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VC Valuations

4 charts: Stagnant VC valuations fail to spur discount investment spree

More than a year and a half into the VC industry downturn, there are signs that valuations have hit bottom. But VCs have yet to ramp up bargain hunting.

More than a year and a half into the VC industry downturn, there are signs that valuations have hit bottom, according to PitchBook’s Q3 2023 US VC Valuations Report. However, VCs are still not eager to bargain hunt, and dealmaking continues to be subdued.

Here are four charts that sum up the latest trends in US VC valuations.

 

While valuations at most stages have wilted since the market peaked in 2021, valuations at the seed stage have continued to sprout thanks in large part to the participation of large, multistage investors.

However, big firms are slowly starting to pull back from this stage, which could be welcomed by seed-focused funds, many of which had to pay higher prices for deals this year. These smaller firms are likely becoming more discerning with dealmaking as many of them may struggle to raise capital. These factors will likely lead to stagnating or even lower valuations for the youngest companies, essentially putting an end to a phenomenon we are calling the “seed blip.”

 

Median early-stage pre-money valuations have hovered around $40 million for five quarters. The static price is possibly a result of an increase in flat rounds. The investor-friendly environment may also have allowed VCs to keep price hikes at bay.

Median late-stage valuations managed to tick up for two quarters in a row, but it may be too early to celebrate. Only the highest quality startups are able to attract funding in this environment, which means that other late-stage companies continue to conserve cash through cost cuts.

 

Startups are putting off fundraising for as long as possible. Late-stage and venture growth companies that raised their last round at the peak of valuations in 2021 may still have capital in the bank.

The trend is most dramatic at the venture growth stage, where the median time between rounds expanded by more than two months from 2022 to 2023. These businesses are biding their time until market conditions improve or they grow into their previous valuations.

 

Since liquidity is hard to come by now, investors are excited to see their portfolio companies exit. However, exit values in this environment are less attractive than in the recent past.

Valuation step-ups of companies being acquired or going public have fallen to or near a 10-year low. The most notable companies to IPOs this year, Instacart and Klaviyo, debuted at lower valuations than their last VC rounds, contributing to subdued step-ups. M&A price increases have also been muted, but several companies have demonstrated that selling to a corporate acquirer at relatively modest prices may still be attractive to early investors.


Featured image by Caroline Bedoc/Getty Images

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