Venture capitalists have been talking about an industry shakeout since Kozmo.com delivered its last box of doughnuts. New data suggests the decline has been more severe than previously thought, finding fewer than 100 active U.S. VC firms in the technology sector.
The numbers come from fund-of-funds manager Flag Capital, and recently were cited in a conference presentation by venture capitalist Mark Suster. Here was Suster's slide:
What's important about Flag's data is that it excludes the legions of "zombie" venture capital funds that no longer make new investments. It does so by qualifying "active" firms made a minimum of four new investments over the course of a year (and technically deployed at least $4 million total).
"The original intent of the exercise was to try to get a sense of how many firms are truly active," explains Kirsten Morin, a vice president with Flag. "Others define 'active' as those firms that have raised a fund in the last eight years, but as we look around it doesn't feel as though there are [hundreds] of active firms today. We specifically excluded follow-on investments to try to gain a better understanding of those firms actually deploying fresh capital versus those just running on fumes -- in many cases only deploying capital in follow-ons to avoid dilution (and, of course, with the hope that something would break out and propel them to a successor fund). Interestingly, if you look back to 2000, the shakeout in active firms by that definition actually happened pretty quickly."
Flag's data also suggests a modest comeback between 2010 and 2012, perhaps owing to the rise of micro-VC funds by investors who previously were acting as individual angels.