5 trends in VC funding for pre-seed startups

Here’s how to close a funding round in 2023

Silicon Valley’s image as a shiny, money-spewing beacon on a hill of boundless opportunity has gotten a bit of a readjustment over the past year. The fundraising landscape has been utterly brutal. Yes, VCs are still sitting on a lot of dry powder, but as the entire economy shifts, many are nervous about where their next fund will come from.

It seems that we’re heading into a perfect storm, where more and more VCs are moving downstream, investing in slightly later-stage startups with less risk.

While this caution might stifle some innovation, it might also pave the way for a more sustainable, value-driven ecosystem. Data from Dropbox DocSend seems to indicate that as the venture landscape recalibrates, the next wave of unicorns will likely be those who can navigate this new terrain of skepticism and scrutiny.

In 2022, 25% of successful fundraises were completed in six weeks or less. For this year, the number is 13%. Deals at the earliest stages of the startup journey have been hit especially hard; at the pre-seed stage, year over year, investment was half in Q2 2023 compared to the year before. We’ve spoken to the investors about this and looked deeper at the investment cadence in the first half of the year, but however you spin it, it hasn’t been pretty.

Compared to H1 2022, so far this year, VCs are spending 12% less time poring over pitch decks, but founders haven’t slowed down: 16% more decks were sent out.

“It’s surprising that founders are still looking for funding, despite the volatility,” DocSend research lead Justin Izzo told me. “The founder activity stayed high, year over year. Relative to pre-pandemic levels, things haven’t really changed. Maybe it’s because of all the tech workers who were laid off and started companies of their own.”

Still, what are founders to do? If you’re going to start a company, and you want to go the VC route, it’s gotten harder, and diligence is much tighter than it was. Although maybe a market correction isn’t such a bad thing. But a year’s worth of DocSend data shows how founders should structure their pitch decks in order to gain maximum attention, and hopefully maximum fundraises.

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