ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

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2017’s Industry Recap and 2018 Hottest Industries for Venture Capital

Feb
01

According to KPMG´s Venture Capital market report, it experienced the highest amount of investment in the U.S. in 2017. The total amount of investment in this sector was over $84 billion last year. Although, the deal value increased from $21.24 billion in the third quarter to $23.75 billion in the fourth quarter, the overall deal volume experienced decline as it fell from a total of 1997 to 1778 deals. The reason for the decline was growing interest of investors in smaller companies with profitable prospects instead of placing bigger bets on large companies.

 

Sneak-peak at 2017

The investors in the United States were mainly focused on late-stage deals during 2017. This eventually lead to the decrease in deals with other funding levels. Seed and angel deals were the ones that got affected the most as they suffered a decline from 50 percent in 2016 to 47 percent in 2017.

Biotech and healthcare were two sectors that stood out among the rest, especially during the fourth quarter when a number of large deals were successfully completed. Healthcare sector was also at the top in terms of exits, which triggered an increased activity overall.

The late-stage deals hit $250 million in the last quarter of 2017, which was very high as compared to $135 million a year before that. Companies that raised funds of over billion dollars were Cancer-screening biotech Grail Technology that raised $1.2 billion and Ride-hailing company Lyft that managed to get $1.5 billion.

 

Expected Trend in 2018

The trend seems quite optimistic as it will build momentum, especially via strong exit markets in Mergers and Acquisition and Initial Public Offering (IPO) for companies backed by venture capital.

At this time, it isn’t sure whether 2018 will have a record number of IPOs as experienced in 2015 or not, but this year will definitely have an increasing number of IPO activities. The co-lead partner of KPMG VC practice, Conor Moore, was of the opinion that as more firms are deciding to remain private in the long run, the secondary market is sure to experience more growth.

Following are some of the prominent sectors investors are likely to invest their money in:

 

Blockchain Technology

Instead of investing directly in the cryptocurrency, investors are inclined to invest in underlying blockchain technology. The reason is simple; the prices of digital currencies have skyrocketed. Investors are trying to find creative ways to make profitable investments.

A partner in Canvas Ventures, Rebecca Lynn, is looking for firms that use blockchain to build their infrastructure, especially the ones that store health records and track trademarked and copyrighted licensing rights and content.

 

Artificial Intelligence Businesses

Investors are searching for tangible business ideas. For example, David Pakman, a partner in Venrock, is in search of startups that will be using Artificial Intelligence so as to assist companies in making decisions that were previously taken by the people; it includes preparing manufacturing instructions for machines, sales planning, and the hiring process.

 

Pop-up Stores

With the rapidly increasing concept of driver-less cars, startup companies are in for a treat. Venture capital firms, such as the Fifth Wall are offering a short-term lease for pop-up stores, including parking lots. Some startups that can benefit from this are Katerra (a construction company), Kasita.com (the firm that makes modular housing units), and Factory OS (a company that makes modular buildings).

 

Voice-centric Devices

These devices have taken the market by storm. This has encouraged startup companies to seek new opportunities to use voice, including advertising. It has been predicted by WIRED that new firms with creative solutions are expected to do really well in 2018, which makes it an attractive sector for venture capitalists.

 

Subscription-based Products

In the last few years, VC firms were drawn to digital media startup companies, such as Vox media, BuzzFeed, Mashable, Mic, and many more. However, some of these companies have undergone layoffs in recent times. This has eventually made the investors move on to subscription-based products, such as Patreon. In September last year, this company raised around 60 million dollars.

Another example is Medium, which raised over 130 million dollars from VC firms. This company has shifted to a subscription-based model just recently.

Will 2018 Mark the End of Initial Public Offerings?

Jan
18

2017 turned out to be a great year for technology-based IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) that were backed by venture capital.

So many names in a corporate world went public last year, including SendGrid, StitchFix, BlueApron, Cloudera, and Yext. In fact, one of the most successful IPOs in the last few years was Snapchat. In 2018, there are some potential firms that are likely to go public, which is great because the Dow and S&P 500 are at the record high.

 

Beginning of the End for IPOs?

