The ranks of the most active global venture investors are getting shaken up in 2023.
For the first quarter of this year, Andreessen Horowitz and General Catalyst ranked at the top of our list of the most active and spendiest lead venture investors. However, their leading roles come at a time when the cast of deep-pocketed startup backers is shrinking some.
In particular, the investors who used to reliably top the list — Tiger Global Management and SoftBank Vision Fund — are taking a breather. The two didn’t even crack the Top 20 in Q1.
It’s the latest indication that times have changed in the VC world. We’re seeing muted activity at seed and early stage, and fewer big late-stage rounds amid a lackluster IPO market.
Even so, deal flow hasn’t dried up. While many of the busiest investors in Q1 are mostly backing fewer rounds than they did a year ago, several have actually picked up the pace. Below, we look at the 10 most active lead or co-lead venture investors in Q1:
Notably, about half the active lead investors have slowed dealmaking compared to bubblier days a year ago. This includes Andreessen, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital India.
Others are actually leading more deals than they did a year ago. This group includes General Catalyst, Google Ventures and Altos Ventures.
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Next, we tallied up the largest rounds and their lead backers to get a sense 1 of which investors put the most capital to work in the first quarter.
As it turns out, our findings were highly skewed because there were two unusual and enormous financings that dwarfed every other Q1 deal in size. These were the reported $10 billion investment into OpenAI — largely from Microsoft — and a $6.5 billion round for payments giant Stripe.
All of the seven top investors in our list of those who led or co-led the most capital-intensive batch of financings last quarter, shown below, were Microsoft or Stripe backers:
Co-lead investors for the $6.5 billion Stripe financing announced in March include Andreessen, General Catalyst, MSD Partners, Thrive Capital, Founders Fund and Baillie Gifford. Microsoft, meanwhile, is the only listed investor for OpenAI’s mega-financing.
As you can see from the chart above, there’s a huge gap between the Microsoft and Stripe backers and everyone else. The next-highest names on the priciest lead round list — Greenoaks and Spark Capital — led rounds valued in aggregate at less than a fifth that of the Stripe backers.
Most active seed investors
While we saw some dramatic shifts in the ranks of most active and highest-spending venture investors, seed stage was a bit more stable.
Last year’s two most prolific seed investors — Y Combinator and Techstars — still topped the list in Q1. We also saw mostly familiar names round out the ranks of the top eight most active seed-stage investors, shown below:
It’s not surprising to see seed investors staying active even as overall funding contracts. For investors at this stage, the state of the IPO market or public tech valuations aren’t an immediate concern, as their portfolio companies are likely a long way from exit.
Still, a majority of the most active seed investors for Q1 reported lower deal counts compared to a year ago. The pullback is part of a broader reduction in global seed-stage investment, which fell 44% year over year in Q1, per Crunchbase data.
Down, but not out
The broad takeaway from our latest most active investor data dive is that overall venture and seed firms are putting less capital to work in fewer deals.
It’s also probably prudent not to put an overly optimistic spin on the two giant rounds of the quarter for Stripe and OpenAI. The Stripe investment, after all, was at a down valuation, and OpenAI, a capped profit company governed by a nonprofit, was not a traditional venture round.
The more measured take on Q1 is that this looks like a continued pullback, but not a collapse. Big rounds are still closing, and while some big names have dropped from the ranks of high-spending investors, other startup backers are keeping active.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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