The Rise of Mega-Deals in Venture Capital Financing
Venture capital “mega-deals”—which rake in $100 million or more—have taken off at breakneck speed. A total of 185 were signed by the end of September, setting the pace for a record number of mega-deals in 2019.
Interestingly, mega-deal counts aren’t the only thing ballooning in venture capital financing. Almost everything has gotten bigger: venture capital funds, deal sizes, and exit valuations.
Today’s infographic comes from Pitchbook’s quarterly Venture Monitor, and visualizes the trends shaping the U.S. venture capital landscape.
Venture capital fundraising remains robust, with $29.6 billion raised across 162 funds year-to-date. Not only that, a higher proportion of funds are quite large. Roughly 9% were sized $500 million or more, with 15 such mega-funds closed year-to-date.
What does it mean to “close” a fund? Before they can begin operations, a venture capital fund manager will raise money from investors. The fund closes to signify the end of a fundraising round and can go through multiple closings until it reaches its targeted fundraising amount.
In the coming years, fundraising will likely remain strong. Venture capital net cash flows have been positive since 2012, which means capital is being returned to the limited partners of a fund faster than they can reinvest it into new vehicles.
With this excess cash, investors will likely contribute to the next round of venture capital funds—continuing the virtuous cycle.
Total deal value is set to surpass $100 billion for a second consecutive year, partly driven by the rise of mega-deals. At every stage of startup financing, average deal sizes remain elevated.
While the focus has shifted to the massive amount of capital available at later stages, angel and seed-stage deals are still quite healthy, with an average deal size of over $2 million.
At late financing stages, the 2019 average deal size is nearly $35 million, second only to 2018’s record of $44 million. Companies continue to raise large sums of capital prior to going public, with 140 late-stage mega-deals completed in 2019.
Total exit value reached $200 billion for the first time in a decade. Interestingly, initial public offerings (IPOs) comprised a whopping 82% of overall exit value.
Multi-billion dollar IPOs continue to dominate headlines, with six such public debuts occurring in the third quarter.
|Company||Industry||Pre-Money Valuation at IPO||Amount Raised at IPO|
|Datadog||Network Management Software||$7.2B||$648M|
|Peloton Interactive||Recreational Goods||$6.9B||$1.2B|
|Cloudflare||Network Management Software||$3.9B||$525M|
Notably missing from the list is WeWork. The company failed to go public due to profitability concerns, and anchor investor Softbank recently provided $9.5 billion in bailout financing in an attempt to rescue the company.
Sky High Valuations
As venture capital reaches new heights, analysts will be paying closer attention to each startup’s profitability potential.
“… new companies are shifting their focus to measured growth in an effort to prioritize long-term success and a more sustainable, scalable business model.”
–Alex Song, CEO and Co-Founder of Innovation Department
With 2019 coming to a close, will fourth quarter venture capital activity be able to maintain its present momentum?
The New Energy Era: The Lithium-Ion Supply Chain
Is the U.S. positioned to win the battery arms race, or will China remain in control of the world’s transition to renewable energy?
The world is rapidly shifting to renewable energy technologies.
Battery minerals are set to become the new oil, with lithium-ion battery supply chains becoming the new pipelines.
China is currently leading this lithium-ion battery revolution—leaving the U.S. dependent on its economic rival. However, the harsh lessons of the 1970-80s oil crises have increased pressure on the U.S. to develop its own domestic energy supply chain and gain access to key battery metals.
Introducing the New Energy Era
Today’s infographic from Standard Lithium explores the current energy landscape and America’s position in the new energy era.
An Energy Dependence Problem
Energy dependence is the degree of a nation’s reliance on imported energy, resulting from an insufficient domestic supply. Oil crises in the 1970-80s revealed America’s reliance on foreign produced oil, especially from the Middle East.
The U.S. economy ground to a halt when gas prices soared during the 1973 oil crisis—altering consumer behavior and energy policy for generations. In the aftermath of the crisis, the government imposed national speed limits to conserve oil, and also demanded cheaper, smaller, and more fuel-efficient cars.
U.S. administrations set an objective to wean America off foreign oil through “energy independence”—the ability to meet the country’s fuel needs using domestic resources.
