venture capitalistVenture capitalist confidence is up for the third straight quarter, even though recent returns haven’t been great, and some venture funds are getting squeezed out at the money-raising phase.

And, while founders are seeing evidence of an A-round crunch, angels and accelerators are picking up the slack.

Mark Cannice, professor of entrepreneurship and innovate at the University of San Francisco, recently completed his 37th consecutive survey of Silicon Valley venture capitalist confidence. And VC confidence is up for each of the last three quarters, hitting 3.73 on a 5-point scale.

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This quarter, even the depressed exit market for venture-backed firms typified by Zynga and Groupon was not enough to dampen VCs’ increasingly rose-tinted view of the future.

I talked to Cannice this morning.

VentureBeat: VC confidence is up. Why?

Cannice: It runs a little bit counter to some of the quantitative numbers that have come out recently, however, there’s confidence in the future over the 6-18 months.

Part of the reason is that VCs tend to have a longer-term horizon, they look further down the road, so even though current measures of performance for Q1 aren’t that good, it looks like some of the pressures on the VC model will ease somewhat, and acquisitions from corporations are likely to pick up.

Venture Capitalist confidence over the last 37 quarters

VentureBeat: Which Q1 measures aren’t good?

Cannice: The national VC association measures each quarter for IPOs and fundraising, and they found that for fundraising the amount raised is not that different from a year ago, but the number of funds is down.

What that points to is a concentration in funds which corresponds to a lot of funds closing up over the last year or so.

In addition, acquisitions and IPOs of venture-backed firms and capital raised is down significantly over the last year.

VentureBeat: Which Q1 measures aren’t good?

Cannice: Particularly in life-sciences … some of the regulatory hurdles have tightened up over the last few years. That extends the time for approval, and extends the time for medical device and life science companies to appear to be good investments. And, of course, it requires more money.

When you change the structure … then the finance and metrics may not work. As a result, most of the funds are not able to perform as well; therefore the LP investors are started to draw the purse strings tighter.

The long-term effect is less private capital available for some life science related new ventures, and this will have an impact on the level of innovation in life-sciences.

In clean-tech … some of the headlines like Solyndra have had a negative impact.

But some of the lower venture captial requirement industries like software have been more effective.

VentureBeat: We’ve been hearing in the last few months about an A-round crunch. What’s going on?

Cannice: There’s a few things at work here.

Over the last few years the overall return on funds hasn’t been great. So while there’s more money going into venture capital, it’s tending to concentrate into fewer, name-brand funds.

But that requires some of those funds to make larger investment than if they were smaller, so some of the dynamics are working to necessitate larger investments … which tends to squeeze out some of the earlier, lower capital needs business.

Which has opened up a opportunity for smaller, angel-type funds and accelerators to replace them — angel groups are filling the hole.

VentureBeat: VC confidence has been boomeranging around the last few years. Why?

Cannice: There’s a clear correlation with the macro-economic environment, which has boomeranged too.

And there’s also — from a government point of view — the oversight of the industry is not necessarily as popular as it could be.  When there’s external influences that has a negative impact on any part of the VC business model, that tends to find its way into the confidence levels.

VentureBeat: What’s the take-away for founders and entrepreneurs?

Cannice: What I’ve seen really consistently is while there’s waves of positive and negative sentiment related to macro-economic factors, throughout all that, I’ve always seen confidence in both venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.

That’s never wavered.

And that’s the hope for the future, that Silicon Valley continues to attract many of the best and brightest of the entrepreneurs around the world.

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