However, dark clouds have started to form on a distant horizon regarding IPOs. Spotify will probably go for direct listing and bypass the bank underwriting to go public. On the other hand, blockchain technology is booming and has attracted many retail investors, especially the ones who are skeptical about the IPOs and the corruption in this sector. Similarly, SoftBank Vision Fund is also trying to raise as much private capital as possible to provide protection to firms from the devastating effect of vulture funds.

There is an increasing awareness that current IPO sector is a hub of corruption, wherein, only those people are benefiting from the firms growth cycle who know the ‘right people’. The retail investors, however, are on the losing end as they are getting sufficient returns. This growing awareness is not going to subside, especially when there is a constant increase viability of other options.

 

Robust Technology – An Alternative to Conventional IPO

The fall of IPOs has been predicted so many times in the past, but it hasn’t happened yet. Ten or so years back when Google went for a Dutch-style IPO, so many people anticipated that it could a soon-to-be-ending road for banks who want to run a roadshow for investors. Similarly, a few years ago, when the pipeline of initial offerings dried up, the same hype was created.

Despite all the noise, the IPO has continued to provide good business. Although, firms will continue to go public by trading shares or securities, they are undergoing certain changes. For example, conventional ways of big banks to charge a huge fee is going to be replaced by more effective alternatives. So many bankers have already begun to lose their jobs after the introduction of technology. Goldman Sachs has already built an application that manages the IPO process. These steps are being taken to enhance the efficiency of operations.

There are only a few who have anticipated that IPOs will get a support of ethereum tokens and the Dutch East India company. However, no one can deny the fact that IPOs are growing weaker day by day, and they won’t survive in the long run if drastic measures are not taken.

 

Spotify’s Direct Listing

The company has managed to secure around 70 million paying subscribers, but at the same time, its chief content officer has resigned. In addition to that, the company is also dealing with some lawsuits filed by the music labels, which can be very damaging in the future.

Despite all the ups and downs, the news has come to light that Spotify is planning to go public via the direct listing. By undergoing direct listing, the company will not issue any new shares nor will it raise any capital through the process. For IPOs, this arrangement can be very devastating as financial institutions like Goldman Sachs will become deprived of underwriting fees, whereas, institutional investors will lose an opportunity to buy IPO shares at a huge discount like they did in the past.

Although, a direct listing of Spotify will be a little bumpy, it doesn’t mean that the process will end in disaster. The rise of digital trading based on algorithms will help Spotify stabilize the price after analyzing the market. The process will be executed as fast as it does for other initial offerings.

 

Increasing Trend of ICOs

Another disruptive disaster expected to happen is the rising trend of ICOs. Initial coin offerings or ICOs are being considered as a replacement for VCs. The rush of initial coin offerings among startup companies has placed a big question mark on the existence of IPOs. ICO model might not be applicable to every company, but being a competitive threat to IPO, they do not necessarily have to apply to every firm.

All in all, IPO is facing back to back attacks; a direct public offering will dramatically reduce the fees involved in conventional IPO, whereas, ICO will be an effective tool for potential financial growth. These disruptive tools are definitely going to rule out the need to go public so as to achieve financial strength, which would eventually impact the long-term sustenance of IPOs.

Venture Capital Sector Facing Challenges in the Era of Cryptocurrency

Jan
04

In the past couple of years, cryptocurrency has experienced a sudden boom and is now making news in every sector. In the beginning, when bitcoin was in its initial stages, everybody was talking about Venture Capital (VC) and how it is going to benefit the small businesses.

So many venture capitalists made money by investing in innovative ideas that eventually materialized into unicorns. Instead of investing in the digital currency like bitcoins, investors preferred to invest in the companies, such as Coinbase or 21.co.

 

Bitcoin Price at All Times High

Some of these firms performed better than the other. For example, Coinbase ended up being in the first place in the app store of Apple last December as a result of hype over bitcoin. On the other hand, 21 kept changing its names and business plans. Back when Coinbase got its first round of funding from VCs, its price was about $110. However, recently, it has managed to reach $19,000.

An investment associate in the Digital Currency Group, Travis Scher, was of the opinion that had investors invested in the cryptocurrency instead of investing in digital currency firms, they would’ve gotten much higher returns by now.

