Unicorn births are down, exits are down, and nine-figure rounds are taking on water
The first quarter of 2022 brought a historically huge sum of investment for global startups, with the three-month period outclassing any quarter in 2018, 2019, and 2020, according to CB Insights data.
But despite the fact that Q1 2022 posted historically elevated results, venture capital investment decelerated from Q4 2021 levels. And it may be that late-stage startups are those under the most fundraising pressure, data indicates.
Through the lens of the pace of unicorn creation, how frequently we’re seeing nine-figure rounds, and late-stage deal sizing more generally, we can see that the most mature startups — or at least the startups priced as if they were among the most mature technology upstarts — are seeing the market shifting underfoot.
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This is not a forecast of doom, mind. There isn’t anything that we can see in market data that indicates that the startup fundraising market is collapsing; indeed, there’s plenty of strength to be found in select markets and regions, something that TC+ will explore next week.
But for the huge cohort of startups worth $1 billion or more, new market conditions could force hard decisions in the quarters ahead. And if Q1 trends continue, we could see the pressure on late-stage startups ratchet higher. What is today a headache could become a migraine in short order. Let’s explore the data.
How rapidly is the late-stage startup fundraising market cooling?
To understand how the late-stage market is slowing, let’s observe trends in data that we tracked during the 2021 venture capital bonanza. From the Q1 2022 CB Insights global venture capital data download, the following stood out as key metrics in flux: