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Founders, be ready for the long haul November 10, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in exits, M&A, start-up, startup, startups.

The chart below shows the average time in years between a startup’s first equity investment (usually Series A) and its sale, for companies sold in each year from 1997 to 2007. (Source is Dow Jones Venture One/E&Y study)

As you can see, companies sold in 2007 had seen almost seven years pass since their first financing. Often they were founded up to a year before they took their first financing, so they were likely eight years old when they were sold. These numbers are averages – some companies exit faster, but some exit slower as well.

This data represents M&A exits. Usually the time to exit via IPO is even longer.

Although no data is available yet for 2008, there has been virtually no venture backed IPO activity in 2008, and the number of M&A tractions is sharply down from previous years. That means that the time to liquidity is likely getting longer.

Obviously, these are backward looking metrics (2007 numbers refer to companies that were sold in 2007, not companies that were started in 2007). However, founders of companies looking to raise venture capital should be ready for the long haul. You can’t start a company and expect a quick flip.


1. Jeremy Liew Posts Reality Check « YallaGuy - November 10, 2008

[…] why Lightspeed’s Jeremy Liew’s Post is so useful.  His data shows that it takes 7 years to make a startup work right now.  […]

2. Aaron - November 10, 2008


Great job. I posted a link with some quick thoughts on my blog Yallaguy.com

Aaron Cohen

3. Greg Tseng - November 10, 2008

Is this skewed by the fact that so many companies were funded in 1999 and 2000? Doesn’t it seem curious that this stat has gone up about 1 year for every year since 2001? 🙂

4. TechLang - November 11, 2008

True entrepreneurs always be ready for change 🙂

5. Jeff Schrock - November 11, 2008

interesting data.

would also be interesting to see (although unlikely in the data source) the mean / median time for cash flow break even.

gotta look at cohorts (vintage) as this data could be skewed by # of firms started in a given time period.

6. kevin gao - November 11, 2008

I agree with Greg – I think one thing to keep in mind here is that the bubble clearly had a large impact, and the steady increase post 2000-2001 points to that (although its not exactly 1 year, which probably reflects the success of those post-bubble startups which had faster turnovers). Most likely these numbers will flatten if not drop in the coming yrs

7. Stephen - November 11, 2008

I think that this number will actually come down. There will be many more smaller rounds in the future driven by the new crop of VC’s that are thrilled to exit for $50M. These VC’s have biz models that are driven by $100M-$150M funds versus the typical $600M-$900M funds.

What do you think?

8. Sam - November 11, 2008

Great chart Jeremy.

9. Zeitspanne zwischen Investition und Exist steigt massiv an | Seedfinance - November 13, 2008

[…] Quelle: Lightspeed Ventures Partner Blog […]

10. Founders, be ready for the long(er!) haul « Aria’s Mobile MoshPit - November 13, 2008

[…] Founders, be ready for the long(er!) haul Posted by jeremyliew/ Lightspeed Venture Partners in M&A, exits, start-up, startup, startups. trackback […]

11. Ken Berger - November 14, 2008

point taken, although for any practical purposes for entreps now, the one that matters is the bar for ’09. That bar tosses out all previous bars, as rules have been suddenly re-written.

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13. sleeniedo - June 3, 2009

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