 

VCs and the Increasing Trend of ICOs

This isn’t easy to grasp as it complicates the core idea of VCs.

The conventional way of making an investment was to find out the rising trend in technology, identify the targets that were in line with those trends and were in a better position to make it big, and then taking a profitable exit as soon as those companies were either sold out or went public.

But it won’t be an effective strategy for digital currencies like bitcoin. In fact, as more and more cryptocurrencies have entered the market, it has become even more confusing and complex. The community of dreamers, and entrepreneurs have been raising money via ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), wherein, they create their own digital currencies, sell them for money and trade them in the open market.

When it comes to venture capital firms, they offer the investors an unrestricted access to private companies that are not publicly listed. Therefore, the question is, where will these venture capital companies go, if ICOs become a strong medium for people to get a bit of hot technology.

 

Venture Capitalists and their New Tactics

Venture capitalists have been devising new tactics to deal with the frenzy of cryptocurrency. Instead of seeking a stake in the digital currency firm, they have started purchasing the rights to acquire tokens ahead of initial coin offerings via legal contracts. In addition to that, they are improvising conventional equity deals, offering guarantees to investors in terms of getting tokens if a startup company goes for ICO in the future.

Some investors have also invested directly in bitcoin for years. The founder of VC firm Social Capital, Chamath Palihapitiya, said that he, along with his partners, invested in 5 percent of the bitcoin in circulation and still hold a reasonable stake in the currency.

 

Increasing Risks Faced by Investors in the Digital Currency Market

Although, the cryptocurrency market is rapidly growing, yet, it is not without risk. In fact, so many investors have suffered from hacking attacks and have also been threatened physically.

Threats are very real and harmful, because bitcoin will be lost forever if somebody steals it.

 

Cryptocurrency Hedge Funds and Futures Tokens

So many VC firms, including Sequoia Capital, Union Square Venture, and Andreessen Horowitz have made an investment in digital currency hedge funds in order to benefit from the boom without worrying about managing these currencies. They earn profits by trading dabble, litecoin, ethereum, and bitcoin in the ICOs market.

Some of the big names in the world of VC, including Bain Capital Venture, Union Square Ventures, and Sequoia Capital, have entered the deals to acquire digital tokens. For that, they are using legal agreements called “Simple Agreements for Future Tokens” also known as SAFT. Andreessen Horowitz is also taking steps to include provisions in standard contracts for investments in order to properly address ICOs.

According to a research website, in 2017, startup companies made about $3.6 billion in ICOs. This, however, is nothing in comparison to the $52.6 billion earned by VCs from around the world, as stated in the report by CB Insights and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Despite that, investors are inclined toward ICOs as it enables them to make millions in short span of time as compared to VC investments, which take years before you can reap the return.

Rising Trend of Initial Coin Offerings

Nov
09

According to a report by Mangrove Capital, 204 ICOs have made a return of about 1,320 percent.

At the same time, investment banks and hedge funds have shown increasing interest in the digital currency with over 55 crypto-specific hedge funds. Before diving deep into why investors are showing greater interest in cryptocurrency, let’s take a look at what ICO is.

 

What is ICO?

Unlike conventional financial system, ICO or Initial Coin Offering is an alternative and unconventional way of crowdfunding. It has enabled a number of successful firms and projects to get the finance to start their business. New businesses and startups around the globe are getting millions of dollars in funds by issuing digital coins. The rising trend of digital currency has made people both worried and excited.

In ICO, the coins bought by investors are for businesses and marketplaces that are not developed yet. By purchasing these coins, they make a bet that a firm or startup will end up becoming successful and as a result, the coin will increase in value.

In average it takes about six months or a year to raise money with conventional venture capital (VC) system, but it is different when it comes to ICOs. In this token crowdfunding, you get to have a large crowd of engaging supporters who want to see you succeed. Not only do they campaign for you, but they are also your early adopters.

 

Growing Trend of ICO

Startups have raised more than 2 billion dollars since the start of 2017. It is a huge amount of funding, given the fact that not many people knew about it a few years ago. Businesses are making money via this mode of funding faster than usual.

In April this year, Gnosis (prediction market for Ethereum) managed to raise 12 million dollars in just ten minutes. In June, Mozilla’s founder raised 35 million dollars by selling Basic Attention Tokens in under 30 seconds for his new web browser startup called ‘Brave’.

