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Silicon Valley is Losing its Entrepreneurial Spirit

This past week, I wrote about how Silicon Valley is losing some of its entrepreneurial spirit as venture capitalists shifted their attention to later stage deals with higher valuations. In the analysis, I pointed out that 2019 was the most lucrative year for exits in more than a decade, with $200 billion in exits generated from venture-backed IPOs.

For context, I went back to the golden years of Silicon Valley – 2006 to 2014. During this period, venture capital that was invested in deals below $5 million grew by 290%.

However, things changed in 2015, when early stage deals from below $1 million to under $100 million began to decline at a rate of 20% to 36% per year. Early stage software companies suffered most from the reallocation during this period, while early stage deals declined from 388 in 2018 to around 279 in 2019.

So how did this happen?

I identified two culprits behind the trend – Silicon Valley’s declining entrepreneurial culture and the increasing attractiveness of late stage investments.

Startup pitches and dynamic innovation have been replaced by a relatively closed circle of investors who are only targeting high valuations. In fact, we are seeing an aggregate all-time high for 180 private companies with $1 billion-plus valuations, and they have undermined the attractiveness of seed and Series A round companies.

Moreover, the IPO window is shifting from a range of six to eight years to ten to twelve years, which drove several startups to go public at valuations of over $10 billion this year. Consequently, this has made late stage investments more attractive due to their longer duration and higher valuations. The downside is that it has suppressed early stage investments (defined as deals below $5 million), which only further hampered Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial culture.

Exciting early stage entrepreneurial stories have become rarer over the past few years, and many of the start-up tech events that I go to have either a noticeable lull or have moved overseas. The sad reality is that Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial culture has faded, and entrepreneurs have a better chance at attracting capital from strangers on Kickstarter than from Silicon Valley angels and VCs.

Read the full article in MarketWatch here.

Image by Patrick Nouhailler

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