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Silicon Valley VC Confidence Is Up

Confidence among venture capitalists is on the rise. So why aren't they investing yet?
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Confidence among Silicon Valley venture capitalists is up for the third consecutive quarter, according to the quarterly Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Confidence Index, published this week.

Ringing it at 3.73 (5 indicating high confidence and 1 indicating low), the index rose 0.1 since last quarter, due in part to an increased sense of macroeconomic stability, according to University of San Francisco Professor Mark V. Cannice. Confidence, in this case, refers to a sense among venture capitalists that they will be able to raise funds, back companies, and exit.

But a sunny outlook among VCs seems in opposition to recent measures of their activity. According to a Dow Jones VentureSource report released last week, though they raised more money in the first quarter of 2013 than in the previous, venture firms closed the fewest deals in over two years in the first quarter of 2013.

Cannice, who has administered the survey for the past 37 quarters, says that growing confidence could signal a sense that venture capitalists are ready to get back to work following a period of economic and political turbulence, which tends to disrupt the behavior of corporations poised to acquire venture-backed companies.

“When things start to have a semblance of predictability,” Cannice told Inc., “there may still be risk, but a long-term time horizon tends to provide the expectation that there will be more opportunities to have corporate acquirers take venture-backed firms and the corporate environment will be more welcoming." 

Cannice sends the survey to 60 Silicon Valley partner-level venture capitalists during the last two weeks of each quarter, asking them to rate their "confidence in the future high-growth venture entrepreneurial environment" on a scale of 1 to 5, and then to explain why they are feeling more or less confident. He says he usually receives between 30 and 33 responses.

Since individual explanations of the given ratings are qualitative, “confidence” means different things to different venture capitalists, but Cannice says that in general, VCs feel best when the market is welcoming to their traditional business model: “raising money, investing money, and exits.”

“Confidence tends to be most uniquely tied to an ability to sell a product,” said Cannice, “in this case through the IPO process. If confidence goes up one quarter, IPOs of venture-backed firms tend to go up in the next quarter.”

Though Cannice’s survey is confined to venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, he notes that the firms they back are headquartered across the country, and many of the trends he observes among local investors have implications for the industry at large.

“The splash in the pond here has ripples nationally and internationally.”

Last updated: Apr 26, 2013




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