As $100M+ venture rounds evaporate, IPOs might have to carry the weight

Earlier this year we wrote that the “the $100M venture round is going extinct.” Often our predictions wind up sideways. This time we were on the right track.

According to new data from PitchBook, the U.S. venture market is continuing to endure lackluster velocity for nine-figure investments into private companies, colloquially referred to as “mega-rounds.”

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In the first half of 2023, PitchBook counted just 108 mega-rounds in the United States. If we presumed that this rate will hold throughout the year, we’re looking at just over 200 nine-figure deals in the U.S. in 2023. That’s a dramatic decline from prior levels. Starting in Q4 2020 through Q3 2022, there were more than 100 mega-rounds recorded per quarter. In 2021, the average was more than 200 per quarter. To see perhaps 200 this year implies that the number of late-stage startups that will be able to raise an IPO-sized round is in free fall.

The rounds are also getting smaller, with data indicating that the average nine-figure round size has fallen under the $200 million mark, exclusive of a few rounds that are hardly traditional venture deals, like OpenAI’s massive round earlier this year. Smaller mega-rounds, and fewer of them is a tough mix for unicorns of all stripes and sizes.

Of course, we could see nine-figure rounds rebound in other markets. Europe and Asia have seen their fair share of the transactions historically. But as the United States’ venture market is the largest in the world, and was once the leading player in mega-round financings, where the U.S. goes, so, too, goes the world.

If unicorns here are struggling to find fodder in the quantity that they became accustomed to, other startups around the world are likely enduring a similar dearth of capital.

Notably PitchBook thinks that “the need for capital likely leading to an uptick in mega-rounds as the year progresses” thanks to “the notion that depleting cash runways will force more of these startups to raise in the harsher dealmaking environment,” it still expects full-year mega-round tallies to come in at dramatically reduced levels compared to prior years.

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