ICOs have become the name of the game as they have left the venture capital market behind and are the biggest source of funding. It is a great option for those companies that are pursuing the application of blockchain technology.

 

Concerns by the Regulators

Despite the increasing trends of ICOs, regulators have shown serious concerns. They are warning investors that it is a high-risk investment.

Although, some coins value has dramatically increased, a very high volatility cannot be ignored. Some have also considered it a ‘speculative boom’, but that did not stop investment banks and hedge funds from showing their interest by making an investment in cryptocurrencies and ICOs.

 

Reason behind the Increasing Interest of Institutional Investors in ICOs

The digital currency market has made massive profits in the past one year or so. Initially, institutional investors were curious about what this is all about, but they started getting a hang of it gradually and became less apprehensive and more interested in this alternative investment. It is a kind of chain reaction that started with the rising interest among venture capitalists and now institutional investors, including mutual funds, investment banks, and hedge funds are following their lead. They have shown growing interest and are making an effort to estimate and grab the opportunities in the cryptocurrency market.

The reason why they are more interested in the new and unconventional currency is that it promises a higher return as compared to market averages. According to a fintech analytics firm, there have been at least 55 cryptocurrency hedge funds and a former manager at Fortress, Mike Novogratz, has recently announced a plan to use 500 million dollars for a new digital currency hedge fund. Blockchain Capital also made an announcement of raising 150 million dollars; a part of this fund will be for cryptocurrencies.

 

Goldman Sachs’ Approval

Goldman Sachs is planning to set up a bitcoin trading desk, as they believe that institutional investors are interested in cryptocurrency more than ever. The firm has reported it to be ‘a major milestone’. They believe that the investors need an over-the-counter brokerage platform where they can sell or buy as much cryptocurrency as they want. Goldman Sachs is of the opinion that it can take up this role, but there will be other issues, including market infrastructure and serious concern by the regulators.

 

If, however, ICOs becomes regulated, it will change the way how businesses raise money and will also impact the venture capital market.

A Useful Funding Tool for Less Segregated and Diverse Communities

Oct
26

Communities with a mixed ethnic background and more diversity are likely to come up with new ideas. According to a study by the Yale School of Management, having people in a community with different backgrounds is beneficial for Venture Capital (VC) firms as it leads to economic development and innovation.

In various countries around the globe, communities, universities, and businesses are pursuing diversification. Apart from the immediate benefit of getting fairness, having multiple points of view and diversity of experience is very useful for the overall performance of these sectors.

 

Effect of VC on Integrated Communities

The study also revealed that VC investment is more beneficial for ethnically integrated communities as compared to segregated communities. The effect of VC on the integrated communities was 30 percent higher as compared to segregated ones, especially in terms of creating more wealth, jobs, entrepreneurship opportunities, and facilitating innovative activities. The startup businesses create more value and job opportunities that eventually lead to economic growth.

In a diverse community, you get to interact with people having diverse backgrounds, which leads to getting access to more resources and information as compared to segregated communities. In the past, studies have shown that economic vitality is enhanced as a result of social interaction within a community.

 

Implications of Social Interaction for Venture Capital

The purpose of the study in question was to identify whether a social structure is vital for economic development or not. The VC was the focus of this study, given the fact that it is a useful financial tool for high growth businesses.

It was revealed that such relationships have significant implications when it comes to VC investments. VC investors put their money in new businesses that are in the close vicinity. They tend to rely on professional relationships and friendships for leads and information that cannot be received via cold calls or internet search.

VC investments were compared to aggregate income, employment, new businesses, and a number of patents. It was found that VC performed much better in less segregated and diverse areas, resulting in more patents, more jobs, and created more value.

Social interaction has benefited various communities. One of the many factors that led to high level of innovation in the United States is the increasing number of immigrants that bring diverse culture. When they interact with one another, it creates room for transferring valuable information and ideas, which leads to better economic outcomes. Besides, when people from different ethnic backgrounds live close to one another, it brings about healthy relationships and effective interactions that is favorable for the wider economy.

