Last decade, it seemed the venture capital model was facing a serious crisis following the dot-com bubble. Funds weren’t producing positive returns. Partners were fleeing for other industries. And the industry’s very risk model was being called into question.
No more. 2016 was the year that cemented the industry’s return to a boom-time mentality and certified its influence on the U.S. economy. Despite a lack of exits — which could spell trouble down the line — it seems that pretty much everyone and their dog has decided to become a venture capitalist and launch a fund.
In its latest annual report, the National Venture Capital Association offers a data-driven picture of how just how quickly the industry has grown and looks at some important ways it has evolved. Here are eight of the most interesting data points from that report:
1. Big Time: On August 1 last year, the U.S. economy hit an interesting milestone. For the first time ever, five venture-backed companies became the five most valuable publicly traded companies: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet and Microsoft. As much as anything, it’s a psychological boost that demonstrates the viability of the VC model.
2. Boom Time: At the end of 2016, there were 898 VC firms, up from 791 in 2010 and 872 in 2004.
3. The Shrink: There were 1,562 VC funds at the end of 2016, up from 1,294 in 2010 but still below the 1,670 that existed in 2004.
4. Boom Time, Part 2: Those funds raised $41.6 billion, up from 19.6 billion in 2010 and $17.6 billion in 2004.
5. California Dreaming: California firms managed 54 percent of that capital, up from 53 percent the year before. Together, firms located in California, Massachusetts, and New York manage 83 percent of the country’s venture capital, up from 81 percent in 2015. Outside those three, the average VC fund remains tiny, with a median 2016 fund size of $23.5 million, compared to the national average of $75 million.
6. Big Fish: Sixty-eight firms managed more than $1 billion in venture capital. There were 334 that managed $50 million or less. The NVCA notes that, in general, the industry continues to consolidate around a handful of bigger players, even as more smaller funds get started.
7. Hello, World: The U.S. attracts the most venture activity. But its share of global VC investment fell to 54 percent last year from 81 percent in 2006. The rest of the planet has gotten wise to the game.
8. No Exit: The exit environment for venture-backed companies remained challenging in 2016, with only 39 IPOs completed. M&As accounted for 82 percent of the 726 VC-backed exits in 2016, which yielded a total of $46.8 billion in disclosed exit value.
In general, there are not enough exits to support the amount of funds being raised or invested. Which could mean the industry is accelerating right into a wall.