VCs held off on startup investments because of Brexit

Lynsey Barber
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Brexit caused VC's to pause (Source: Getty)

The figures are in: and they show that in the build up to the EU referendum, venture capital investors held off on putting their cash into startups.

VC investment "plummeted" 40 per cent according to the latest report from CB Insights and KPMG.

Some $2.8bn went into VC-backed firms in Europe, of which the UK grabs the biggest share, dipping below $3bn for the first time since the end of 2014 and down 20 per cent on the previous quarter. The number of deals inched up five per cent to 385.

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In the UK, the number of deals declined to 104 - down eight per cent on the previous quarter and 15 per cent on last year. Those deals were valued at $729m - down 43 per cent on the previous quarter and 46 per cent on the same quarter last year and hitting a five-quarter low.

"Many VC investors held back from making investments, taking a ‘wait and see’ approach prior to the vote," the quarterly venture pulse report found.

"The outcome of the referendum caused brief havoc in the public markets, although we are starting to see some stabilisation with the recognition that any separation process will take years to complete."

The UK still gained the lion's share of VC funding in the region and the deal increase and valuye fall reverses the trend of the prior quarter, painting a rather mixed picture.

The value dip came amid a tempering in VC activity globally. The number of deals fell six per cent on the previous quarter to 1886, while the value of those deals inched up three per cent to $27.4bn, largely lifted by so-called decacorns such as Uber, Snapchat and Didi Chuxing.

While the uncertainty of Brexit has caused concern, there have been several notable funding announcements since the vote and Europe is "poised to see substantial additional VC activity in the future, with a significant amount of dry powder collecting in the market" according to the report, which notes tha many VC funds are continuing with "business as usual" in the UK.

It did note a sound of caution, however.

"The outcome of the UK’s referendum to leave the European Union has introduced new uncertainties into the VC market – ones that could linger in the quarters and years ahead. With no defined plan in place as of yet for an exit, however, most investors recognise that knee-jerk reactions post-Brexit are not the right solution."

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Artificial intelligence startups were a diamond in the wider rough, however, with the acquisitions of Swiftkey by Microsoft in the first quarter and Magic Pony by Twitter indicating solid exits in the space.

“In the first half of the year, we have seen US technology giants acquiring UK tech startups in emerging areas such as machine learning and artificial intelligence," said KPMG's head of tech growth Patrick Imbach.

"This highlights the strength of the UK technology ecosystem and the quality of companies it produces."

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