The third quarter is behind us, but the scores are still being totted up. This week will bring a deluge of numbers from major tech companies, helping us better understand the state of the market, for example. Another lens into the third quarter that has yet to gel are its venture capital results. We’ve covered the big numbers from the United States, Europe, Latin America, Africa and India, and we’ve looked at how far capital has extended to underrepresented groups.
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But one key area of private-market performance that we haven’t yet given enough attention to is exits. Exits, the conversion of investments into cash or another returnable asset, is the key product of private equity and its sub-asset class venture capital (no jokes about bips of AUM being the real product fit here, but you can write them for yourself).
We spend lots of time looking at venture dollars flowing into startups, and not enough, at times, on the matter of money going out. Let’s make up for a little bit of lost time, as the exit situation in the market today is very poor. Even more, key exits from Q3 2023 do more to demonstrate just how bad things are, not how much exit data may improve as the year moves toward a close.
That means venture got a few IPOs last quarter, and they were not enough. We’d need to see Q3 2023 levels of exit volume monthly for a year to just get back into the ballpark of 2021-era exit value. That’s an ocean away.
The data is not hard to parse. In the first three quarters of 2023, what PitchBook describes as “U.S. VC exit activity” was worth $9.1 billion, $6.6 billion and $35.8 billion, respectively. Clearly, the final figure is a massive improvement on what came before it, but it was largely predicated on just a handful of deals, in particular the public debuts of Instacart and Klaviyo. PitchBook’s own accounting calculates that just those two deals were worth “more than one-third of the total exit value in Q3.”