Amid an unprecedented recession that the world economy currently finds itself engulfed in, there have been certain players who have remained relatively unfazed by the pandemic, pharmaceutical companies to name one. And as much as it comes as a surprise, venture capitalists have also managed to stay in the green, according to data gathered by PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association.
While firms across the US raised a collective $51 Billion in 2019, they looked on course to comfortably better that amount, with $21 Billion raised in only the first quarter of 2020 by 62 venture capital funds across the country. Four funds of over $1 billion closed last quarter alone, including a $3.8 Billion fund from Tiger Global and a $3.6 billion fund from New Enterprise Associates. The report attributes the money flow to “the ability of established managers to secure large sums with relative ease by tapping into the longstanding relationships and consistent demand” from investors.
As is the case with almost every aspect of life, the bigger players have found it relatively easy to raise the money in such economically fragile times, while first-timers have had a difficult outing. Just 9 funds launched by first-time VCs raised 1.1 Billion, as compared to 49 or more for each or last 3 years.
The report attributes the stability offered by seasoned players as the main cause of investment attraction.
“Name-brand VC firms may be able to streamline the fundraising process,” wrote the authors of the report, and limited partner investors might be more inclined to invest in a firm that’s already famous, without first meeting the general partners face to face.
The report also pointed to an already well-established VC spending pattern. The favorite resort for the VCs continues to be the software companies, raking in $9.9 Billion. This was followed by pharmaceutical and biotech companies which raised $5.7 Billion. If we account for the medical devices, the amount swells to $7.1 Billion, up from $5.9 billion last year. While the general leaning of VCs towards the pharmaceutical sector has been there for a while, it has certainly been aggravated due to the ongoing pandemic.
“We can’t look at everything through a COVID lens,” said Jorge Conde, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz who invests in life sciences companies. Still, “a lot of the problems we face as a society will be biologic in nature, and the innovations we need to combat those problems will come from this industry.”
If we look from a more logical perspective, the medical industry can always be a safe haven for funds. The industry doesn’t usually follow the general trend of the industry and relatively remains unfazed during drawdowns, thus providing a safe option for investments.
“We’re seeing a lot more sophistication in terms of the therapy we can develop,” Conde said, largely due to major advances in science. For example, sequencing the genome of the coronavirus—a key step for developing ways to fight it—took just a few weeks, Conde said. A decade ago, it would have taken months. Similar advances mean investors can see a lot more bang for their buck in medicine, much as advances in areas like cloud computing led to an explosion of investing in software startups a decade ago, he said.
On a macro level, the report indicated an increased waiting period for startups to raise money. The early-stage seed and angel funding rounds arrived at an average 3 years after the founding of a startup, as compared to 1 year, during the 2008 recession. The number of deals has also decreased by 27%, in turn leading to bigger cheques for companies.