Would You Like Your Calls Forwarded to the Under-The-Desk Line, Mr. Moritz?
Sequoia Capital partner Michael Moritz once argued that “the best time to invest is when people are cowering under their desks.” A pithy little adage, and one that was understood to be emblematic of the healthy optimism and patient money of the venture capital industry and its indefatigable all-trees-grow-to-heaven worldview.
It loses a bit of its luster, though, when that healthy optimism and patient money are themselves cowering under the desk. And make no mistake, they are cowering under the desk. VC confidence at its lowest point in the five years after its sixth consecutive quarterly decline, according to the Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Confidence Index. Sequoia recently called an emergency meeting of its portfolio companies to warn them of what one partner said could be at least a 15-year downward cycle (seriously?). Michael Moritz is out telling the Financial Times that “many of start-ups that emerged in the recent start-up boom will end up ‘spattered on windshields and radiator grills and be forgotten.’” Just one venture-backed company, Rackspace Hosting, has gone public in the past nine months. And now the National Venture Capital Association’s annual survey forecasts a 10 percent decline in venture investment for 2009. Of the 400 venture capitalists surveyed by the NVCA…
- 92 percent said they expect a slowdown in investing in 2009
- 62 percent said they expect investment will decline more than 10 percent and fall below $27 billion in 2009
- 60 percent said they expect a decline in seed investment and 64 percent said they expect a decline in early stage investments
- 96 percent of venture capitalist said VC firms will not be able to raise money for investment in 2009
“2009 will be a year of anticipation for the venture capital industry as the economic turmoil will engender a fair amount of Darwinian change,” NVCA President Mark Heesen said in a statement. “The recession and shuttered IPO market will place tremendous pressure on portfolio companies to tighten their belts and re-tool where necessary. We will likely see a marked slowdown of new investments as venture capitalists turn their attention to supporting these existing companies.”