 

Diversity Leads to Innovative Thinking

Diversity is also very useful to promote innovative thinking that leads to success in the venture capital market. Any sector that does not have diversity or mixed race is very limited in innovative mindset and thought process. This results in similar thinking with not many innovative ideas. In addition to that, there is gender bias in the VC sector that restricts the overall growth prospects. It is a widely known fact that female founders represent the rapidly growing entrepreneurial group in the United States and their firm’s experience growth 1.5 times faster than the average growth rate in the market.

 

Providing Solution to Promote Innovative Decision Making

Despite the lack of diversity, it is quite likely that change is taking place gradually. An increasing number of entrepreneurs with diverse background are entering into the market. They are focused on providing a solution to the problem and make a profit in the process.

It has become really important to promote diversity in the communities and in societies at large so as to promote economic development and prosperity. Not only will it be beneficial for the venture capital industry, but it is also going to help the masses in getting equal opportunities in every sector.

 

The venture capital market has also derived benefits from diverse communities in terms of innovative thinking and plethora of useful information. To continue moving in the right direction, countries around the globe should embrace diversity in order to have successful businesses and create more job opportunities that will eventually bring economic prosperity in the long run.

Struggles of Entrepreneurs Based on Investors’ Perception

Oct
12

The first quarter of 2017 was closed with a total financing of $27 billion worldwide and the hot sectors in the world of Venture Capital (VC) have been fintech and technology. Despite the booming industry, VC has its own ups and downs.

 

Overlooking Entrepreneurs

Innovation has always been at the heart of the United States and the country has always encouraged entrepreneurship, yet, the ideas are often overlooked when it comes to immigrants and women in the sector.

Jerry Nemorin, the founder of LendStreet, is a fine example of that case. He initiated a company to support individuals who find it difficult to pay off their debt. He looks for people who are struggling with loan repayments, buy and consolidate their debt and refinance it at a fair rate of interest. Despite such a brilliant idea, he struggled with raising funds. According to him, investors recognize a defined pattern and the chances of funding the idea of a black person who is out to solve poor people’s problem are very low.

However, he is not alone. There are a large number of entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas who have been struggling with raising funds. Less than 1% investment in new startups goes to people of color, whereas, 10% investment goes to female entrepreneurs. Only 15% of the Unicorns that are making over $200 billion have made it to the real-world industries for day to day dealings.

 

Blind Spots – Another Cause Behind the Struggles

In an economy that promotes innovation, a lot of the best ideas are left out of the conversation due to blind spots.

  • Bias

Bias is the first blind spot that they face. Although, investors don’t do that intentionally, yet, it happens. Investors tend to invest in the ideas that come from people like them.

A study was conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research in which it was identified that applications that read ‘Greg’ got more calls as compared to the résumés that had the word ‘Lakisha’. This is not surprising, because only 5 percent of the partners in VC firms are female, whereas, people of colors are significantly lesser than that, i.e., less than 1 percent. Hence, the distribution of funding is largely based on the decision makers who are investors in this case.

  • Availability Bias

This is another blind spot that comes in the way of funding the brilliant ideas. Investors tend to invest in the ideas that are closest to them, or the last good idea they heard, versus the best. Almost 80 percent of the money goes to the firms that are situated within 30 miles of the investors.

  • Two-way Thinking

Lastly, most investors have two-way thinking when it comes to funding the ideas. Many people believe that they should focus on making a profit from a business, regardless of whether it is good or bad for the society at large, while engaging in philanthropy and nonprofit activities for the benefit of the society without paying much heed to financial sustainability.

Jerry’s idea supports this ideology, i.e., making a profit from a business that helps people in paying off their loan.

 

Overcoming the Blind Spots

Although, these blind spots are deep-rooted, yet, people can overcome these obstacles if they make an intentional effort to welcome new ideas. Kapor Capital intentionally invested in LendStreet to support Jerry’s idea. As a result, an initial investment of $500,000 turned into a portfolio of 40 million dollars, which enabled Jerry to refinance the financial statements of thousands of families in the U.S.

 

These ideas are available in abundance, but investors have to look closely and more carefully to fund new startups based on the merit so as to reap substantial benefits.

