Home VCs Muscle Back Into Startup Funding – Some Call It a Bubble

VCs Muscle Back Into Startup Funding – Some Call It a Bubble

After several years spent watching angels, super angels and incubators move in on their turf, VCs are flexing back. A new survey of startups shows venture capitalists are reasserting themselves in the funding game.

The reemergence of traditional VCs can make a big difference in how prospective startups look for funding – and could also signify a bubble.

The survey, by Palo Alto law firm Dorsey & Whitney, polled 336 startup CEOs and founders around the country and found a big jump from two years ago in investment by VCs. Startups in metropolitan areas whose companies got money from VCs rose to 27.5%, up from 17.1% when Dorsey & Whitney did its first survey on the topic, in 2010.

“When we did our first survey there was competition between VCs, angels, superangels and incubators,” says Ted Hollifield, a corporate partner in Dorsey & Whitney’s venture capital practice.

Angels were swooping in and entrepreneurs, a lot of whom had soured on the VC model, welcomed them with open hands. “But this seems to have sorted itself out,” Hollifield says. “Now it’s working such that angels and superangels and incubators are sources for early funding rounds but companies see those sources as a path that leads them to their second round of funding – from traditional VCs.”

That’s part of the explanation. Another part: Entrepreneurs want bigger rounds. The Dorsey & Whitney survey reports that the number of CEOs who raised less than $500,000 in total funding dropped to 62.8% from 75.8% in 2010. And 42% of CEOs in metropolitan areas now expect to land investment from traditional VC firms, double the number in 2010.

The money is available. Another survey (download PDF) of Silicon Valley VCs by University of San Francisco professor of entrepreneurship Mark Cannice, shows VC confidence up significantly in the first quarter, to 3.7 on Cannice’s five-point scale, from 3.27 the previous quarter.

For some observers, the VCs are partying like it’s 1999: “This is 1999 all over again, but this time it’s gotten worse,” Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, told The New York Times recently. “Companies are simply being founded to be bought.”

Don’t blame the entrepreneurs. When some guy in Gucci driving shoes waves millions in your face, you’d have to be a regular Andrew Mason not to take it.

It’s the oldest business model in the book: Make hay while the sun shines. Or before the bubble pops.

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