Chronicle Journal: Finance

Pandemic forces fundraising founders to accept ‘discounts across the board’

Startup founders who are fundraising in this climate should expect venture investors to take a huge chunk out of their valuation expectations. “What we’re seeing across the board is discounts,” says Mike Janke, co-founder of early-stage cybersecurity investment firm Datatribe. Investors are still committing to new deals, he says, but they’re adding new terms and […]

Startup founders who are fundraising in this climate should expect venture investors to take a huge chunk out of their valuation expectations.

“What we’re seeing across the board is discounts,” says Mike Janke, co-founder of early-stage cybersecurity investment firm Datatribe.

Investors are still committing to new deals, he says, but they’re adding new terms and demanding lower valuations from companies as the cost of raising capital during the downturn. Janke, whose firm has several deals in the pipeline, says entrepreneurs should expect VCs to demand concessions like more frequent board meetings and large price cuts compared to what they’d previously seen.

“If you look at 2000 and 2008, venture always views [downturns] as the time to get good deals,” Janke says. “We’re looking at a 15% to 25% discount to do deals.”

In one instance, a company that turned down a $900 million acquisition offer is now in the process of raising a new round at a $500 million valuation, he says. “In 2019 it was just generally accepted that this company was worth over $1 billion.”

Deals are getting done, though. As the pandemic began to spread, Janke says most firms began triaging their portfolios to determine who would need to raise cash and who could remain afloat without an infusion. Now, firms are looking out and seeing what kind of opportunities there are in the broader market — if they can.

“Some of our peers in the Valley have up to 40% of their companies that need an infusion or some sort of bridge to get through,” says Janke. “These companies that had higher valuations that came out of the Valley have had to do more drastic cuts.” Startups that raised cash in markets outside the Bay Area have not had as much difficulty, he says, because they’re more efficient.

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