Interest Rates and Venture Capital

Oct
02

The Venture Capital market has experienced a massive growth in the last two decades. Startups prefer to get venture capital funding instead of raising debt. However, when it comes to economic growth, interest rates and Venture Capital (VC) go hand in hand. VC boost entrepreneurial activities and interest rates are helpful when it comes to risk-taking activities for the wellbeing of the economy.

If the interest rate is low, it serves as a fuel for VC investment, but at the same time, it discourages venture capitalists to put their money in riskier startups that are young, in other countries and in less popular industries.

Typically, VC firms invest their money after comparing the profits they achieve with profits that are available to the investors somewhere else. However, the relationship between interest rate and risk-taking can change based on which investor’s point of view is considered.

 

Effect of Interest Rate on non-traditional Capital

When we talk about short to medium term variations in the interest rate, it usually affects non-traditional capital source, including hedge funds and mutual funds. Unlike conventional Venture Capital investors, who keep their money invested for 10 years or so, unconventional investors can put their cash in different baskets and spread it across different assets classes. They can quickly decide where they should put their money in order to reduce the impact of interest rate variation.

 

Changing Effect of Interest Rate on VC Investments

Over the last three decades, federal rates have changed from as high as 16% in the early 80s to as low as 0.09%. However, VC has evolved from a small industry into a $100 billion per year asset class. Venture capitalists are investing a massive amount of money every year. Therefore, it is important to understand the changing effect of interest rate on VC investments.

Between the year 2000 and 2009, the federal fund rates and VC investments were parallel to each other. When the technology bubble was burst, the Federal Reserve adopted the strategy of decreasing interest rates so as to promote the economic growth. For venture capitalists, the environment was not as attractive as it was before and limited partners invested less in venture capital. The VC decreased with the decline in interest rates.

After the introduction of quantitative easing, this relationship between VC and interest rates ceased to exist and they became inversely proportional to each other.

 

Moreover, after the credit crunch, near-zero interest rate policy enabled financial institutions and brokerages to renew their balance sheets, settle their toxic assets, and revitalize their financial health. It also allowed the U.S. economy to recover from the after-effects of the crisis and enabled businesses to borrow capital at reasonable rates. During this phase of cheap money, technology sector, VC firms, and startups took advantage of the friendly valuation environment.

 

Federal Reserve’s Decision to Raise Interest Rates

By the end of this year, Fed plans to raise the interest rates. If the plan materializes, it will be  the first time in the past nine years that the U.S. will experience the increase in rates, which will bring the era of zero interest rate to an end.

Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, indicated that the increase in interest rates will not be rapid.

It will be a gradual increase, which will not change the valuation environment of a startup and technology sector instantly. However, it will change along with a valuation environment of the stock market. The reason is simple; valuation multiples are indirectly correlated to interest rates, where in, the multiples decrease with the increase in rates.

 

It is important to observe the next move of the Fed and market reaction to changing interest rates, because it may affect the Venture Capital market.

ICOs Surpassed Early Stage Venture Capital Funding

Sep
15

New startups that raised funds through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) have now surpassed the early stage VC Funding for internet firms.

But before diving into it, it is important to know what ICOs are.

 

What is Initial Coin Offerings?

This is another way of raising cash.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain startup companies raise capital through ICOs by selling tokens of investors in exchange for equity funds. It is somewhat the same as Initial Public Offering in which stocks are issued in exchange for equity. Just like crowdfunding, ICOs provide a way to get funds from users by enabling them to have a share of the business. They get digital currency in exchange for the money they invest in the business.

 

Rising Popularity of ICOs and VC Funding

ICOs have gained massive popularity in the last few months among blockchain and cryptocurrency startups. In April this year, the total capital raised via these offerings was around $100 million and in May, the amount went up to about $250 million. The month of June turned out to be the biggest surprise when the total funding exceeded $550 million. According to Goldman Sachs, it was the first time that it performed better than seed and angel venture capital funding. Early stage and angel venture capital funding was less than $300 million in June.

In July, the offerings were a little more than $300 million, whereas, early stage and angel funding was just a bit higher than $200 million.

 

Popularity Among the Celebrities

ICOs have become so popular that even the celebrities, including Paris Hilton and Floyd Mayweather, have started jumping on board. In fact, Paris has been involved in it for over a year now and also met the COO of Ethereum last year.

