Most aggregate VC trend data is garbage – TechCrunch

“The seeds are round up!” “Seed rounds are more valuable than ever!” “Last year 10% fewer VCs were investing in seed rounds!” !!!!!!!! 1

We’ve all seen these stories, and we here at TechCrunch are a good connoisseur of them, of course. Trend data about VC investments always entice startup founders and investors, as they greatly influence the strategy and planning of building a company. If the seed rounds are getting more elusive, maybe leave that last hire, expand the runway, and try to get some revenue. If series A is the new bottleneck, well, invest more in product and development so that you don’t go into the capital wall. If the money is skyrocketing, double the team, spend double growth marketing, and go to the Blitzsle.

This is the dominant market intelligence, and is important. This is why it is so disappointing that the total data on VC visits is so bad, so bad.

Here’s a favorable reminder: There are no comprehensive datasets on VC visits, at least in the United States) and data quality has only deteriorated over time, especially in the seed phase.

This is a subject that I have been harming for years. SEC Form D filings, which form the backbone of most trend data from the VC investment phase, Missing for years now.

As I described in my analysis from back in 2018, the biggest reason is also that it does not look like much: from a culture of “always file” to a culture of avoiding filings when possible, among lawyers. Change in culture.

This cultural change has been driven by founders and investors who want to keep their startups from being stolen and their rivals in the dark where their finances are. In addition, founders can avoid the spectacle of people stepping down their doors when they discover that startups have cashers.

When i talked to the lawyers How to delay in filling in Form D, Everyone gave standard full feedback about the need for filing – until we went off-the-record. Then, the attorneys talked about how much they skirt around SEC securities rules. As a lawyer essentially states, there is what the law says, and then the SEC never bothers to enforce it. No one in Silicon Valley has been charged with an offense related to waiver on Form D filings, or even fined, which anyone remembers.

At that time a lawyer told me about an interactive conversation he had with the founders. He does not ask them not to file their Form DS. Instead, he states that almost none of his colleagues will do the paperwork of securities, and thus, if they do Follow the law, they will be at a competitive disadvantage. Unexpectedly, the vast majority of the founders follow a guided curriculum.

While it may seem that the law is law, it is more important than what is written in the law or how the SEC rules are interpreted, which is really about the sociology of lawyers. Years ago, I was talking to a securities lawyer about the company’s valuation. He was describing to me how East Coast-based securities attorneys at the time would stigma some of the valuation tricks used by lawyers in West / Silicon Valley with startups. You can follow the law closely, and you can follow the law loosely – and neither group is breaking the law entirely.

A change in the legal culture driven by the founders is an aspect of the dilemma facing the VC investment trend surveyors. Another, particularly in the seed state, is the complexity of today.

As my colleague Alex Wilhelm wrote in The Exchange newsletter this morning, Alternative investment models are having a major impact on total VC data. Rounding rounds, convertible notes, SaaS securitization products, crowdfunding and other mechanisms have largely transformed the seed-investment world from an all-right-a-check-and-by-equity approach. While some of these forms of investment have triggered Feelings’ requirements, many of these models are so new that attorneys are prepared to drop the Feelings, given the accuracy of case law associated with regulations.

Finally, you can generally avoid a Form D by filing in the respective state courts of the company and its investors. As much as the Federal Law of Securities may be (we talk a lot more about the SEC than the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation), the reality is that a lot of securities law is still practiced at the state level. This means that startups can use state filings in exchange for federal filings, and are essentially invisible as none other than myself and some other journalists in the world read state securities filings.

Take for example a cool company that I covered a while called Hebia, Which is resetting the search on the desktop. He along with other great investors raised a $ 1.1 million pre-seed round led by Floodgate. Now, go to the SEC search page and look for the Form de Nothing. But if you go to the California DFPI, you will get three filings submitted on September 21, 2020 for a total round of $ 1.2 million. Your admission there

Even late stage companies can mostly go without any Form D filing. Take Dorshade, for example, which held just one monster IPO last year. If you search through the SEC database for “DoorDash Inc.”, you will find en Form D filing for any The company’s 11th venture phase identifies Crunchbase. The first filing with the SEC is for its originally confidential draft registration statement to go to the IPO in early 2020. Now, if you reassign California’s database, you’ll go back to filing in 2016, which I think is a five-year limit for the site’s search function.

Using state filings is not wrong, illegal or unethical – it is just a standard way of doing business today. But some industries go beyond federal Form D filings to take into account every state’s database for datasets securities. There are 50 states, and many of them (you are looking at Florida) are impenetrable to researchers and investigators.

So if the legal culture around sawdust has changed, more rounds are using alternative investment models, and startups are not filing federal, what should analysts do?

Well, they try to compensate for the sparsity by guessing how many more rounds of publicly-reported TechCrunch, Twitter conversations, self-reported data from startups, surveys and statistics of lawyers and accountants were projected. The limited information they hold is actually on hand. For example, if lawyers report a 15% uptake in rounds, we can roughly estimate how many rounds occurred in a year.

At least, that’s the idea. Unfortunately, there is no way to actually measure the inaccuracy of this approach, as there is no administrative dataset to compare our estimates with.

What percentage of rounds are undeclared? It’s impossible to count something we can’t count, but my estimates covering the industry are something on the order of a 50-60% seed round, a third Series / B round, and a company drop after a one percent drop. Is (at a certain point, solve the form D.S. very For companies when it comes to securing securities paperwork and legal risks).

Even the government does not have better data than us. Take a story from last week in the Wall Street Journal on how The Justice Department is investigating startups taking money from Chinese investors. DoJ is not taking advantage of some secret database to identify all the investors hidden from the general public. They do not know themselves! From the article:

Startup investments are free of many disclosures required from public companies. Last year, Cfius launched a new confidential tip line to help surface deals. Startup executives and lawyers said that in some cases, companies have alerted Cepheus to a competitor’s connections with foreign investors.

Contact

Got a tip? Contact us using safely Securedrop. Get more knowledge here.

(This last bit is just so juicy – a good reminder that we have a safe drop if you want to hit an opponent in a similar way).

Ultimately, VC investment trend data is interesting and prominent market intelligence, and it can be – at a very high level – directly correct. There are simply enormous constraints on the ability of market researchers and data companies to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the market accurately. Everyone tries their best, but the reality is that if a startup does not have to disclose its investor data, there is no other source for information.