Robo Advisors

As you may of heard, Goldman Sachs purchased United Capital, a wealth advisory firm, for $750M cash on May 16, 2019.  Goldman Sachs provided a visual of how this acquisition fits into their existing business, see below.

slide-1500

In the press release , it was mentioned that United Capital had $25B in Assets Under Managements (AUM), which got me thinking on how the digital advisory shops are doing in comparison, such as Wealthfront, Personal Capital and Betterment.  It also led me to think if this acquisition is a valuation benchmark for these companies.

I did a query on CB Insights to compare all four.

4686285151928320

In order to really compare all four, you have to look at AUM and number of employees, to measure efficiency.

Wealthfront Personal Capital Betterment United Capital
Headquarters Redwood City Redwood City New York Newport Beach
California California New York California
Website wealthfront.com personalcapital.com betterment.com unitedcp.com
Status Alive / Active Alive / Active Alive / Active Acquired by GS
First Funding 2008 2010 2010 2009
VC Backed Yes Yes Yes Yes
# of Investors 62 11 14 5
Days Since Last Funding 501 105 668 615
Total Funding $204.5M $312.02M $275M $38M
Valuation $500M $950M $800M $750M
# of employees 194 843 271 615
2 year employee growth rate 24% 18% 18% 18%
AUM $11.4B $9B $16.4B $25B
Digital / Traditional Digital Digital Digital Traditional/Digital

A few things stood out to me.

United Capital raised the least amount of VC dollars but has the greatest AUM.  I do recognize the United Capital is not necessarily in the robo advisor category, but I’m sure they would argue they have real technology, although they aren’t really a self serve platform, perhaps they are more of a hybrid.

All four are growing headcount at an almost exact rate, 18% to 24%, that is really surprising how uniform that is, there has to be some explanation to this, don’t have the answer for you though.

In terms of the three actual digital / robo advisors, Betterment has the great amount of AUM and has not raised additional in the longest amount of time (668 days), I wonder if they are cash flow neutral / profitable at this point.

Personal Capital has the largest number of employees and substantially more than Betterment and Wealthfront.  Having the greatest number of employees isn’t a category you want to be leading when you have a digital offering.

I wonder what the exit opportunities for the remaining private companies, who buys them, do they IPO and at what valuations?

sources of data:

Visual comparing the four:  CB Insights (paid service)

Valuation:  Pitchbook (paid service)

AUM:  website, news outlets, press releases

Employees:  LinkedIn

2 years Employees Growth Rate:  LinkedIn Insights (a paid service)

 

 

$50M+ deals in NYC

There has been a flurry of $50M+ rounds announced for NYC HQ’d startups, so was interested in taking a look at data and comparing 2018 vs prior years.  see below.

4974691715121152

As you can see, 2018 has been an incredible year in terms of # of deals and dollars.  In 2012 there were zero deals that were $50M+ in size, which is eye opening when you look at the 2018 data.

It is really amazing to see the growth of the startup community in NYC, so many investors are excited about what is happening.  On the investor front, I was wondering which firms have been the most active in these $50M+ round sizes.  see below.

6737447292239872

The middle column is the most relevant as it captures which firms have been the most active in the past two years.  Over half of these investors have offices in NYC, so the days of having to fly to Sand Hill to raise large rounds could be coming to end potentially.

Active Early Stage Investors in NY based companies (Jan ’17 to Aug ’18)

In preparation for an event that we run on a regular basis, called Fundraising Workshop, wanted to provide an update on some of the most active early stage VCs (Venture Capital) who are investing in NY based startups.

A few items before providing you the information.

  • The data was pulled via CB Insights
  • The investors do not need to be based in NY but have to be investing in NY based companies
  • The date range was Jan 1 2017 to August 13 2018
  • It only includes venture capital firms and excludes accelerators, angels, corporates, etc.
  • CB Insights doesn’t provide data on who is leading the rounds, so the assumption with these firms listed, is that they participated in the round and not necessarily lead, a critical distinction when fundraising.  If you are fundraising, you need to do more homework to figure out is actually leading rounds.

The data is below.

Most active VCs who participate in sub $2M rounds, see below.  Many of the seed and pre-seed rounds are sub $2M in size, so if you are looking for firms who are active at this size, this is a good target.  Now, the data around pre-seed and seed is challenging since many of these rounds are not announced , which makes it is difficult for CB Insights to capture.  So this list is not comprehensive but I think it provides a lot of signal on the right firms to reach out to.

sub $2M rounds

Most active Seed VCs, see below.  In this query and unlike above, I didn’t put parameters on the size of the seed round.

