What we want in the UK, according to Simon Bond who runs the SETsquared programme for stimulating hi-tec start-ups, is some good exits. The techies have done their stuff building great technology, now the market needs to reward their backers with some juicy IPOs and trade sales.
But will it happen? Last year was an awful year for US exits, according to the US National Venture Capital Association, with only six VC-backed companies going public in 2008 compared to 86 in 2007.
That made 2008 the worst year for IPOs measured in numbers since 1977 and the worst year since 1979 measures in the amount of IPO cash raised.
Those six US IPOs last year raised a collective $470 million compared to $10 billion raised by IPOs in 2007 – the lowest amount since 1979 and down from $10 billion in 2007
Trade sales didn’t do much better says the Association. Cisco, which usually buys ten to fifteen tech companies a year, bought only five in 2008.
The bad thing about lousy exit opportunities is that they tend to dissuade VCs from investing in early stage or technologically risky companies – exactly those companies which can benefit best from VC money.
The same trend away from early stage investment is happening in the UK, but last year there was not much difference in the level of hi-tec UK VC investment compared to 2007.
Maybe the UK VCs have bigger balls than the US VCs.
TOMORROW: THE TOP TEN SEMICONDUCTOR COMPANIES 2008