As the ratio of VC dollars going to early-stage companies continues to decline, the next wave of emerging startups could face challenges scaling quickly enough to grow into the next Dropbox, Airbnb or Dollar Shave Club. To make matters worse, current market fluctuations are only further distracting investors’ attention away from the real opportunity of early-stage growth, where real innovation happens.
Contributing to this slowdown are the billion-dollar vision funds from companies like Softbank and Sequoia, which have also served to help defer tech IPOs in 2017. But valuations are so good–and so much capital has been parked on the sidelines–that those rumored to be on the verge (like Dropbox) may finally pull the trigger and go public in 2018. For these same reasons, we should also expect to see an uptick in M&A activity this year as well.
One thing is certain: Companies across all verticals will continue to look for new, innovative ways to put their capital to work in 2018. But increased activity in the IPO and M&A markets will not stimulate the kind of early-stage deal-flow we need to see.
With nearly $2.6 trillion in capital held abroad, recent legislation lowering corporate tax should (in theory) create a powerful incentive for US companies to bring their money home. But if we’re going to offset the increasing dominance of a smaller and smaller handful of late-stage unicorns, the repatriation of profits isn’t enough.
Early-stage growth represent the heart of the tech ecosystem, and if we want to get the blood flowing back to these companies, we must expand our thinking beyond traditional innovation hubs like Silicon Valley and look for more sources for the capital out there in the form of excellent founders with truly innovative ideas. The next generation of startups depends on this.
Read more thought leadership from Jeff Schumacher here.