Valuation metrics show weakening for the fourth straight quarter

The law firm Fenwick & West quietly released its third-quarter venture capital survey this past Friday, and its findings aren’t exactly shocking. At the same time, they hint at problems to come for some startups.

The survey, which analyzed the valuations and terms of financings for 149 Bay Area companies that raised capital in the third quarter, showed that 71 percent of those financings were “up” rounds, meaning the price per share of the company increased over its last round. Another 14 percent were down rounds, meaning the opposite happened, and 15 percent were “flat,” so the companies’ valuations didn’t change, despite that they raised more funding.

The picture was almost exactly the same as in the second quarter of the year, when 74 percent of rounds were up rounds and 13 percent were flat, but the third-quarter marks the fourth quarter in a row that venture valuation metrics have declined, which has the survey’s author, attorney Barry Kramer, following the development closely.

“It’s not like things have fallen dramatically,” he told us by phone on Friday. “Basically, we were close to all-time highs in 2014 and 2015, and valuations are now at their 12-year averages, so you could argue that we’re in a healthy regression to the mean.”

Of greater concern to Kramer is that the number of deals has also gone down over the past four quarters. In the second quarter, for example, Fenwick was able to analyze 195 financings for Silicon Valley companies — or 30 percent more than in the third quarter.

That could mean that only stronger companies are getting financed. At the same time, it does raise questions about what happens to all the startups that raised funds in 2014 and 2015 and haven’t raised again. “Are they kind of starting to run on fumes, and we’re a quarter or so away from seeing something more dramatic?” Kramer asks. “I’d feel better if deal volumes weren’t falling.”

You can check out the entire survey here.