Wake me up when September Ends

That’s when things will start to settle and make more sense

No question its been a rough year in the venture/tech world, and in the world overall. Our do no wrong, growth at all costs stocks are down, inflation is up and startup funding has significantly slowed down — after one of the craziest years we’ve ever had… this kind of feels like a hangover. You can read my overview of the last year here to catch up https://trace-cohen.medium.com/a-tech-correction-was-inevitable-lets-look-back-on-the-last-year-7358d13cddb1

I haven’t made a new investment in 5months — I’ve been completely in support mode helping my founders raise more runway. Seed+, SeedII, bridge to A, Pre-Series A, whatever it takes. And I’m not the only one, many of my friends and colleagues too. But why? For me:

  • It’s my job as an angel investor to invest in pre/seed startups that will raise more money. Yes, I know companies should be profitable and sustainable but unfortunately, we don't have the luxury to wait around for that. Ironically it does take generally does take 5yrs+, now closer to 10yrs for an exit/liquidity but with some (or a lot of) venture capital, hopefully, the outcome is significantly bigger
  • Towards the beginning of the year, it became unclear to me what my friends at the Series A, etc were looking for. Pre/seed investors are like scouts at the top of the funnel and hopefully one of our value adds is sharing our startups with potential next-round investors (we make so many intros!). But with public markets way down, growth stage funding basically frozen, multiples compressed, the whole system went into shock.
  • The doom and gloom definitely hasn’t help as it’s a little bit like a self-fulling prophecy. But it’s true sadly — some beloved and revered startups are laying off and taking down rounds, which kind of scares people from investing in that industry (depending on metrics if expanded too fast, no rev or smaller market etc). You can check out layoffs.fyi
  • I’ve been pretty good at “picking” so far with 81% of my investments raising additional capital after I invested. So when I lost the clarity in my network through all the signals from my venture friends, news and the markets, I flipped the switch and went into support mode. Our early stage (and even later stage) founders need more help than ever.

Last year VCs never worked harder to get deal flow, keeping up with the breakneck funding pace; while this year we’ve never worked harder directly with the founders adding value. I’ve been in contact with many of my founders dealing with sales, marketing, strategy, partnerships, capital raising etc and I love it. Basically back to basics, all just to buy time/runway until the capital markets really start to open up, hence wake me up when Septembers ends…

The public markets are currently in earnings season which is our quarterly insight into how each industry is performing. (Happy to discuss my thoughts on each and how it affects the market if you’re interested.) My larger point is that the last major earnings (Peloton closing us out) come out the week of August 22nd, so until all that news is digested, we’re in a gray area in terms of what’s growing/shrinking. And what we believe to be covid rebounds, return to normalcy or false positives.

I believe in about 60 days we’ll have a much better understanding of the public and private markets, which will restart the VC funding a little as we get closer to pre-Covid levels. I also hope everyone took some time off this summer to relax, because we definitilty didnt last year.

So with that go hug a founder, tell them you really appreciate all their hard work and try really hard to help however you can. Now is the time when reputations are made, or lost.

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