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VC funding tops $9 billion in 3Q

Tech Industry

Venture capitalists continue to throw an astounding amount of cash at the tech sector as funding reached a record $9.04 billion in the third quarter, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers Money Tree Survey, released Monday.

The results were 18.3 percent above the second quarter total of $7.64 billion. When the Money Tree Survey was released in the second quarter, officials at PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted the record sum wouldn't be topped.

"We thought that was just a spike," said Kirk Walden, national director of venture capital research at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "We have to conclude that was the new plateau."

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the year-to-date funding total is $21 billion, already 50 percent higher than the 1998 record of $14 billion. VC investments increased 138 percent from the $3.79 billion in the third quarter of 1998.

By region, Silicon Valley led VC investments with $3.3 billion in the quarter. New England ranked second with $963 million, followed by the New York area, the Southeast, and the DC Metroplex, in that order, with each capturing more than $600 million.

In the quarter, close to $5 billion was invested outside the traditional markets of Silicon Valley and New England, said PricewaterhouseCoopers.

VC = Tech

Not surprisingly, the tech sector commanded the most investments.

PricewaterhouseCoopers said technology raked in 90 percent of all funding in the third quarter. The accounting firm defines the tech sector as companies in biotechnology, communications, computers & peripherals, electronics, environmental, medical devices, semiconductors, and software & information categories, and Internet-based companies in other industry categories.

Internet-related companies' VC funding also jumped nearly five times to $5.2 billion in the third quarter, up from $1.1 billion in the same quarter a year ago. The number of Net companies getting VC funding tripled to 473 from 162.

The size of the Internet investments isn't surprising considering the number of firms involved -- companies ranging from CMGI (Nasdaq: CMGI) and Internet Capital Group (Nasdaq: ICGE) to Lycos (Nasdaq: LCOS) are handing out cash. Those publicly traded companies are joining the usual suspects such as Benchmark Capital and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers.

VCs were also chasing infrastructure companies in the quarter. Investments in the communications category tripled to $2.6 billion while software companies brought in $2.2 billion. Business services companies received $1.3 billion in funding.

IPO pipeline full

Why the focus on infrastructure companies? Those companies deliver the IPO home runs. Among the top IPOs for 1999 most of the hits are networking and software firms. According to Renaissance Capital, an IPO tracking firm, the top IPOs performers include Phone.com (Nasdaq: PHCM), up 1,700 percent, Brocade Communications (Nasdaq: BRCM), up 1,400 percent, and F5 Networks (Nasdaq: FFIV), up nearly 1,300 percent.

No less than 18 out of the top 20 best performing offerings are networking or software companies.

All that money pouring into start-ups means one thing: the IPO pipeline will be flush for awhile.

"We see the IPO pipeline remaining filled for the foreseeable future," said Walden. "There's so much cash out there that companies can get the perfect timing."

Walden said venture capital funding will continue to flow barring a market crash or an unseen economic dip.

Walden said the best sign for VC funding was that early-stage companies were still grabbing a lot of seed investments, or $3.33 billion in the third quarter. On average, each company received $6.6 million during the third quarter, up from $4.3 million a year ago.

"There's no decline in seed money," said Walden. "Early stage companies are continuing to raise money."

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