With 10%+ unemployment, it’s hard for most American’s to imagine, but the dot com bubble is back again. According to many, we are seeing a bubble yet again surrounding internet companies at historic proportions in early stage and late stage investing.
The reality is that there has been a lot of wealthy individuals with their cash sitting on the sidelines since the great recession began in late 2008, and they’re trying to figure out where they can yield the highest returns. With historically low interest rates, declining real estate, and the uncertainty of the public markets, they have been fleeing to invest in private companies, creating an over supply of capital to a limited number of rapidly growing startups. The result may very well have created yet another dot com bubble, so they say.
Yesterday at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, the prominent NYC based blogger and Union Square’s early stage investor Fred Wilson and the iconic venture capitalist from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, ranked 582nd richest person in the world by Forbes, John Doerr, took the stage to square off and discuss, among other things, whether we’re in a bubble (or boom) within early stage investing and the secondary markets.
Fred Wilson explained that he feels the current seed stage investing environment is “getting overheated, people are getting crazy, they’re showing up to their first meetings with term sheets.” According to Wilson, he’s seeing two to three person teams receiving $30, $40, $50 million dollar valuations on their first rounds, and as he puts it, “I think that’s not right”.
John Doerr responded by saying “I think what Fred’s describing in terms of the valuation, for sure is right.” But Doerr went on to explain that he feels the times we’re in right now as unusual and exciting, and that “entrepreneurs are better, ideas are better, and the markets are larger.” Doerr closed with “I prefer to think of these bubbles as booms, and every boom, I think booms are good, booms lead to over investment, booms lead to full employment, booms lead to lots of innovation. You know there was a boom when they started railroads, we’re in another bubble or boom and its an exciting time right now.”
Fred followed up by clarifying that although he feels we are in a bubble right now, its great or everyone other than the angel investors “because the now can’t get into deals they used to get into. There’s too much money, and it used to be when you syndicate angel deals everybody could get in cause everybody’s writing a $50k or a $100k check, if its a $1 million round they could all get in, but now there’s many of them that can’t get in.” Fred described that its not good for angels, but that its great for entrepreneurs and traditional venture capitalists because more companies are getting funded so there’s more opportunities for “us to invest”.
Considering Union Square is an early stage investor, one has to wonder if there now seeing pricing pressure on these deals, if Fred is expressing frustration from their own experiences. John Doerr on the other hand is a late stage investor, so you’d have to wonder if he’s feeling some pricing pressure with the DST’s of the world in the secondary market offering growth stage companies more favorable terms and valuations.
To that point, a person from the audience asked the two investors whether they feel the prices we’re seeing in the secondary markets for Facebook, Zynga and Twitter stocks are bubblish and overpriced, and Doerr suggested to buy more now, stating:
“I turn to Mary Meeker, a long time friend, and I think the best of how these are gonna be valued in either an acquisition or a public market, and remember what she said on stage earlier. These are MONSTER markets, she has a better track record at picking ten baggers, and I mean ten times appreciation AFTER companies are public than anybody in the world. I think, yeah, she would tell us to invest a lot of money in a Twitter or a Facebook at valuations at around ones that are in these secondary markets today.”