 

Total Value of ICOs in 2017

The total value raised by 92 ICOs in 2017 is $1.25 billion. This is a really good number, given the recent boom of such offerings in the VC sector. There are so many firms that have used these offerings to raise money. For example, Tezos managed to get the capital of over $200 million by creating a new blockchain, whereas, another firm, Bancor secured $153 million via ICO.

 

Criticism and Scrutiny from Regulators

Despite the boom, this phenomenon has been under severe criticism and scrutiny from regulators and other authorities. For example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) released a statement in which it was mentioned that these offerings are exposed to money laundering and other terrorist financing risks, because the nature of these transactions remains anonymous. Another concern raised by the MAS was the collection of large amounts of capital in such a short time frame, which makes ICO vulnerable to high-level risk.

On the other hand, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) said in July this year that the security law of the U.S. will be applicable to this cryptocurrency. The experts are also showing concern over its legitimacy. They have highlighted that the sale of a cryptographic token makes the investor entitled to a certain share of profit in the firm, which can be considered as a violation of financial rules and regulations. The People’s Bank of China and a lot of other government departments have released a joint statement that people and firms that have raised money through ICO should also make arrangements to return that capital.

 

Firms Facing Increasing Risk of Getting Hacked

Despite all the boom and criticism, the risk of ICOs cannot be ruled out. A clear example of this is CoinDash that initiated an ICO, but ended up getting hacked in July. As a result, all of its funds got stolen. Although, it has gained popularity in the past few months, yet, the risks cannot be ruled out entirely.

 

Future of ICOs

The Chief Information Officer of UBS, Oliver Bussman, raised his concern and said that strict regulations and measures, as applied to IPO businesses, are required in ICO to safeguard the interest of investors. However, he is quite confident about this new mode of raising funds and expressed that such offerings will continue to happen in future. He said that as a new business model that is benefiting the blockchain technology, ICO will continue to sustain by combining hybrid equity ownership/currency and crowd funding.

Wave of Change in the VC Sector

Sep
01

Every day many venture capitalists invest in startups with the hope that it will be yet another unicorn. Venture capitalists are a type of investors who are also futurologists. They invest in new businesses with an anticipation that it will turn out to be the next Facebook or Uber and their investment will multiply several times.

A perfect example of such investment is the one made by Mark Tluszcz in Skype. In 2001, he invested $2.5 million and now is worth $250 million.

Investors have the chance of winning big or losing all of their investment. Tluszcz also shared his experience stating that 50 percent of the startups they invest in, end up as a failure; 20 percent of these investments only make as far as returning their investment money and another 20 percent increase their stake three times. It is the remaining 10 percent that makes it big, he added, and keep the venture capital (VC) firms going.

 

A Wave of Change in the VC Sector

Keeping all of this in mind, it is an undeniable truth that VC firms have undergone massive changes over the last two decades.

In the UK, the amount of investment by venture capitalists has increased from £453 million to £1961 million between 2011 and 2016. A number of these firms are filled with entrepreneurs who are passionate about building a business and not just a career.

 

Lack of Diversity

Despite all the changes, there is still a lack of diversity in the sector. Debbie Wosskow, a VC investor who was once an entrepreneur, came face to face with the harsh reality that 95 percent of all the investments made by venture capitalists go to male-led startups and most of these investments are made by male venture capitalists.

According to a research in Harvard Business Review, when it comes to female entrepreneurs, the focal point of venture capitalists is always toward potential losses, but with male founders, they look at it from the perspective of potential gains. Regardless of what the reason is, things have started to change in the VC sector.

 

Wind of Change — A Step Toward Revolutionizing the VC Sector

According to a venture capitalist, Suranga Chandratillake, said that those who present their ideas before a group of investors have to sell their idea of making it big. He further said that investors need a convincing idea that has a potential to generate good profits and not a presentation that just talks about becoming another unicorn like Uber. Investors need to see that entrepreneurs are not just into organic growth; in fact, they should be willing to take risks of revolutionizing the entire sector with a proper plan and potential to bring the right people in their team.

