"When capital markets are this loose, people tap them, whether it's right to or not," said Mark Suster, a partner at the venture capital firm Upfront Ventures. "Companies are raising rapid rounds of capital for only one reason: They can."
The frequency of the fund-raising by many start-ups — now multiple rounds in months rather than years — is "otherwise unheard-of," said Anand Sanwal, chief executive of CB Insights, a research firm that studies venture capital.
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The shrinking time between funding rounds shows how Silicon Valley's current boom is not just about start-ups reaching a high valuation but also about how fast they can pull that off. The tempo is in marked contrast to the pace of start-up fund-raising last decade, when many companies would typically leave a year or two between financing rounds. When LinkedIn, the professional social networking company, raised money as a start-up in the mid-2000s, it took more than three years for its first three rounds of financing.
Since the beginning of 2013, however, more than 20 tech start-ups have held three rounds of funding within a year and a half, according to CB Insights, which called the group the "18-month sprint" companies. Last year, nearly 500 tech start-ups did financing rounds less than one year apart, CB Insights estimated, more than any other year since at least 2011.
Among the companies that completed numerous financings in tight time frames was the fitness membership start-up ClassPass, which completed three rounds in nine and a half months, CB Insights said. Slack, the collaboration software start-up, last month took in $160 million; just six months earlier, it had received $120 million from investors. Snapchat in December raised nearly half a billion dollars from a bevy of financiers. Just three months later, the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba poured $200 million into the messaging start-up.
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Spurring the more frequent fund-raising is the desire of investors — including hedge funds, mutual funds and strategic investors — to put up money more often for fear of missing out on the next big thing. One reason Uber is in talks to raise money again just a few months after a prior round is because of an overwhelming amount of investor interest, said a person with knowledge of the company who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the process is confidential.