Both Eric Wesoff (of GTM) and the Cleantech Group released their Q1 cleantech venture numbers this week, and they were pretty close to each other in terms of total dollar amounts, with Wesoff tallying $836mm (but suggesting that undisclosed deals will take the number closer to $1B) and the Cleantech Group's total at $1B.
But it's always very interesting to see how such numbers are interpreted. With a column "Optimistic News in Greentech VC,"
Wesoff writes that the total -- which he pegs at "close to 2007 levels" and compares favorably to Q1 2008 totals, which he had counted at "more than a billion dollars" at the time
-- is very healthy under the global economic circumstances, and a sign of strength in the sector.
Meanwhile, the Cleantech Group's press release
is very different in tone, talking about a 48% decline from the previous year's totals. This, of course, led to even more negative headlines in some press coverage
So wait a minute, how can this be? Especially since, when I wrote about early Q1 2008 tallies a year ago
, I mentioned the Cleantech Group's totals were at $1.25B, reasonably close to Wesoff's "more than a billion dollars"...
Basically, it's another illustration of how good analysts using slightly different methodologies can arrive at very different results. I checked with Brian Fan of the Cleantech Group, and he clarified that, after the initial Q1 2008 tallies had been released, then two additional and large Q1 deals were later disclosed: A123, and Nanosolar. Together, they ended up pushing the Cleantech Group's Q1 2008 tally up close to $2B. Which then explains why a $1B Q1 2009 would be a 48% decline, naturally.
I haven't confirmed with Wesoff, but my guess is that he also captured those two deals in his tallies, but put them into the Q2 2008 category. It would make sense, too.
So an arbitrary date in last year's calendar is the difference between the first quarter of this year looking surprisingly healthy, or looking really dire, once you start comparing year-on-year percentages. But it doesn't matter, really. The really important thing to note is simply that the dollars going into cleantech have declined somewhat, but haven't stopped by any means.
A couple of other interesting notes: Wesoff counts 14 out of his 59 deals as seed or early stage, which of course means yet another quarter when later-stage investments were the vast majority of deals done (or at least reported), in this case a 3:1 ratio of later-stage to seed/early stage.
Furthermore, it's also interesting to note that deal sizes appear to be declining across all stages. It's tough to prove this point, but when you look at the Cleantech Group's data point that the average deal size (a figure dominated by follow-ons, probably) has declined from $20mm to $12.3mm since Q3 2008, and also note this article describing how angel rounds across all sectors are still happening but at smaller sizes
, it paints a picture of a lot of venture- and angel-backed companies making do with a lot less capital per round. This may or may not also reflect lower valuations -- my guess is that it does, but I don't have any proof.
And as always, there are differences in deal counts between two different tallies -- Wesoff at 59 deals, Cleantech Group at 82. This can be explained in any number of ways, of course, and one thing to always note is the differences in geographic coverage between the two methodologies. But interestingly, in terms of # of rounds, the Cleantech Group's North American tally (which appears to be something like 45 deals or so) is only slightly below their Q1 2008 count.
So piecing it all together, this data appears to roughly confirm what I'd suggested might happen
, back in December: The mega-deals aren't happening now, and deal sizes are generally down, so the dollars are way down but the number of deals is only slightly down. Cleantech is still a bright spot within the overall venture picture.
Nice work again by both Wesoff and Fan. Just always remember to look past the percentages, and especially past the headlines, and dig into the actual numbers.