Spurred by technological breakthroughs such as hydraulic fracking, the U.S. now has the capacity to respond to high oil prices by ramping up domestic production.
By the end of 2019, total U.S. oil production could rise to 17.4 million barrels a day. At that level, American net imports of petroleum could fall in December 2019 to 320,000 barrels a day, the lowest since 1949.
In fact, the successful development of America’s shale fields is a key reason why the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has lost the majority of its influence over the supply and price of oil.
A Renewable Future: Turning the Ship
The increasing scarcity of economic oil and gas fields, combined with the negative environmental impacts of oil and the declining costs of renewable power, are creating a new energy supply and demand dynamic.
Oil demand could drop by 16.5 million barrels per day. Oil producers could face significant losses, with $380 billion of above-ground investments becoming worthless if the oil industry and oil-rich nations are not prepared for a surge in green energy by 2030.
Energy companies are hedging their risk with increased investment in renewables. The world’s top 24 publicly-listed oil companies spent on average 1.3% of their total budgets on low carbon technology in 2018, amounting to $260 billion. That is double the 0.68% the same group had invested on average through the period of 2010 and 2017.
The New Geopolitics of Energy: Battery Minerals
Low carbon technologies for the new energy era are also creating a demand for specific materials and new supply chains that can procure them.
Renewable and low carbon technology will be mineral intensive, requiring many metals such as lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel. These are key raw materials, and demand will only grow.
|Material||2018||2028||2018-2028 % Growth|
|Graphite anode in Batteries||170,000 tonnes||2.05M tonnes||1,106%|
|Lithium in batteries||150,000 tonnes||1.89M tonnes||1,160%|
|Nickel in batteries||82,000 tonnes||1.09M tonnes||1,229%|
|Cobalt in batteries||58,000 tonnes||320,000 tonnes||452%|
The cost of these materials is the largest factor in battery technology, and will determine whether battery supply chains succeed or fail.
China currently dominates the lithium-ion battery supply chain, and could continue to do so. This leaves the U.S. dependent on China as we venture into this new era.
Could history repeat itself?
The Battery Metals Race
There are five stages in a lithium-ion battery supply chain—and the U.S. holds a smaller percentage of the global supply chain than China at nearly every stage.
China’s dominance of the global battery supply chain creates a competitive advantage that the U.S. has no choice but to rely on.
However, this can still be prevented if the United States moves fast. From natural resources, human capital and the technology, the U.S. can build its own domestic supply.
Building the U.S. Battery Supply Chain
The U.S. relies heavily on imports of several keys materials necessary for a lithium-ion battery supply chain.
|U.S. Net Import Dependence|
But the U.S. is making strides to secure its place in the new energy era. The American Minerals Security Act seeks to identify the resources necessary to secure America’s mineral independence.
The government has also released a list of 35 minerals it deems critical to the national interest.
Declaring U.S. Battery Independence
A supply chain starts with raw materials, and the U.S. has the resources necessary to build its own battery supply chain. This would help the country avoid supply disruptions like those seen during the oil crises in the 1970s.
Battery metals are becoming the new oil and supply chains the new pipelines. It is still early in this new energy era, and the victors are yet to be determined in the battery arms race.
The Dramatic Rise and Fall of Cannabis Company Stocks
The Dramatic Rise and Fall of Cannabis Company Stocks
The unprecedented expansion of cannabis across North America took the investment world by storm, as investors raced to cash in on the “green rush”.
Yet, even as changing regulations unlock new opportunities, it seems as though the cannabis stock bubble has already burst — at least temporarily.
Today’s visualization dives into the roller coaster of cannabis company stock valuations over the past few years, and which companies remain standing in this hazy market.
A Wild Ride for Cannabis Stocks
The North American Marijuana Index tracks the equally-weighted stocks of leading companies operating in the legal cannabis industry in U.S. and Canada. Companies listed on the index must have at least 50% of their business strategy focused on the legal industry, including ancillary operations that support companies and consumers.
At the tail-end of 2017, the promise of upcoming legalization in two immense markets—California state and Canada—had investors all fired up. The index’s low (105.31 on June 27th, 2017) shot up almost three times to 358.93 by January 8th, 2018.
