Local venture capital invests down for fourth quarter, full year

January 20, 2013

Local venture capital investments took a nose dive in the fourth quarter as the threat of a “fiscal cliff” and its effect on the broader economy made financiers skittish about what would happen to the public markets.

Congress eventually eked out a deal. And though uncertainty looms over the federal deficit and continued economic recovery, the outlook now seems less bleak than some had forecast.

Nevertheless, the impact is striking in the fourth-quarter figures provided by the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers using data from Thomson Reuters.

Thirty-nine companies across Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District shared in roughly $95 million during the fourth quarter, a 46.5 percent decline compared to the $177.7 million that went to 43 deals during the same period in 2011.

The sluggish quarter brought the region’s annual total down to $725.1 million funneled to 164 deals, a 26.6 percent drop from the $987.5 million raised in 163 deals during the prior year.

Blacksburg, Va.-based Intrexon, a biotechnology firm, continues to attract gobs of money from investors. It led investments for the quarter, piling $25 million into its coffers. Gaithersburg-based genetics company OpGen came in second, raising $7.5 million.

The deals helped make biotechnology the most-funded industry for the quarter, raking in $44.6 million in seven deals. Software, which ranked first last quarter, slipped to second with $36.7 million funneled to 18 firms.

Those industries also raised the most money locally for the year. Software companies raised $391.3 million in 66 deals, followed by biotechnology with $151.6 in 24 deals.

John Backus, managing partner at New Atlantic Ventures, sees a bright spot in the numbers: The Washington region outpaced the nation in both seed and early-stage deals for the year.

What’s more, the report does not include investments made through angel investors and incubators, which have proliferated in Washington and cut many checks during the year.

That means those companies could help elevate Washington’s venture capital totals in future quarters by attracting larger sums of follow-on capital down the road, Backus said.

Steven Overly is a national reporter covering federal technology and energy policy with a focus on Capitol Hill. He previously covered the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital.
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