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Startup funding hit $47B in 2014, surpassing dot-com bubble levels

Venture capital funding for mobile apps helps end 2014 with a big influx of money for startups.

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Large rounds of funding for mobile apps like Uber propelled 2014 spending to heights not seen since the dot.com era. Uber

Startups are partying like its 2001.

At least, that's how venture capitalist are spending their money. The investment industry shelled out $47.3 billion on startups in 2014, reaching levels approaching the height of the dot.com bubble, according to a report venture capital database CB Insights published Thursday.

This marks the first time the amount has topped 2001 levels, when investors funneled $36.2 billion to private companies.

That money was spread over 3,617 deals, the highest number of deals since 2009. The growth is thanks to what the report called "mega-rounds" of funding of more than $500 million apiece -- including $1.2 billion for on-demand car app Uber and $485.6 million for Snapchat -- increasing total funding by 62 percent. In December alone, startups raised $7.1 billion. Financing for mobile companies more than doubled in the last three months of the year to $3 billion.

While companies are busy building products and services they hope to sell, they're also burning through funding to pay for expenses that come with starting a business from scratch, including hiring staff, marketing, and building a sales team. Many turn to venture capital to pay for those operating costs.

Now some investors warn that startups and venture capitalists are too comfortable spending at dot.com levels.

"I think that Silicon Valley as a whole, or that the venture-capital community or startup community, is taking on an excessive amount of risk right now--unprecedented since '99," Bill Gurley, a general partner with Benchmark Capital told the Wall Street Journal in September.

Well-known VC and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen agreed that companies should be careful in their spending but said he doesn't foresee a new tech bubble. His firm Andreessen Horowitz was the second most active VC company in 2014, following New Enterprise Associates.

The industry is actually in the middle of the "creation of some incredibly important, vital and successful new technology companies," he said in October at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.

"Every bubble in human history that was called a bubble by historians had widespread public participation," he said. "You always had a frenzy, you always had the proverbial shoe shine boys or taxi drivers or whoever who were completely hyper enthusiastic about putting every spare penny into the stocks. There's none of that today. individual money has actually been coming out of stocks for a very long time."