Things took a sharp turn in the second quarter of 2019, as the expectations for cannabis company stocks encountered a harsh reality post-legalization.
|Index||North America||🇺🇸 U.S.||🇨🇦 Canada|
Note: 52-week period data captures Dec 9th 2018-Dec 9th 2019.
What are the reasons behind such a nosedive? Could the cannabis industry still make a comeback in 2020? We look at some opposing perspectives to answer these questions.
So Much For the Green Rush
The cannabis industry is experiencing significant challenges. In the U.S., legal cannabis faces high taxes—come the new year, consumers in California will see an 80% mark-up on their cannabis at checkout, up from 60%.
North of the border, federal legalization led to immense consumer demand for Canadian cannabis—but supply can’t keep up. To make matters worse, retail stores are slow to roll out, which means Canada is feeling the crunch.
Steep prices, and difficulty purchasing products post-legalization, allow the black market to thrive. It’s clear many cannabis companies have taken a big hit as a result.
According to the Marijuana Index, here are the 10 biggest companies in the space now:
|Company||Symbol||Market Cap (US$)||Country|
|Canopy Growth Corp.||NYSE: CGC||$5.6B||🇨🇦 Canada|
|Curaleaf Holdings||CNSX: CURA||$3.67B||🇺🇸 United States|
|GW Pharmaceuticals PLC||NASDAQ: GWPH||$2.98B||🇬🇧 United Kingdom|
|Aurora Cannabis Inc.||TSE: ACB||$2.85B||🇨🇦 Canada|
|Green Thumb Industries Inc.||CNSX: GTII||$2.42B||🇺🇸 United States|
|Cronos Group inc.||TSE: CRON||$1.83B||🇨🇦 Canada|
|Trulieve Cannabis Corp||CNSX: TRUL||$1.91B||🇺🇸 United States|
|Tilray Inc.||NASDAQ: TLRY||$1.46B||🇨🇦 Canada|
|Aphria Inc.||TSE: APHA||$0.96B||🇨🇦 Canada|
|Harvest Health & Recreation Inc.||CNSX: HARV||$0.94B||🇺🇸 United States|
Note: Companies listed on a Canadian index have had their market cap converted from CAD$ to US$. Top 10 companies are based on those listed on the North American Marijuana Index. All values as of Dec 9th, 2019.
Only one company outside of North America—and even the cannabis sector—lands on this list. The UK-based Big Pharma company GW Pharmaceuticals is steadily growing its industry presence, as it currently holds 41 cannabis patents in the U.S. and Canada combined.
Still, even these big players have seen their valuations drop since the industry was at its peak. Unless the aforementioned issues are ironed out, investors may continue to pull their dollars from the cannabis industry.
A psychological shift has taken place from everyone wanting to own (cannabis) to everyone involved now feeling burned. I think many investors are now over it.
—Chris Kerlow, portfolio manager at Richardson GMP
On the flip side, some investors aren’t calling it quits quite yet.
Long-Term Prospects Are High
While cannabis seems plagued with issues, some argue that these are simply short-term growing pains and will be solved as the industry matures.
Particularly in the U.S., experts predict that cannabis sales could reach immense heights in the next decade:
- $30 billion by 2025 (New Frontier Data)
- $50 billion by 2029 (Jefferies Group LLC)
- $75 billion by 2030 (Cowen Inc.)
- $100 billion by 2029 (Stifel Financial Corp)
Compared to a benchmark of $13.6 billion today, these numbers may seem ambitious—but they’re backed by major industry trends. 2020 could well be the year the market stabilizes, as consumers explore an array of retail options and vote with their wallets.
What’s more, key players in consumer industries—from alcohol and tobacco to beauty and fitness—are making big bets in cannabis and CBD-infused products. A higher number of partnerships could spark the next uptick for the industry’s potential.
The marijuana business is not for the faint of heart. But this is a big long-term game.
——Mark Zekulin, CEO of Canopy Growth Corp.
An Eye on What’s to Come
It’s clear there are differing viewpoints on the future of cannabis companies and their respective investors. As this snapshot of cannabis stocks unfolds and transforms in 2020 and beyond, could companies potentially buck the current trend and bounce back? Or will stocks continue to go up in smoke?
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