash in 2021 and 2022. They cut burn in H2 2022 to extend that runway. But no matter what, they’ll need to raise again (or sell, or become a ) in late 2023 and 2024. /3
4 in 5 very early-stage companies have fewer than 12 months of runway, according to a survey of 450 founders last fall by January Ventures. /4
All of this points to a FLOOD of startups coming to market to raise capital beginning in H2 2023 and continuing through 2024. More will seek capital than will get funded. What you hear now is the quiet before the storm. /5
Late 2023 into 2024 will be worse than the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-9 for venture-backed startups. GFC was centered on Wall St. Private startup valuations, round sizes & burn didn’t go bananas in the years leading up to the GFC. /6
This time is different. 2021, for startups, was more toxic than the GFC. The hangover will start later this year and will be more severe than that from the GFC. /7
You’ll see a flood of startups raising $. Gun-shy VCs w/ alligator arms will slow their pace, take less risk and fund the startups with the most concrete traction. Timid LPs will hide under desks. /8
Meanwhile, reluctant insiders will debate doing pro rata in bridge rounds. Many rounds will involve structure. Layoffs, firesales and shutdowns will ensue. /9
But we’re not going back to 15x+ fwd revenue multiples even for excellent companies in the public markets. (We’re currently at 4.5x for most companies and 8x-12x for the elite.) Private mkt multiples may not match the public markets but they will come a lot closer! /10
“Oh, but Tom, what about all the talk of dry powder that will make valuations go back up?” FALSE for the following reasons: /11
A. Funds won’t deploy their capital in 1 yr (unlike 2021) but rather in 3+ yrs, dividing that powder by 3 or 4! Yikes! B. Many funds have already been partially or mostly invested; their next funds might be smaller and take 2x as long to raise, b/c of LP constraints. /12 C. 2001-2004, there was also “a lot of dry powder”, but valuations still plummeted and words like “structure”, “ratchet” and “pay-to-play” were commonplace. Look them up if you need to. For instance here. /13
To survive, here’s 7 steps early-stage founders should take: /14
Raise $ now or sooner than you expected, before the Great Flood of 2023. If you fail, you can always try again later. But if you wait, try later & fail, well… /15 You did a layoff & cut burn? Great. Now cut burn even more. Cut what’s “good to have” but continue to fund core R&D. /16 Focus on survival, not valuation. Don’t let your ego or anchoring bias kill you. Public company stock prices go up and down every microsecond. Your stock price fluctuating isn’t fatal. Running out of money is. /17 For mid and later stage startups, bring on seasoned operators in C-level roles and for some companies of scale, it might even mean bringing in professional CEOs. Done right, this allows founders to play to their strengths. /18 Trade better unit economics for growth. Growth rates are coming way down for everyone this year. It’s all relative when you’re raising money. If you can nail your unit economics, you can always ramp burn and growth later. /19 Play your cards right, survive & go on OFFENSE. The best time to build & take market share is when your competition is dead/in retreat. 2021 felt like the best year to build a startup but it also felt like the best year to buy high-growth stocks 😉 Now is the time! /20 Be decisive. Half-measures rarely succeed. /END