VCs are cutting checks remotely, but deal volume could be slowing

When COVID-19 began to shutter the United States economy, startups jumped into cost-cutting mode as expectations rose that venture capital was about to get a heck of a lot harder to raise. After all, prior downturns in the broader economy, and tech sector in particular, had taken a bite out of the ability for startups to attract new funds.

PitchBook research shows that, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the amount of money venture capitalists invested fell, with early-stage deal and dollar volume enduring the largest cuts. Late-stage valuations during the same period came under steep pressure. The connection between a slipping economy and a rapidly deteriorating venture capital market, therefore, seems strong.

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The historically grounded feeling from startups in Q2, as the stock market sold off and unemployment rose, was one of concern: VCs were about to cut their deal pace, and the number of dollars that they were willing to put into each deal would likely fall as well. That investors would need to shake up their process and do deals remotely was not confidence inspiring.

We don’t have full Q2 VC numbers yet, so it’s too soon to say that Q2 was worse or better than expectations. But what we can say, thanks to a new survey¬†from OMERS Ventures, is that VCs moved with reasonable speed to get over the technology and cultural hurdle of remote deal-making to keep the checks flowing. Indeed, according to OMERS Ventures’ research, 69% of the VCs it surveyed in June were willing to do fully remote deals; for startups worried that the venture class was simply going to pack up its checkbook and take an extended vacation, it’s good news.

But the news isn’t all rosy — most VC firms from the 150 in North America and Europe that the venture group surveyed have yet to actually execute a remote deal. And, there’s some indication that overall deal volume could be slowing, perhaps due to “dwindling supply of companies formally going to market,” according to OMERS Ventures’ Damien Steel, a managing partner.

This morning let’s examine which VCs have been the most active, and the least, to find out which types of firms are still investing, and where investors are seeing more deal flow, and less.

Remote deals, fewer deals

Most VCs have decided that remote deal-making is, at minimum, something that they need to become accustomed to. Only 4% of surveyed VCs said that they would not do remote deals, full-stop. Another 23% said that they were fine with remote deals, albeit with some ability to meet entrepreneurs in person.