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Silver Lining of the 'Series A Crunch'

A recent survey from Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick and West shows that the so-called Series A crunch may be worsening--but the news isn't all bad.
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recent study by the Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick and West seems to indicate that--in Silicon Valley, at least--the battle for Series A funding is getting even tougher.

The study analyzed 61 transactions between Silicon Valley companies and their investors in 2012 and 56 transactions in 2011. It found only 27 percent of the companies that found seed funding in 2011 had raised Series A financing by the end of 2012. Compared to the year before: 45 percent of seed funded companies in 2010 had raised Series A financing by the end of 2011. 

But the causes behind this dirge of cash may be more positive than you think.

 “We are seeing so much activity in the seed fundraising environment right now--and most of that is good,” says Fenwick partner Barry Kramer.

Kramer explains that a growing number of incubators, accelerators, and angel investors have helped many start-ups to win seed funding that may not previously have been available to them. This increased accessibility to early stage funding, paired with the fact that many tech companies don’t require huge amounts of money to launch, may actually help some companies to skip the Series A round all together, he says.

“It takes so little to get them going that they just raise seed and that’s enough,” says Kramer. He adds that another possible explanation for the shortage of Series A funded companies may be early stage aqui-hires.

“Sometimes the Google’s and Facebook’s swoop in and buy them early,” he says, “Either because [the company has] a great idea, or because they’ve assembled a great team.”

According to Kramer, these factors all contribute to the 73 percent of start-ups that don’t manage to raise their Series A goals. Of course, he acknowledges, it would be foolish to forget that many budding businesses fail.

Kramer insists that while a lot of companies may not raise their Series A funding on the first try, that doesn’t mean they’re done for. In fact, Fenwick and West’s study indicates that more previously funded companies went back for a second round of seed funding than they have in previous years--23 percent in 2012 as opposed to 12 percent in 2011. Kramer explains that this may be the result of venture capitalists requiring a little more evidence of progress from companies before they invest.

Even if the venture capitalists don’t want to shell out the big bucks yet, he says, “It’s a good sign if your seed investors are willing to give you more money.” Hint: that means they still think you have potential.

“Starting a company is risky and it may not be easy to raise Series A, but there is enough money out there for good companies to get funded,” Kramer says. “I wouldn’t not do this because you’re worried about there not being enough money.” 

Last updated: Apr 2, 2013

FRANCESCA FENZI | Staff Writer

Francesca Fenzi reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle.




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