Gumroad’s Sahil Lavingia broke into the venture world as one of the early testers of the rolling fund, an AngelList product that allows investors to raise capital on a subscription-like basis. That was in 2020. Fast-forward to 2022 and a lot has changed.
One of those changes? The number of pitches from founders looking to raise. “Since March, it’s gone down about 90%,” Lavingia told TechCrunch. “I was probably seeing more than most — about 20 to 40 well-vetted decks a week – and that number is down to about two to four a week now.” He’s also seen the quality of talent rise for people wanting to work for Gumroad — which he partially attributes to the steady stampede of layoffs — and a decline of founders starting companies.
A downturn in the number of founders raising capital suggests that early-stage startups aren’t as immune to macroeconomic shifts as some investors claim; in contrast, a boom of fresh startups would support the idea that recessions — and the accompanying spate of layoffs — are the time when startups are born.
Lavingia breaks down the state of founders into three buckets: “tourist founders, immigrant founders and ‘born and raised’ founders.” Tourist founders, he said, are the ones who only start companies in bull markets, a cohort he said has dropped by about 100%.
“They’re rarely fundable in bear markets,” Lavingia said. “They need to hire others to build stuff.” Immigrant founders, meanwhile, care less about the reputation and status of starting a company but do weigh its risk and return. This founder cohort has been cut in half, per Lavingia. Finally, “born and raised” founders are founders regardless of the market: “They all existed and therefore raised money in 2020-2021, so they too are not starting companies and raising money at the same rate.
There are two sides forming in early-stage venture capital: the investors who admit that talent has shifted and those who stand by deal flow that is as loud as ever.
If you want to read my full take, check out my TechCrunch+ column, “Investors prepare for a founder downturn. Or influx. Wait, what?”
In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll get into Y Combinator on its shrinking class size and debut fund managers on their collective mood. As always, you can support me by forwarding this newsletter to a friend or following me on Twitter.