Seed

Most active Series A VCs, see below.  Again, no parameters on the size of the round.  As I mentioned in beginning of the post, I am unable to query who is “leading” these particular round.  So some of these firms could be leading and other could be participating in them.

Series A

Fastest Growing NYC Startups?*

Although I’m familiar with Mattermark, I only recently started using the service.   As I got to play around with the functionality, I gravitated towards the metrics around number of employees and employee growth rate.

Given that startup revenue figures aren’t provided on any public databases that I’ve seen so far, the closest (but imperfect) way to measure the growth of a startup is by employee growth rate.  If a startup is doing well, generally speaking, they are hiring.   This is a broad statement but true in most situations. That being said, hiring a lot of people quickly, certainly doesn’t equal success and in some instances have actually driven companies out of business, due to spending too much money, but that is an entire blog post in itself.

I set out a few parameters in order to find the fastest growing midsize VC backed companies HQ’d in NYC, here was the search criteria:

  • 100+ employees
  • HQ’d in NYC
  • VC backed
  • Still private (haven’t exited)
  • 20%+ employee growth rate in the past six months
  • 2%+ employee month over month growth rate

The results (sorted by Employees Month over Month Growth):

fastest nyc startups

One ratio I thought was particularly interesting, was (Employee Count / Total Funding). If this ratio is high, you COULD derive a few things: 1) they are more capital efficient 2) likely to be generating significant revenue.  For example, look at Movable Ink, an enterprise software startup.  They have 139 employees and only raised $12.3M to date.   If you want to use this ratio, it would only be fair to compare apples (Enterprise SaaS) to apples (Enterprise SaaS), as opposed to apples (SaaS) to oranges (Hardware).

*Again, this is certainly an imperfect way to find the fastest growing startups or most capital efficient, but it can provide some insights on these two fronts.

 

VCs who lead seed deals in NYC startups

Sent out a few tweets last night:

While there is a lot of discussions (and some clarity) on how the opaque VC world operates, it is still hard to get data for Founders who are fundraising.   In particular, getting information on seed rounds is challenging as many rounds are not announced and the specific VCs who invested, aren’t always listed.  To make things even more murky, who actually led the round isn’t always disclosed.

While fundraising is supposed to be challenging for startups, we could make it slightly easier for Founders to identify who the active VCs are and more importantly, who are actually LEADING rounds.   Many of my discussion with seed stage Founders are about fundraising and there is a lot of confusion as to who leads rounds vs those who participate rounds, a very important distinction.  In order for a round to really come together, you need a VC who will lead the round, which typically means they are setting terms (“pricing”) and writing the largest check in the round.

The criteria I’ve set is as follows:

  1. NYC HQ’d startup
  2. VC has raised a new fund in the past 36 months
  3. VC has led (or co-led) two seed deals in the past 12 months in NYC (see point #1)
  4. Check size of lead VC is $500K+
  5. Round size is $750K to $3M (could be an equity or a convertible note instrument)

So with the parameters outlined above, I have gone out to several data sources to see what could be found, although it has not been fruitful, at least on the point of who lead the round and how much they invested.

Given that many of the VC rounds haven’t been announced, the data isn’t actually available yet, so I also solicited feedback from the community on which VC firms fit ALL of the parameters outlined above (in alphabetical order).

  • Accel Partners (SF)
  • Bloomberg Beta (NYC and SF)
  • BOLDstart Ventures (NYC)
  • Bowery Capital (NYC)
  • Canaan Partners (NYC and SF)
  • Collaborative Fund  (NYC)
  • Eniac Ventures (NYC and SF)
  • ff Venture Capital (NYC)
  • First Round Capital (NYC and SF)
  • Flybridge (NYC and Boston)
  • Genacast Ventures (NYC and Philadelphia)
  • Greycroft (NYC and LA)
  • Homebrew (SF)
  • IA Ventures (NYC)
  • KEC Ventures (NYC)
  • Lerer Hippeau Ventures (NYC)
  • Metamorphic Ventures (NYC)
  • NextView Ventures (NYC and Boston)
  • Primary Ventures (NYC)
  • Resolute Ventures (SF and Boston)
  • SBNY (NYC)
  • Scout Ventures (NYC)
  • True Ventures (SF)
  • Two Sigma Ventures (NYC)
  • Union Square Ventures (NYC)

I’m actually surprised the list is this long, thought it was much shorter when I sent out the original tweet.  That being said, my sense is that there is room for more players as some of these firms are focused on specific sectors, while other sectors aren’t covered as actively.  In addition, the market is growing and there is an increase in the amount of seed stage companies being formed.  Lastly, most of the firms listed above are leading on average two deals per year in NYC, so that means ~40 NYC based startups would have lead every year.  I would assume there are more than 40 high quality companies per year in NYC that should have a lead, so again, room for more players.