 

Self-awareness — A Trait of Successful Entrepreneurs

Another venture capitalist, Jillian Manus, believes the best ideas come from those startups where one partner has a sales and operation background whereas the other one is into technology. They come together as a team to sell their idea along with a well-devised plan of how they will achieve their goals. She added that a founder must be honest with exciting ideas as the most important question she asks the entrepreneurs is to tell how they failed. Those who say they have never failed are either hiding the truth or they lack self-awareness.

To secure an investment, a founder of a new startup should show that they have learned from their mistakes and be honest about it as it enables them to identify a problem ahead of time. All in all, venture capitalists do believe that honesty is the best policy when it comes to investing in new startups, because if an entrepreneur needs a venture capital, he or she must tend to scale up and expand their business quickly.

Venture Capital Ecosystem – Now

Aug
17

The current Venture Capital ecosystem has begun to revive and experienced growth in the last two-quarters. Let’s take a look at the situation of the venture capital ecosystem to evaluate the liquidity and investment position in the market.

 

Overview

In the first and second quarter of 2017, VC sector continued to grow despite the rolling financial market in China, Euro crisis, UK’s exit from the EU, controversial election in the U.S. and obstructed technology IPO market. Although, new uncertainties have surfaced, investors have learned to adapt and adjust. Whereas, the profits made in the first quarter further increased in the second quarter.

 

Funding Activity at a Global Level

The number of deals around the world has also increased. Equity funding rounds in the second quarter of this year increased by 5.7% as compared to the first quarter, adding about 300 rounds. This change took place as a result of angel investment and seed stage investment.

If you compare it with the second quarter of 2016, the overall growth in the funding rounds was about 8.8%, which came about as a result of early stage firms.

 

Dollar Volume

According to a report by CrunchBase, the overall investment increased by 16% in dollar terms, which is an increase of about $6.6 billion in the deployed capital. There was a fair distribution of gain. Late stage startups, early stage startups, startups at the seed stage and angels received about 20% funding in the current quarter as compared to the previous one. The only thing that faced a downturn was a technology growth rounds.

However, the global VC market is not yet restored. In the second quarter of last year, the total investment amount was $51.5 billion, but this year it was $47,8 billion, i.e., 7.2% less than the previous year. On the other hand, technology and seed sector experienced growth by 10.75% and 16.5% respectively.

 

Leading Investors

In a CrunchBase report, a total of 3200 VC rounds was analyzed during the second quarter of this year. During the first quarter, it was Tencent Holdings, Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners that secured the first position, wherein, each had a total of 9 rounds. In the current quarter, however, Tencent led 11 rounds, whereas, Sequoia and Accel led 14 and 20 rounds respectively.

In this quarter, some newcomers were also in the leading position, including Samsara, Grammarly, and General Catalyst. SoftBank also formed part of this list in the second quarter of 2017 along with True Ventures. Some firms dropped down from a leading position, while other newcomers made it to the top.

 

Technology Growth

Growth capital in the technology sector is also known as a growth equity in the business. Technology growth rounds have been defined as private equity rounds in the CrunchBase report. In these rounds, some VC investors from the previous rounds also participated as a continuation.

The dollar and deal volume also increased in this quarter compared with a volume of the same period last year. The overall increase was about 32%. The increase in dollar volume was of $160 million. Although, the deals in the current quarter were two times more than the deals in the previous quarter, the total value of funds was 45% less than the last quarter. This downfall represents the decline in round sizes over time.

 

Initial Public Offerings

The second quarter of 2017 experienced a small increase in the technology initial public offerings (IPOs), both in the United States and the Europe. This toned down the speculative noise that IPO window was closed for everyone except the big firms.

No significant regulatory filings or announcements were made in the third quarter of this year. Redfin, a real estate brokerage, filed documents with the Security and Exchange Commission, showing its interest to raise $100 million. And so far, it has managed to raise over $167 million from investors like Tiger Global Management, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and others.

 

Although, the global VC market experienced a severe decline at the end of last year, the second quarter of 2017 was relatively better. Growth was observed in the dollar and deal volume for two-quarters back to back. Rounds are also experiencing growth; some venture capitalists doubled the bet on their investing activities. If the upward trend continues, the third quarter will bring the market back to normal after full recovery.