• United States

MoneyTree survey: VC deals in Internet communications continue decline

Aug 16, 20042 mins
Internet Service ProvidersNetworkingVenture Capital

* VC investment in ISP and 'Net comms start-ups at lowest level since 1997

Venture capital investments in fledgling ISPs and other Internet communications start-ups have dropped to their lowest levels in seven years, and industry experts predict little or no up tick in this market for the rest of 2004.

Altogether, U.S. venture firms invested a scant $91.6 million in 16 Internet communications start-ups during the second quarter of 2004. This investment level is the lowest since the third quarter of 1997, when $61.3 million was invested in this segment of the network industry. The 16 deals that closed this spring is the fewest number since the second quarter of 1997, when 15 deals closed.

This data is from the quarterly MoneyTree Survey, which is compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Venture Economics and the National Venture Capital Association.

The current investment levels are a pittance compared to those made at the height of the Internet bubble. In the second quarter of 2000, venture firms invested $2.96 billion in 131 start-ups in the Internet communications segment.

Venture capital interest in this segment has been flagging since then, but it has dropped off sharply in 2004. During all four quarters of last year, investment in Internet communications start-ups ranged from double to triple the current levels. For example, in the second quarter of 2003, venture firms invested $297.5 million in 23 start-ups offering new Internet communications products or services.

“VCs are being more precise about their investing,” explains Kirk Walden, national director of venture capital research at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “The companies that get funding have a very specific advantage, a very specific segment they serve, a very specific solution. There’s not much opportunity to be that precise in Internet communications. This segment is just not that attractive.”

Walden says another reason for the venture capital industry’s lack of interest in Internet communications start-ups is that none of the public companies are doing well. “I don’t see [Internet communications] improving markedly anytime soon,” he adds.