How startups can lower their chance of a down round in a downturn

Here on the eve of Thanksgiving in the United States, this column spent a good portion of the morning hunting up something to be thankful for in startup land.

There are options: The world has never been more software-centric, meaning that the core startup product is well aligned with long-term macroeconomic trends. That’s good. Consumers are also holding up better than some expected given the global backdrop of rising interest rates and hard-to-tame inflation. Despite endless calls for a recession either tomorrow or the day after, key economies in tech continue to grow.

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Sadly, for many startups, the news is overall more negative than positive. For example, tech investment is falling, valuations are down, IPOs are frozen, layoffs abound, and startups that decided to put off fundraising due to turbulent market conditions may wind up with the short end of the valuation stick. (The good-news version of this point is that some startups did raise during the earlier quarters of the present tech-market downturn, which wound up being the right move!)

Data from Forge’s November 2022 report — the company operates a secondary market for the trading of private-market tech shares — indicates that startups that raised earlier in the present downturn wound up collecting fewer down rounds and received better overall pricing than their more reticent brethren.