Funding for tech startups has been on an inevitable upswing for years, a result of a virtuous circle where wildly successful tech companies on the public markets whet the appetites of investors and investors’ backers to find more diamonds, a push met by a pull from the rush of talent with entrepreneurial aspirations out to put that money to work. 2019 has felt a bumper year in that longer trend, with 9-figure rounds ($100 million or more) and “unicorn” statuses so prevalent that the numbers have started to cease to be news items in themselves.
With 2020 now just days away, a look at the 50 biggest funding rounds for start-ups in the past year draw out some trends. We’re pulling out the top five below for a closer look, but it’s interesting too to see some of the other trends emerging across the rest of the pack.
Automotive remains a huge pull when it comes to raising big bucks: part of the reason is because the space is capital intensive, as it straddles both software and hardware (that is, not just equipment but cars). Capex is another reason for some of the other big investment rounds of the year, such as the biggest of them all, for an internet data center startup.
Asian companies figure massive in the list, and account for 7 of the 10 biggest rounds in the list.
Small players: there were only three companies in health tech in the top 50, only one in education technology, and only three in the areas of AI and robotics. I don’t know if that means these areas simply don’t require as much capital investment, or if these challenges are simply not as interesting right now for investors as those more squarely focused on revenue generation and business needs. Hopefully the former, as the wider tech world faces a lot of cynicism and skepticism from the public, and could use a better profile from solving actual problems.
Note: for this piece we have focused on investments made in pre-IPO technology companies, and on new equity investments rather than secondary or debt rounds.