If you think I missed your firm on this list, please send me a note at sgoldman at svb and provide specific information on which deals you have led in the past 12 months, thank you.

This list was purposefully focused on seed deals.  I think pre-seed is a distinct category and deserves a separate post/list, might work on that, stay tuned.

I have received feedback from people on the parameters that I set out.  They were done thoughtfully based on discussions with stakeholders in the community.  Feel free to write your own post based on other parameters if you disagree with mine.

2016 Market Cooling

As you may have heard, the venture market has cooled in 2016, in terms of dollars invested and number of investments (deals) that are being done by venture capitalists (VCs).

There are a number of reasons for why this has happened.  The main driver has been the macro environment- forces that VCs can’t control.  It is a combination of a slowdown in China, challenges with several European countries, Brazil, ISIS, volatility of oil prices, upcoming US election, etc.  This in turn has created “bears” in the public markets, which has resulted in almost no VC backed IPOs and a correction in the SaaS sector as a result of the significant LinkedIn ($LNKD) price drop in February 4, 2016.   The chain reaction of all of this has led to VCs becoming more cautious and spending additional time with their existing portfolio companies.

The data below was pulled via CBInsights.  We analyzed deals/dollars in the US for 2016.

The most significant point is the drop of deals in Q2 ’16 vs Q2 ’15, a whopping 28% delta. We wanted to be predictive on what the 2nd half of this year would look like and it is a bit bearish.  The figures in green are just guesses, so could be totally wrong here but wanted to be on the record on what I think will happen.  The reasons on why the 2nd half may turn out to have a great delta between 2015 vs 2016 is that the markets are still facing significant macro issues, with the newest being #brexit, which has created additional uncertainty that will likely trickle down to the venture ecosystem.

There is good and bad news on the prediction.  When you put the numbers of both 2015 and 2016 into context, they are really high compared to previous years, so a lot of deals and dollars are still being deployed, which is the good news.  The bad news from an entrepreneur’s perspective, is that raising money from VCs has gotten a lot more difficult.

Now, lets focus our attention on the dollars deployed by VCs, see second image.  Similar to deals, the numbers are down, although not as pronounced.  What we are seeing is that round sizes have gotten slightly larger on average, which can be mean a few things.  One it could mean that VCs are putting more money into their better companies (i.e. flight to quality) and/or the runways are being extended as the forecast of macro environment is uncertain.

Similar to the prediction of deals for the rest of the year, the numbers will likely be down, although not as significant.

Although the outlook is bearish, the reduced numbers in 2016 (vs 2015) is positive for the venture environment, as the market was over-heated and the correction was needed.

dealscapital invested

Thanks to our summer intern, Lorel Sim, for pulling this data.

Q3 and Q4 2016 data are only predictions (numbers in green).

Data was only for US based private tech (all sectors) companies.

 

Tech Activism

As you may of heard, there was a proposition in Austin that had an impact on ride sharing, specifically on tech companies/startups Uber and Lyft.  See this article if you are not familiar with the situation or want a refresher.

A lot of people in the tech community are upset about this decision, as they feel Austin is being anti-tech/startup.

The part that is disappointing is that people are being very vocal about this proposition AFTER the vote has already taken place.  One thing I have witnessed in living in the Bay Area and NYC, is that the startup community, broadly speaking, aren’t very involved in local politics.

If you look at the results of the proposition, it shows you that a very small percentage of the population ultimately made the decision.

Austin has a population of almost 900K people and as you can see below, 10K people were the difference in opposing the measure that has impacted Uber/Lyft.  The article that I reference above indicated that only 17% of REGISTERED voters participated in this specific proposition.

We, being the collective tech community, need to do a much better job of not only making our voices heard but connecting with those in non-tech community to influence their decisions.  Sending out tweets isn’t enough, their needs to be people in the street communicating the message directly to local citizens and also calling/mailing/emailing the local/state/federal politicians.

I’m using this specific Austin situation as a recent example, so this isn’t meant to only call them out.  Similar situations have happened in other cities.

 

Voting Results:

6085164897140736.png

Austin Population:

5388338766282752.png