Report shows VCs abandoning seed funding... can Angels fill the innovation gap?

VC firms are chasing less risky later stage investments and making fewer seed deals. Angels are on the rise, such as Ashton Kucther, but is it enough?
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor on

The latest report on trends in US Venture investments shows a massive decline of 40% in seed investments in US startups in the final quarter of 2011, and a much larger drop of 48% for the entire year.
The MoneyTree Report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers uses data reported by VC firms to their trade group the National Venture Capital Association, and Thomson Reuters.
There was an overall decline in funding across software, Internet and IT services, but by far the largest drop was in seed funding for startups, which almost halved in 2011.
From the financial figures it is not clear if this drop in funding is being made up by private deals made by wealthy individuals. There has been a dramatic rise in the number of people wanting to become Angel investors following the spectacular success of a handful of prominent private investors, in Silicon Valley and New York.
Ron Conway, Dave McClure, and Jeff Clavier, are some of the private investors that have become household names to many, thanks to a series of spectacular investments. In some cases, startups went from initial seed funding to acquisition in under a year, sold to tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, SAP, Facebook, Twitter, IBM, Amazon, and others. They now manage large VC funds.
Private investing in startups expanded over the past ten years to fill a gap caused by traditional VC firms moving into less risky later stage funding. Some, such as respected serial entrepreneur Judy Estrin, have warned that such trends are contributing to an "innovation gap" that will harm the future of US tech.
Some of the other key points in the MoneyTree report are detailed here by Mark Boslet at PEHub:
peHUB » Venture Investing Sees A Weak 4Q...

Fourth-quarter deal making was particularly strong in cleantech and among biotechnology startups, but software, Internet, medical devices and IT services investing fell.


Investments for the quarter came to $6.57 billion with venture capitalists completing 844 deals... The totals were down 10% in dollars and 11% in deals from the third quarter.

Software was the largest investment category with allocated capital down 16%...

Internet investing fell a more precipitous 23%...

and medical devices commitments stumbled 35%.

Seed-stage investing of $134 million continued a year-long decline. For the year, seed funding fell 48% in dollars while deal volume was essentially flat.
For the year, venture capitalists put $28.4 billion into 3,673 deals, an increase of 22% in dollars and 4% in deals, the MoneyTree Report found.

Some of the fourth quarter trends don't look good but they have far to fall to become a problem. It is worth noting that 2011 was a very good year, the third largest amount of venture capital invested in the last ten years.
There are some interesting charts here and a slideshow.

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