Early stage venture capital investments in start-ups fell to new lows in 2003, according to a recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers study. Only 479 start-ups received VC funding last year, the lowest level since 1994 when only 279 companies received venture capital.

It really isn't any new news to our readers that VC funding is basically non- existent for start-ups. Back in August 2003, Inc. reporter Cara Cannella noted in Where Seed Money Really Comes From that leading sources for seed capital are the four Fs: friends, family, founders and foolhardy investors (or angels).

Will the tide turn for start-ups seeking VC money? John Taylor, vice president for research at the National Venture Capital Association, seems to think so. While VCs have been focused on keeping portfolio companies alive, a resurgence in the IT sector and a more favorable economy is now allowing VCs to look beyond their current investments to the "next crop of companies." Anecdotal evidence suggests this trend is underway -- we'll have to wait for the hard numbers reported for Q1 and Q2 to discover if the evidence supports reality.