Predictions for 2023 from a Seasoned VC

Last week, Fred Wilson shared his predictions for 2023. Fred’s a well-known VC and general partner at Union Square Ventures. His thoughts on start-ups in 2023 were of interest to me. A few points that founders should take note of:

  • 2023 will be a tough year for start-ups. As money-losing companies, many avoided raising in last year’s difficult environment. They’ll be forced to raise this year as their cash dwindles.  
  • VCs have ample capital to invest but will be more selective. Companies with product–market fit, strong teams, and good unit economics will be able to raise. Start-ups that don’t have these things will struggle to raise, regardless of valuation, and many will fail.
  • Valuations will return to the levels of 2015 or so. Seed rounds will be around $10m, Series A rounds around $15–$25m, Series B rounds around $25–$50m, and growth rounds capped at 10x revenue.
  • Lower valuations will lead to flat rounds, down rounds, inside rounds, and lots of structure in the rounds. CEOs and boards should accept the pain of lower valuations over a lot of structure.

Fred’s predictions come from someone who’s seen a few VC cycles. Things won’t necessarily play out just as he’s said, but his predictions are something for founders to be aware of.

I’ve had chats with a few founders in the last week about their next funding round. Many have accepted the current valuation environment but haven’t processed what impact a down round or one with lots of structure will have on the cap table and start-ups overall.

I’m of the opinion that Q1 will set the tone for 2023. If the rate of decline in public markets we saw in 2022 persists, Fred’s predictions are more likely to be accurate. If public markets are flat to slightly up, I think conditions for start-ups could be slightly better than Fred predicts.