DocSend, a secure document sharing platform and Dropbox (NASDAQ: DBX) company, released a new data analysis based on its weekly Pitch Deck Interest (PDI) metrics showing that founder and investor activity remained relatively healthy in comparison to 2021, despite macroeconomic concerns, external global factors, and a steady stream of cutbacks in the tech sector. The data also tracked an all-time low for the amount of time investors spend reviewing startup pitch decks.
2022: Still founder-friendly, even by 2021’s standards
Founders remained active in sending out pitch decks (a proxy for supply) to investors throughout 2022, while investors’ interaction with decks (a proxy for demand) slowed in comparison to 2021’s furious pace. Both founders and investors had a minimal quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) decline in activity of 2.1% and 2.9%, respectively. By contrast, investor activity dropped 19.8% year-over-year (YoY), with founder activity dropping only by 1% YoY.
While the YoY drop in Q4 investor activity is noticeable, YTD data suggests that 2021’s health spilled into 2022. Across the full year in 2022, investor activity was down 4.6%, with founder activity increasing 6.6% compared to 2021. Down rounds were still historically low in 2022, according to PitchBook.
The expected mid-quarter pre-holiday rush that exploded in 2021 never materialized in Q4 2022, contributing significantly to the YoY decline in investor engagement. While investor interest waned in Q4, when compared to years prior to 2021, Q4 2022 engagement is actually 26% higher – in other words, healthy.
“Founders and investors continue to maintain a steady pace as 2023 kicks off, with founders slightly outpacing investors in activity,” said Justin Izzo, lead data and trends analyst at Dropbox DocSend. “These metrics, despite their declines, indicate that the early stage fundraising market is still healthy overall. Early stage founders can be slightly optimistic, but should know that investors may not significantly pick up the pace early in Q1, which is historically a time when VCs have been quite active.”
Dry powder, or deployable capital, has been a topic of discussion for much of 2022. VCs are sitting on record amounts of capital, as high as $580 billion globally, according to Crunchbase News.
Continuous decline in investor time spent
Throughout 2022, investor time spent reviewing pitch decks remained low. Notably, an all-time low occurred in Q4, at an average of two minutes and 18 seconds spent per pitch deck.
Time spent on reviewing pitch decks is contextual. Economic factors, founder competition and existing portfolios all play a role. Investor time spent declined 7.7% from both Q3 to Q4 and YoY – investors are giving founders the smallest window to make a good impression yet.
“A record number of VC funds came to market in late 2021 and through 2022 and quickly deployed capital at peak valuations,” said Nisha Desai, Founder and Managing General Partner at Andav Capital. “Those VCs have shifted their relative focus from frantic deal-hunting to existing portfolio triage – resetting from growth at all costs to growth at a reasonable burn and to solvency positioning in today’s unsteady environment. Early stage deal quality, however, has not universally deteriorated, so 2023 will seed healthy returns for resilient founders and VCs.”
Dealmaking has slowed in 2022 with investors seeking profitability, according to PitchBook. Despite this challenge, the activity level for investors shows founders can remain optimistic.
DocSend releases quarterly analyses via the Pitch Deck Interest metrics to track and predict the investment landscape and better inform founders about the volatility or stability of the venture capital environment.
Key Leading Indicators of Fundraising Activity
There are three core metrics unique to DocSend for tracking investors’ hunger for deals and founders’ quest for capital.
- Founder links created – the average number of pitch deck links each founder is creating via DocSend. This serves as a proxy for the supply of startups seeking funding. A “link” refers to the unique URL a founder creates using DocSend to share their pitch deck with investors. When the average number of links increases, it means that founders are sending their decks out to more investors.
- Investor deck interactions – the average number of investor interactions for each pitch deck link. This serves as a proxy for demand for investments. The higher the interaction metric, the more often decks are viewed, shared, and revisited by potential investors.
- Investor time spent – the average time spent per pitch deck by potential investors. This metric offers a look at how long VCs are spending reviewing deals. More time spent per deck could mean investors are more closely scrutinizing deals.
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